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Weird Movie Tie-In Toys

Join us as we take a look at some of the most head-scratching (and disturbing) movie-based toys to reach the market, and marvel at how they ever became approved.  

Movie merchandising, especially the merchandising of toys, is a BIG business. According to the Hollywood Reporter, movie merchandising was responsible for $262.9 billion worth of sales in 2016 (globally). Of that total, 45% were a result of toy and other entertainment-related transactions. That’s about $118 billion worth of merchandise, versus movie ticket sales which only totaled an estimated $38.6 billion. From these numbers, it is easy to see why film studios put such an emphasis on the merchandising capabilities of their films, especially the big-budget franchises.

However, just because studios and toy manufacturers have profited immensely from the merchandising of movies doesn’t necessarily mean that those efforts have been quality or well thought out. For the most part, those responsible for making toys for children based on movies do a good job of providing play things that will captivate and entertain their intended audiences. But at the same time, some efforts have gone a little too far. This is a list of some of the weirdest toys that have been made based on film. These are toys where studios may have been trying a little too hard to make some extra money. As a result of public backlash, confusion, and poor sales, many of these toys have become rare over time and these days are worth a lot of money.


Toys from the Star Wars Franchise

There are movie franchises, and then there is Star Wars. Star Wars basically wrote the book on movie franchises, especially when it comes to merchandising. The Star Wars franchise is what all the other franchises wish they could be. Over the 5 decades since the release of the original film, merchandise related to Star Wars has reached nearly every facet of life. This includes things such as ukuleles,produce, toilet paper, appliances, sporting goods, and yes, even automobiles. Because there has been so much Star Wars merchandise, and so many different things have been merchandised by Star Wars, it's not really surprising that there have been a few duds along the way. Toy-related duds include...

A version of the famous Magic 8 ball except with Yoda sayings and an unfortunate placement to view your fortune…

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Speaking of unfortunate placement, this one isn’t a toy, but its a good example of questionable merchandising…

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In terms of toys that probably should not have been made due to questionable suitability as a plaything for children, this is one which involves an animal carcass...(I'm surprised "Open Belly Rescue Feature" hasn't caught on)

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Finally, we have an action figure of one of the operators from Disney’s “Star Tours” ride, originally from Disneyland. Yep, they really left no stone unturned...

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Toys from The Rocky Franchise

Ok, so Star Wars may win with some of the weirdest merchandising ever made (not just toys), but the Rocky Franchise takes the cake for some of the most ridiculous action figures. To be fair, unlike Star Wars, the merchandisers for the Rocky franchise didn’t have much to go off of. These are character-driven movies without space ships, interesting sets, or a multitude of characters to draw inspiration from. The climactic moments of the franchise feature two men in a ring beating the crap out of each other. Not alot of opportunity for appropriate children's play things. As a result, the action figures based on the Rocky franchise have stretched things a little too far, to say the least. They highlight his highs, as well as his lows...

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They even showcase some of the most memorable props that helped him on his path to glory…

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In a brief sequence, Rocky is making a commercial, so naturally there has to be an action figure of him in his costume…

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Finally, they even made action figures to commemorate things that don’t actually move…

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 Movie-Based Toys that Shouldn’t Have Ever Been Made

Harry Potter is a big movie franchise, and being based on a children’s book, there have been many many toys made based on the films. However, some of the toys have been better than others. In one of the most infamous toy fails of all time, Mattel decided it was a good idea to make a plastic broom stick replica that vibrated. There was so much uproar from parents that the toy was pulled from shelves soon after its debut in 2001.

Harry Potter Vibrating Broom Weirdest Movie Merchandise

Street Fighter is an action movie based on a fighting video game. Someone decided that they needed to sell more video games, and so a version of the video game was created that was based on the movie. Yes, that is correct. This is a video game based on a movie, which is based on a video game. To add further insult to injury, the game was not an original creation. Instead, it was a port of an arcade version of the Street Fighter game, and struggled with a terrible frame rate. Fans of the original video games cried foul. The arcade version of the game turned out ok however, and was actually commercially sucessful. 

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Having an action figure version of the frightening Xenomorph from the first Alien film doesn’t seem like a bad idea these days since studios release merchandising for literally everything as “collectors items”. However, back in 1979 merchandising was a new thing. Star Wars kicked it into gear, and for the most part, studios were looking for ways to sell toys to kids. When science fiction suddenly became a big deal, studios looked for every excuse to capitalize with merchandising. For this reason, a xenomorph action figure was released by Kenner, intended for children. The film itself is very much not appropriate for children, and after a few parents complained, the toys were eventually pulled from shelves.

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Obscure Movie-Based Toys  

Spike Jones’ whimsical drama about a portal which allows other people to experience life as John Malkovich is definitely a weird movie. But its weirdness is what makes it so captivating and entertaining. So when it became time to promote the film, the filmmakers decided to use Russian nesting dolls. These official promotional items not only match the fanciful nature of the film itself, the idea of having one character inside another is related to the plot. This is a weird tie-in, for sure, but unlike most of the toys featured here, it’s a good one.

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Released in 2004, Mean Girls has become somewhat of a modern comedic classic. In 2010, a video game based on the movie was released on Nintendo DS. Now it is understandable that the film’s popularity may have made merchandising possible (and at least Mean Girls offers a good premise on which to base a video game intended for girls), but this example is head-scratching for many reasons. First, is the fact that it was released 6 years after the film. Since that time, the career of its star had gone downhill and is not exactly the type of role model for the video game’s intended audience (to be fair, they didn't include her on the cover of the game). Second, there’s the idea that after 6 years any original fans of the film (from when it was most popular) may no longer be interested in video games.

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Marvel comic book adaptations of movies is generally a good idea, assuming that the movie is a good basis for the format of a comic book. 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t seem like a good basis for a comic book. The movie moves very slowly, is almost entirely devoid of action, and has three separate storylines each with different characters. Nonetheless, Marvel made a comic book version, and it actually turned out pretty good. The visuals of the comic book don’t necessarily capture the bleakness of Kubrick’s film, and they had to take certain liberties with the story to make it actually entertaining to read, but it happened nonetheless.

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