Ah, the ’00s! The “Aughts,” as they’ve come to be known, gave us plenty of great things. MySpace! The PS2! Emo! Okay, maybe the greatness of that last one is debatable. And the toys! Ask any kid that came of age in the Aughts, and they will likely fondly remember the shelves of their local KB Toys being filled to the brim with awesome toys. But for every Zhu Zhu Pet and Bratz, there might has been a toy on those shelves that was a little more… controversial. The Aughts were no stranger to headline-grabbing toys, with debate over toys making the news seemingly every week. But that’s not to say that every racy figure was the target of outraged parents; in fact, plenty of risqué toys managed to slip right by the censors and hit toy shelves without a problem.
Toys in the ’00s found themselves the topic of discussion for a variety of reasons: from unintentional glitches within the toy, to toys that were just a little too “adult” for kids, the media found plenty of reason to report on these products. But at the same time, there were plenty of toys that many assumed would invoke outrage that ended up in stores without issue. So throw on your A-Teens HitClips, grab your Fall Out Boy shirt, and strap in for 10 toys from the ’00s that slipped by the censors (and 5 that didn’t)!
15. TWISTED LAND OF OZ DOROTHY
The act of taking an established, family-friendly property and giving it the grimdark treatment is a tried and true concept. While such a twist can sometimes work, oftentimes the process of taking a squeaky clean story and turning it unnecessarily gritty and violent can leave you with something that’s just, well… lame. Such was the case with McFarlane Toys’ attempts to do an adult take on The Wizard Of Oz, leading to… this monstrosity.
Yes, in McFarlane Toy’s take on Oz, Dorothy was a corset-clad ecdysiast, complete with chest straps. Despite the odd, downright ooky sexualization of a family-friendly character, the toy was released without any outcry or moral panic. McFarlane’s Twisted Land Of Oz became popular among adult toy collectors, somehow managing to slip by the censors to avoid drawing the ire of outraged parents.
14. FROGZ ROCK IT RAP IT RIBBIT
Remember in the late ’90s and early ’00s when fluffy creatures that would sing popular songs lined the shelves? You couldn’t throw a rock in a store without hitting a dozens of dancing hamster toys, belting out squeaky voiced versions of “Kung-Fu Fighting” and “Car Wash.” But not all of these little novelty toys were singing pop hits from the ’70s; in fact, one dancing toy hit shelves programmed to belt out a downright filthy ’00s rap classic.
The innocuously named Frogz Rock It Rap It Ribbit was a frog decked out in rap gear which, when the button on his foot was pushed, would launch into a rendition of 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.” Problem is, Fiddy’s song is most definitely not about candy. The sexually charged rap hit was most certainly not appropriate for children using the toy, but, somehow, this toy never drew the attention of censors and was sold without incident.
13. RAD REPEATIN’ TARZAN
We all make mistakes. Even companies pumping out thousands of toys a year are liable to slip up every now and again. However, when you are a company pumping out thousands of toys a year, you better hope that your slip up isn’t as embarrassing as Rad Repeatin’ Tarzan.
Released as a tie-in by Mattel for Disney’s popular animated film, Rad Repeatin’ Tarzan allowed kids to push a button on the back of the toy’s back, which would cause Tarzan to let loose a mighty cry. Problem is, the toy was supposed to lift its arm to its mouth, but a bug in the production line caused the toy to go nuts when raising its arm, causing the arm to get stuck going up and down, making the toy appear to be engaging in a bout of five knuckle shuffle. The bug was not caught before release, but Mattel would voluntarily recall the toy in the months that followed.
12. DELUXE MR. BEEFY
Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky isn’t likely to make anyone’s list of the best movies ever made. Hell, it likely wouldn’t make anyone’s list of “passable movies I kind of remember.” But this didn’t stop McFarlane Toys from creating a tie-in toy line for Sandler’s mediocre Satanic comedy, leading to the creation of a toy that is as ridiculous as it is tasteless.
In the film, Nicky befriends a talking bulldog named Mr. Beefy. For the subsequent toy, McFarlane released a figure of Beefy that featured a projectile feature. The projectile, a red missile, was placed between Beefy’s legs, which could be fired from the toy with the push of a button. That’s right: this dog toy featured an actual red rocket. Despite the ridiculous nature of this toy, the figure hit shelves without an issue, somehow managing to not draw the ire of censors.
