Coming up with new ideas for toys is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Most of the best ideas have already been invented, which is why people continue to buy Frisbees, Hula Hoops and Slinkies as much today as they did decades ago. Of course, if you ever break through with a hot product, you’re talking about literally a billion dollar toy market out there, so there is a lot of incentive to crack into the toy market. Even if you have already gotten in there with your toys, you are then challenged to remain there by coming up with new and interesting variations on your current popular toys.
With so much innovation running around, there is always going to be some toy products that end up failing in rather shocking ways. Sometimes the toys turn out to be too dangerous, sometimes they end up offending people, and sometimes they should have always been deemed offensive. Here, then, are 20 inappropriate toys from the 1990s.
20. MAGIC POTTY BABY
It is fair to say that little kids are often obsessed with the various authentic natures of taking care of little dolls. Therefore, over the years, companies have done their best to try to create more and more realistic dolls for kids to play with, with more detailed hair, the ability to cry, to suck their thumbs and other “real life” things that parents have to deal with in child rearing.
However, Magic Potty Baby probably went a bit too far when it had a baby doll that, when placed on a special potty, would make it seem like the baby was urinating. It wouldn’t literally fill with water, it was all done with effects (the liquid was sealed in a chamber inside the potty), but it is still very strange, even as a twist on an old standard baby doll mechanic.
19. PARTY ANGELA
When Todd McFarlane was deciding which toy company he would have make Spawn action figures, he was struck by, A.) How non-detailed most of the samples were, and B.) How little control he would have over how the toys were made. It was basically a case of, “Stay out of it. This isn’t your area of expertise.” So McFarlane decided to make it his area of expertise!
He created his own action figures for Spawn, which were known for how detailed they were. In 1995, he did a figure based on Angela that was very detailed… perhaps too detailed. See, fans noticed that Angela wasn’t wearing any underwear under her skirt! The powers that be quickly scrambled to release versions with white underwear painted on to the figure, but the original versions remained out there to amuse fans.
18. SOCKER BOPPER
As you likely know if you were ever a kid who spent any time with other children, you will know that kids will often find a way to turn whatever toys that they have into weapons to attack each other. This is most often not meant to be done maliciously, but play-fighting is a major activity for most kids. It is something that they’re going to do on their own, so you really don’t need to encourage them to do it.
And yet, that’s what happened with Socker Bopper, an inflatable boxing glove that promotes kids to beat the heck out of each other. It is ostensibly safe, but come on, there’s no way that it is actually safe. You’re still smacking kids in the face! This is all not yet mentioning the fact that the cushions inside of each Socker Bopper were actually relatively thin.
17. BERRY LOVIN’ BABY SMURF
This one is a bit tricky since it is really a matter of opinion over whether this toy really is inappropriate. You know the phrase “It’s all in the eye of the beholder?” Well, here, the trick is that it is all in the ears of the beholder, as the Berry Lovin’ Baby Smurf comes with berries that you can feed to the baby smurf and it will also talk to you.
One of the phrases, “Can I have a hug?” is so warbled by the toy’s weak speakers that many parents insist that the baby Smurf is saying, “What the ____?” (rhymes with tuck). It almost certainly is saying the more socially acceptable phrase, but just the fact that it isn’t entirely clear made this toy very controversial in the late 1990s.
16. SPIN FIGHTERS
One of the biggest fads in the early 1990s was Pogs, which was a game where kids would have a series of round cardboard pieces that they would then try to knock over with a slammer piece. The goal was to try to flip over the Pogs. You would “win” every pog you flipped over. This being the 1990s, however, someone said, “Hey, what if the kids didn’t have to exert any energy in this game?
And so spin fighters were invented. In the game, kid would launch die-cast, round, button-like things out of a device at each other and then they would spin like tops until the “winner” would be the one who stopped spinning last. There were WWF and Power Rangers versions of the game. As you might imagine, though, launching metal discs indoors (especially when you wound your launcher up real tight) got to be a bit dangerous.
15. CROCODILE DENTIST
In the 1950s, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham was an expert in dealing with juvenile delinquents. During his studies, he determined that a constant presence in the lives of the young people that he worked with was comic books. He then began an infamous study on the subject called “Seduction of the Innocent,” where he argued that comic books were a destructive influence on kids. It led to the Senate hearings on the comic book industry and the creation of the restrictive Comics Code.
Wertham’s findings were ridiculous and his logic was hopelessly flawed (all kids read comic books, not just juvenile delinquents!). That said, if you were a kid and you enjoyed pulling the teeth out of a crocodile in the game Crocodile Dentist, we’re fairly confident that you were going to be a sadist when you grow up.
