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Topless Robot's Top 10 failed movie toys and our thoughts

Posted Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 12:53 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

It's a well-told story in the annals of Hollywood. In negotiating his contract for Star Wars with Fox, George Lucas eschewed a big upfront paycheck in favor of the movie's merchandising and sequel rights.

Fox boss Alan Ladd Jr. gladly gave Lucas the toy rights because they were mostly worthless at that point in the mid-1970s. Fox had no idea that Star Wars merchandise of all sorts would be everywhere and sell very, very well.

Thirty-plus years down the road and George Lucas is a multi-billionaire. Much of his money is thanks to that bold move for merchandising rights way back when.

A franchise like Star Wars doesn't come along every day -- but that doesn't stop filmmakers and toymakers from trying to follow in its footsteps. Entertainment blog Topless Robot (great name, right?) recently listed "The Top 10 Toylines Based on Blockbuster Movies Nobody Wanted."

While I disagree with a few of their choices, they chronicle some very forgotten toys from some very disappointing movies. Click over to TR for more background on each selection. I've included my personal thoughts below along with their list.

10. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Yeah, Star Trek toys have never done well, have they? Even hardcore Trekkers don't even collect them. As a child of the late '70s and early '80s, I recall only one friend who had a single Star Trek action figure. I think we used that plastic Spock as bait for the Star Wars trash compactor monster.

9. The Flintstones (1994)

No one wanted a doll of John Goodman as Fred or Rosie O'Donnell as Betty. Meanwhile, I could still go for an anatomically correct toy of Miss Stone as played in the movie by Halle Berry. Think of all the Monster's Ball scenes I could reenact.

8. Waterworld

While the movie was no blockbuster, it was sure supposed to be. Kevin Costner is still living this one down. So too is toymaker Kenner trying to dispose of these toys in a landfill somewhere. Keeping with the theme of the film, perhaps they're resting at the bottom of the ocean.

7. Planet of the Apes (2001)

I have a buddy who still prides himself on his late '60s and early '70s POTA toy collection. The modest toy success of the original movies had to be one of the signs George Lucas took into consideration when he made his Star Wars deal.

If toys from the original movies did reasonably well, the remake's merchandise should do even better, right? Not a chance. Licensees still shudder at the mention of Tim Burton's name.

6. Dick Tracy (1990)

Nothing says fun to kids like toys based on a 1930s comic strip character visualized by some crusty 50-year-old dude. How can anyone in their right mind have thought these toys would have done well?

5. The Shadow (1994)

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Take the statement above and replace "1930s comic strip character" with "1930s radio character." Rather than this Alec Baldwin starrer, toymakers should've went for Glengarry Glen Ross. I would've bought a talking Blake doll saying his infamous "closers" speech.

4. Little Nicky (2000)

I really don't think this line from McFarlane Toys was really meant for kids. Todd McFarlane mostly makes figures and displays for the adult market.

This movie's toys were doomed with the fact this Adam Sandler flick stunk all to hell.

3. Wild Wild West (1999)

Kids don't like their toys set in the past. Toys set in the Post Civil War years are ones only a history teacher would enjoy. It doesn't matter how cool your huge, steampunk spider is. Aw, hell no, Will Smith.

2. Coneheads (1993)

When have toys from a comedy movie done well? It's not like you can recreate the dialogue of some forgotten-about skit shown on late night TV some 15 years before you were born. The movie should never have happened and never should have these toys.

1. Battlefield Earth (2000)

Ah, yes. John Travolta's love letter to L. Ron Hubbard. This movie will go down as one of the biggest film failures of all-time. No kids wanted toys of dreadlocked characters named Terl, Jonnie Goodboy, or Ker -- all with some strange strands streaming from their noses like snot rockets. I wonder why.

OK, enough looking backward. I have a bone to pick about the current state of movie toys. Why do they continue to make pre-teen toys for a movie that is rated PG-13? This fact continues to bug me. Iron Man, Transformers, The Dark Knight, Wolverine, et al, all have had enormous merchandising efforts and all have been rated PG-13. Can kids really get into toys for films they shouldn't be allowed to watch?

To have a genuine toyline based on a film, the subject material should be rated PG. Otherwise, you shouldn't expect parents to buy the toys. Some principle holds true for Happy Meal toys.

Back to the original subject, I think we have a new contender for this list with the upcoming Disney/Pixar movie Up. Toys from previous Pixar hits like Toy Story and Cars have done very well. But who wants an action figure of Up's septuagenarian lead character Carl Fredrickson? (Well, I would enjoy a plush Carl doll -- but only if it comes complete with his tennis ball-tipped walker.)

You just know that Disney execs are gritting their teeth at the failed merchandising opportunities from another Pixar mega movie.

Now it's your turn. What failed movie toys do you remember? Do you own any of these forgotten toys? Let us know.