Since the 1930s when studios released the Shirley Temple doll to capitalize on the fame of the young star, toy-makers have attempted to merchandise movies to the hilt in order to maximize revenue. After all, people will pay about 50 percent more for a toy linked to an entertainment property — like a movie or TV show — than they will for a non-entertainment associated toy [source: Zimmerman]. With such a premium for movie merchandise, toy-makers and movie producers are eager to wring every dime they can from hot films, even if it means releasing a few bombs along the way. Read on to learn about some of the biggest head scratchers and missteps in the billion dollar world of movie merchandising.
10: Jar Jar Binks Candy
Poor Jar Jar Binks. With some critics complaining he was simply out of place in the "Star Wars" franchise and others arguing he was nothing more than a degrading racial stereotype, it's no surprise that Jar Jar merchandise didn't exactly fly off the shelves when "The Phantom Menace" was released in 1999 [source: Marche]. While pretty much all Jar Jar-related toys lingered on store shelves much longer than other "Star Wars" merchandise, perhaps no "Star Wars" item embarrassed the franchise more than the infamous Jar Jar Binks lollipop [source: Silverman]. The lollipop consisted of a heavily-textured candy tongue tucked between Jar Jar's jaws and mounted on a black plastic handle. To consume the candy, buyers had to slide their mouth between Jar Jar's ample teeth and suck on his red, fleshy tongue. As if the design of the lollipop wasn't mortifying and disgusting enough, many critics argued that the candy had a decidedly phallic appearance, making it inappropriate for kids regardless of the ick factor.
9: Alien Micro Machines
When "Alien" debuted in theaters in 1979, there was little question that the movie earned its R rating, thanks to gruesome death scenes and plenty of blood. Despite the fact that the movie was not exactly optimal viewing for kids, the franchise released a series of Alien-themed toys to accompany the picture and its eventual sequels, including a truly terrifying 15-inch tall alien action figure that frightened children and adults alike. After many complaints that the toy was simply too scary, Kenner shelved a planned line of action figures from the film. It wasn't until 30 years later that the "Alien" action figures finally saw the light of day, when they were released to appeal to adult collectors [source: Mattise].
The "Alien" action figures weren't the franchise's only troubling tie-in. Starting in 1986, Galoob Toys produced a number of Micro Machine sets based on the films. These tiny cars, which were aimed at children ages 4 and up, came in packages featuring such kid-friendly images as a disemboweled man and a massive alien, fangs dripping as he chased his human victim [source: RobotvsBadger.com].
8: Transformers Shaving Kit
It's hard to imagine a more baffling movie tie-in toy than the Transformers Play Shave Set, which was released alongside the "Transformers" movie in 2007. With most movie merchandise, there's at least a tenuous connection between the film and the product being sold; when it comes to this toy, however, it's hard to argue there's any connection between shaving and the movie or a link between shaving and robots in general [source: Gamble]. Instead, it comes across as more of a chance to simply sell toys by slapping on images of the popular franchise.
For those who argue that kids may enjoy the toy simply because it's fun to play with, regardless of the lack of tie-in to the film, keep in mind that most young boys are unlikely to get terribly excited by personal hygiene, even if that can of shave gel features a picture of Optimus Prime.
7: Vibrating Nimbus 2000
In the beloved J.K. Rowling series, Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000 broomstick makes him the hottest kid on the Quidditch pitch. Due to the prominent role that the broom — and flying broomsticks in general — played in the books and films, it's no surprise that toy versions of the Nimbus found their way into stores. In 2001, Mattel released a picture-perfect version of Harry's top-notch broom. Crafted from plastic and designed for kids, the Nimbus 2000 allowed riders to pretend they were soaring through the skies like Harry and his friends. A set of AA batteries even made the broom vibrate like the brooms in the film do when their riders hold out a hand to call the broom to action. Of course, all that vibrating raised a few eyebrows among parents and led to some truly entertaining reviews on online shopping sites [source: Time]. To quash the rising tide of protest, the vibrating Nimbus 2000 was quickly pulled from the market by 2002 and replaced with non-vibrating alternatives.
6: Hulkey Pokey Hulk
When you picture the Incredible Hulk, you likely imagine a giant, green, rage-filled monster, intent on smashing everything in his path. When "The Incredible Hulk" movie was released in 2008, it came with a PG-13 rating, but that didn't stop toy-makers from taking a stab at the juvenile toy market. To draw in very young Hulk fans, Hasbro released a soft animated Hulk figure that sang and danced to his own silly version of the Hokey Pokey — think Tickle Me Elmo, super-hero style. If the real Hulk could see himself this way, he'd likely get to smashing in a fit of embarrassed rage [source: Robinson]