11. GUESS WHAT ELMO
Oftentimes, a toy company doesn’t set out to create a controversial product. Sure, there are toy makers that deliberately pump out shocking products in an attempt to move products, but more often than not, a toy company just won’t think a product through, leading to the toy becoming the subject of controversy as a result. Case in point: Guess What Elmo.
The concept of Guess What Elmo is simple: you press the button in Elmo’s hand, and he tells you what he’s thinking about. Elmo was apparently quite the thinker, as he would talk about everything from shoes to fish. But Elmo occasionally had his mind in the gutter; every so often, Elmo would tell children he was thinking about “balls.” The doll was clearly referring to the balls used in sports, but having a Sesame Street character declare “Elmo is thinking about… balls!” drew more than a few chuckles. We’re not sure how this accidentally questionable toy managed to avoid the scorn of the censors.
10. AUSTIN POWERS
For a brief time in the Aughts, Austin Powers was the height of comedy. With three movies to his name, the British secret agent spawned a veritable empire of tie-in merchandise, including a line of toys from McFarlane Toys. Unfortunately, a figure of the titular character managed to draw the ire of concerned parents.
McFarlane Toys released a version of Powers clad only in Union Jack underwear, complete with a voice chip that would spout lines like “Do I make you horny, baby?” When a child roaming the aisles of a Toys ‘R Us pushed the button to make the figure talk, he heard the aforementioned line and inquired with his mother as to what what certain words meant. A complaint was filed by the fuming mother against McFarlane Toys, but the figure was never yanked from the shelves. Still, we wonder how such a toy managed to slip by the Toys ‘R Us censors.
9. THE OOZINATOR
File this toy on “who possibly thought this was a good idea.” That’s the kind of reaction Hasbro’s squirt gun, dubbed The Oozinator, elicited when it hit the shelves. You see, this alien-looking water pistol had an alternate firing mode that allowed kids to shoot a viscous white “ooze” at each other. Problem is, this “ooze” looked just a touch too… bodily fluid-like.
Dubbed the “Money Shot Squirt Gun” by the mocking media, The Oozinator functioned as both a normal squirt gun and an “ooze shooter.” Unfortunately, the commercials showed kids dousing each other in the “ooze” while smiling and laughing, drawing both disgust and mockery. Despite the reception the toy received, it was never pulled from the shelves. We’re just shocked that this gun managed to slip by the censors.
8. BLACK CANARY BARBIE
A comic book fan may see nothing wrong with Black Canary Barbie. After all, this doll, released in 2008, dressed Barbie as the DC heroine Black Canary, leather jacket and all. For that adult collector that enjoys both Barbie and DC, such a combination would be applauded. But the general public was not as fond of Black Canary Barbie.
Objectively speaking, Black Canary has something of an odd costume: outfitted in a leather jacket and fishnet stockings, the costume doesn’t exactly scream “superhero.” Thus, when Black Canary Barbie hit the shelves, the media was quick to refer to the doll as “Hooker Barbie.” As fans, we understand this doll is an homage to a beloved character, but for the regular Joe, this was a confusing toy, and we’re shocked it managed to get past the censors.
7. DORA THE EXPLORER AQUAPET
If you came of age in the ’00s, odds are you remember the Aquapet. This wildly popular toy line was based around water-filled casings that housed tiny figurines, which were designed to respond to sounds. The Aquapets would play songs, talk to children, and respond to their fellow Aquapets. Inevitably, the toys manufacturer, Wild Planet, struck a licensing deals to incorporate popular characters such as Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer into the line. Unfortunately, the Dora Aquapet turned out less “fun and kid-friendly” and more… well, the exact opposite.
Yes, the Dora Aquapet featured a long central tube housing the Dora figurine, with a base featuring two prominent bumps on either side. There’s just no sugarcoating it: it looked like Dora was encased in a water-filled wang. The toy quickly became a target of mockery, leaving adults everywhere to wonder how this priapic plaything got the okay from censors.
6. BEBE GLOTON
For our next entry, we look south of the border to Mexico. While the country is no stranger to controversy over toys, Bebe Gloton may be the first toy from Mexico to draw controversy from other parts of the world. You see, this is because Bebe Gloton is a baby doll that teaches little girls to breast feed.