14. AL SNOW ROAD RAGE ACTION FIGURE
If you’re a professional wrestler, you are bound to go through many different gimmicks before you land on the one that works best for you. In the case of Al Snow, he had been wrestling for years before he came up with a great gimmick that worked. He began to play a character driven insane by having to lose so much to other wrestlers. So he began talking to “Head,” a mannequin head that he insisted spoke to him.
The gimmick worked well enough that he got an action figure in 1999. However, as it turned out, a disembodied mannequin head looks suspiciously like a disembodied human head, so the toy disturbed people enough that it was pulled from the shelves (Snow worked the controversy into his act).
13. SPLASH-OFF WATER ROCKET
Launching toy rockets has been a popular past time of little kids going back to the day before we even had a NASA space program! Many a mouse was attempted to be sent into orbit by scientifically curious little kids. However, working with fuel and other rocket materials could be dangerous. That was why Splash-Off Water Rockets seemed like such a great idea. All the fun of launching rockets and none of the dangerous gas or fuel!
However, as it turns out, water pressure can also be dangerous and sometimes the toy rockets would explode, sending pieces of the rocket everywhere. Even when they didn’t explode, the rockets would have the bad habit of launching in unexpected directions. The government stepped in and pulled the toy from the market.
12. MOON SHOES
Ever since humanity discovered that they had feet (so, we’re talking at least 60 years ago), they have come up with ways to break said feet. Skateboards, roller skates, ice skates, snowboards, pogo sticks, you name it, we’ve come up with many a way to endanger our bones. One of the most ingenious/moronic of these inventions was Moon Shoes.
They originated in the 1950s, but they really took off in the 1990s when they were no longer made out of metal springs. The concept is that they are shoes with coiled springs that could make you into a mini-trampoline. As you might imagine, it led to numerous injuries. Unlike some of the other toys on this list, though, however dumb this one is, they still actually make them.
11. BUNDLE BABY
Again, little kids clearly have a fascination with the hows and the whys of human biology. After all, how common is the question, “Where do babies come from?” So it totally does make sense for toy companies to try to cash in on this interest with toys designed with these sort of questions in mind. However, in practice, most of the ideas as to how to monetize this interest are disturbing.
Take, for instance, Bundle Baby. This was a toy that a little kid could strap on to their body to simulate what it would feel like to carry a fetus within them. The baby kicks,moves and makes other motions to let you know it’s there. It might be a bit educational, but the practical effect of strapping on a big vest to a kid like this is quite absurd.
Skydancers were a really cool idea for a toy. You took these very beautifully designed dolls that were weighted at the bottom and had wings that you could toss in the air and they would spin around in the sky before landing on the ground. It’s a very clever concept.
However, the idea of making large darts that you could toss up in the air and land on the ground is also a pretty clever idea. Both ideas result in people throwing things up in the air that could hit other people’s bodies, however, turning these into dangerous projectiles. Skydancers weren’t sharp like lawn darts, but their weighted bottoms still resulted in a number of injuries when they inevitably ended up spinning their ways into the faces of other little kids.
9. JIBBA JABBER
Jibba Jabber was a toy that was designed to work as basically a stress reliever. You would shake the toy and its wobbly neck would make funny sounds. But you have to think about this: we are talking about a toy where the correct usage of which involves strangulation! That is one extremely weird idea! Not only that, but Jibba Jabber then got caught up in controversy when it was alleged that it might encourage the shaking of babies.
So Jibba Jabber toys began to include warnings on them about how you should not shake infants. It even contained a list of things you could do other than shake a baby when you get stressed out with your infant. Yes, they were so worried about bad press they even came with instructions for how to parent your children.
8. RAFIKI WITH BABY SIMBA
Clearly, one of the most iconic moments in the hit 1990s Disney film, The Lion King, was when Rafiki picks up baby Simba and raises him high over his head and shows the newborn cub to all of the animals that are gathered at Pride Rock, which demonstrates the circle of life to everyone (while, conveniently, the song “Circle of Life” plays).
Naturally, then, the moment was attempted to be memorialized in a toy, but this toy (which came as part of a candy tie-in) obviously was very cheaply made, and so instead of lifting baby Simba over his head, Rafiki holds Simba far too low for the sake of any sort of decorum. Instead of a triumphant celebration of life, it is just a gross example of how messed up things can be.