Bebe Gloton, Spanish for “Greedy Baby,” comes complete with a wearable “nipple” that the doll would attach to and “suckle” from. Berjuan, the company responsible for manufacturing the doll, stood by the doll, contesting that the toy helped to teach women an essential task for motherhood. While women within Mexico were quick to defend the toy, arguing the baby doll helped to break the stigma surrounding breastfeeding, individuals from other countries were quick to decry the toy as inappropriate. The toy ultimately remained on the shelves, but we’re sure it barely managed to slip by censors.
5. POLE DANCER DOLL
Here’s a toy that, purely on name alone, you can probably deduce that it wasn’t intended for children. That’s right, this was a stripper toy that came complete with a pole to writhe and shake around. Thanks to interior electronics, sad, lonely men everywhere could bring the fun of a stripper home with this handy dandy toy. But despite the racy nature of this toy, the Stripper Doll still managed to end up in toy stores, only to end up the target of censors.
Released in 2009 by U.K. based manufacturer Cables Unlimited, the toy was marketed as an “adult novelty,” and was only intended to be sold in stores that didn’t advertise to children. But due to an ordering hiccup, the Stripper Doll found its way into toy stores, where it was met with outrage from shocked parents. Cables Unlimited voluntarily recalled the mis-shipped inventory, but continued to sell the saucy toy at adult retailers.
4. HARRY POTTER VIBRATING NIMBUS 2000 BROOMSTICK
You’d be hard pressed to find a book with as much economic pull as the Harry Potter series. Across seven books and eight films, the Boy Who Lived ruled the merchandising world with an iron fist, spawning an avalanche of tie-in toys, video games, and nick-knacks. While the Harry Potter franchise is no stranger to controversy, having come under fire from more conservative-types with accusations of promoting magic and Satanism, an unassuming tie-in toy very nearly landed the series in some very hot water.
Hitting shelves in 2003, the Vibrating Nimbus 2000 Broomstick allowed kids to recreate the magic of riding Harry’s beloved broom. Problem is, people began to use the vibrating stick in… more scandalous ways. Before long, the toy was being sold in… different kinds of toy shops, and parents and politicians were up in arms, decrying the toy. The censor hammer came down, and Mattel quickly yanked the broom from store shelves.
3. ROAD RAGE AL SNOW
Here’s a classic situation of an outraged individual not seeing the forest for the trees. The story goes like this: Jakk’s Pacific released a Word Wrestling Federation toy line to commemorate the wrestling event, Summer Slam. The line included a figure of wrestler Al Snow, who was notorious for carrying a mannequin head with him to the ring. When the figure hit Wal-Mart shelves, the moral outrage began.
A professor from the Georgia-based Kennesaw State University spotted the figure on shelves and began a campaign demanding the removal of the toy, arguing that the figure promoted violence against women. Wal-Mart complied and yanked the toy, but the professor had failed to realize the figure was controversial in another aspect: Al Snow called the mannequin head “Head,” and would regularly declare “Everybody loves Head!” So while the innuendo managed to slip by censors, the perceived violence definitely did not.
2. CRAZY FOR YOU TEDDY BEAR
When Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, that means it’s time to panic and buy a present for your partner at the last second. While many would opt for flowers or chocolates, others would reach for an adorable teddy bear. The heart-adorned teddy bears found littering shelves around Valentine’s Day have become synonymous with romance, and are seemingly some of the least offensive gifts on the market. But in the ’00s, one teddy bear found itself receiving a crack down from censors.
The Crazy For You Teddy Bear hit shelves in 2005 and quickly became a hot item. The straight jacket clad teddy bear made big bucks for the toy’s manufacturer, the Vermont Teddy Bear Co., but the company soon came under fire from mental health advocates, who argued that the toy trivialized mental illness. The toy was quickly pulled from shelves by retailers, and the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. never produced the toy again.
Here’s the thing about bootleg toys: they don’t really rely too heavily on quality control. Bootleg toy companies might make a Spongebob doll with three eyes, or as was the case in the ’00s, a Hulk with a giant… er… “little hulk.” To these companies, as long as these toys go out the door, it’s considered good enough. But the “Endowed Hulk” found itself the subject of a moral outrage when it made headlines in the UK.
The story goes like this: a little girl won a Hulk doll from a carnival, only to get home and discover that Hulk had an extra appendage down below. U.K. paper The Sun would pick up the story, leading to an outcry. The carnival would pull the toy, and the toy’s manufacturer was never named, but we’re betting censors were kicking themselves for allowing this Hulk to slip by them.
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