7. BANDITO BASHIN’ MIKE
One of the most successful toy lines of the early 1990s was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which technically launched in the late 1980s. Due to their hit TV series, the Turtles were everywhere. The problem with that, of course, is that the TV show was almost entirely about just four turtles, Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Therefore, over the years, they kept releasing different versions of these characters. Some of them were just awful, including the super racist Bandito Bashin’ Michelangelo figure that came out in 1992, complete with a Mariachi outfit, a “Sewer Sombrero” and a ridiculous mustache. Who thought that this was a good idea is anyone’s guess. The toy’s description literally says, “He’s the meanest Mutant to ever have refried pizza.” PlayMates should have had a “Common Sense” department before launching any new versions of the Turtles to run ideas by.
6. SNACKTIME CABBAGE PATCH KID
In the early 1980s, the hysteria surrounding the release of the Cabbage Patch Kids was unlike anything that you could ever imagine. Not even the heyday of the Furby or Tickle Me Elmo saw people freaking out as much as they did back when Cabbage Patch Kids came out (less people had cable back then, so there was more time for riots at toy stores).
A decade into their existence, though, the dolls were a bit less popular and so the company tried out new variations. Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid, though, should have never gotten past anyone with any bit of reasonable thinking. Sure, the doll would chew up the “snacks” given to her, but it would also very easily “chew” little kids’ hair… and not let go! That is not a great look.
The adult action figure market has developed extensively in the past two decades and we have no problem with that idea at all. If there are people out there who want salacious versions of comic book characters available as action figures, that’s fine by us. The issue, though, is that they should be sold specifically to stores for adults, like specialized comic book or novelty shops.
In the case of Gwynn, the exotic dancer friend of Snowman (the comic book series by Matt Martin and Cameron Enders from Avatar Press) who got his own toy line in 1998, she really should not have “For ages 8 and above” on her packaging. She’s literally an exotic dancer! Who thought that this ever would have been appropriate?! What kids market are they aiming for with this figure?
4. KARATE CHOP TARZAN
Often, the problem with some of these toys is that the toy developers just don’t have a dirty enough mind. So they will legitimately believe that a toy is doing a certain action, since that’s what they developed the toy to do, even if everyone else looks at it and sees a whole other (highly inappropriate) action instead.
For instance, this action figure designed to tie in with Disney’s hit film, Tarzan, is designed to have Tarzan doing a karate chop action. Instead, the action looks like Tarzan has just discovered the art of self pleasure (the apes forgot to teach him that). If Tarzan starts singing “You’ll be in my heart” to you while doing that, perhaps tell him to go play wth someone else.
3. BABY WEE WEE
A lot of times, toys are just accidentally inappropriate. You know, like the toy makers don’t get that their toy might be viewed in a certain way. Other times, though, you get just a complete leap of the senses, like with Baby Wee Wee.
Designed by the Spanish toy company, Famosa, a popular toy company that has been producing toys since the late 1950s, Baby Wee Wee follows in the vein of some of the other toys on this list, as it gives little kids a realistic doll to play with. This doll actually goes to the potty by itself (it is battery operated). However, it goes to the potty through its life-like, anatomically correct genitalia. It may be a good instructional tool, with many new dolls following suit to teach kids about anatomy, but we also feel like we might have been put on some sort of government watchlist just for watching the Baby Wee Wee toy commercial.
2. SHAPE SHIFTER PUNISHER
ToyBiz produced Marvel action figures throughout the 1990s. However, as the decade came to a close, the company had gone through the Marvel Universe and made toys out of pretty much every major character (except, bizarrely enough, Kitty Pryde, who never got one). So, ToyBiz moved on to gimmick toys, like action figures that came with guns that could shoot various things out of them, as well as other peripherals.
One of its most popular concepts was Shape Shifters, where superheroes would transform into other things. Spider-Man, for example, would become a giant spider. Wolverine would become a giant wolf (instead of a wolverine, for some reason) and the Punisher would become a gun. However, while transforming, the area of the gun where the projectile would fire from just happened to be the Punisher’s crotch, hilariously enough.
1. WOLVERINE INFLATABLE BAT
During the 1990s, no one appeared on more products than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not even Batman. However, while not quite to the level of Batman or the Turtles, Wolverine certainly represented himself well by appearing on literally tons of different products, from action figures to toy motorcycles. In fat, Logan is the only person in the world with claws on his motorcycle. He also had things like microwaveable pasta and ice cream pops, as well as inflatable toy hammers. Because, of course!
This toy hammer, though, needed a place for people to blow into in order to inflate it. The company clearly did not put much thought into where the air hole would go, as it ended up being placed right in the middle of Wolverine’s crotch! He’s the best there is at what he does, and in this case, it sure isn’t pretty.
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