More and more, toys are proving a crucial part of building and maintaining a film or TV show’s fanbase. They build excitement for upcoming releases, create recognizable faces for the viewing audience, and provide the tools for imaginative kids to continue the story well after the credits roll. Everyone has a story of a beloved Batman toy, a cherished Christmas gift, or lining up for Toys R Us’ Star Wars Midnight Madness. Indeed, the enduring popularity of Boba Felt, a character largely ineffectual in the original trilogy, is all action figure-inspired hype.
But sometimes toy companies, whether well-meaning or profit hungry, can take things a step too far. Some characters are too obscure, too absurd, or too downright inappropriate to merit immortalization in plastic, yet somehow they found their way into existence. Sometimes they appear at garage sales, or on an otherwise empty peg at Walmart, or the basement of that Star Wars fan who is maybe in need of an intervention; and now, finally, on this list. One quick note, before someone gets sassy in the comments: Yes, we all totally needed an action figure of Joker’s sidekick Bob, who Jack Nicholson forced into the film to give his friend a job, from the Batman 1989 toy line, and it is heresy to suggest otherwise. Who doesn’t love Bob?
17 THE SLAB OF BEEF
Now, we know what you’re thinking: What’s wrong with the frozen meat? It’s an iconic image from the Rocky franchise, homaged and immortalized in the grand pantheon of contemporary American cinema, inarguably better known than most of Balboa’s pugilistic adversaries across the franchise, and absolutely warrants being an accessory within the toy line.
To that we’d say: 1.) We’re not totally sure you’re using “pantheon” correctly, passionate Rocky fan; and 2.) We get it. The meat makes a great accessory to be packaged with Rocky or Mick. But that’s not what happened. Instead, someone at Jakks Pacific decided “The Beef” merited it’s own solo card and clamshell, as though it were a character all its own. Presumably, outraged Rocky fans picked up their “Balboa in Training” toy to discover no meat, and promptly shouted “Where’s the beef?” -- a reference that meant nothing to the apathetic millennial Target employees who rang them up.
16 PRUNE FACE
By now, virtually every character from the original Star Wars trilogy, no matter how small, has had a figure made of them, from that dude who carried an ice maker in Empire Strikes Back (Willrow Rood) to an obscure general who looks a lot like former Secretary of State John Kerry (General Rieekan). So why pick on Pruneface in particular?
Simple: he’s the most infamous BS toy of the original trilogy. This wasn’t some character that sprung out of late ‘90s collectors obsession with having every single creature ever seen on their childhood screens. Oh no, Prune Face was produced in the original 1984 Return of the Jedi line. That such a useless character warranted an action figure is so absurd, it even became the subject of a Robot Chicken sketch in their Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III special.
15 LITTLE NICKY
Most of these cases are necessary toy lines that just made one to many characters. But sometimes you hear of an entire toy line that had no conceivable reason to ever exist, no possible market that warranted the mass production of toys related to a particular film. And when you ask why, nine times out of ten the answer will be: because Todd McFarlane.
Todd McFarlane changed the toy industry with his highly detailed collectible figures, obtaining the licenses for everything from sports figures to classic horror villains, all of which proved to be hits. But like the classic game of baseball Todd is a little too into, sometimes there’s a swing and a miss. Producing a line of toys for an Adam Sandler bomb, now forgotten to time but for a quick Quentin Tarantino cameo, ain’t exactly a home run.
14 THE FRIDGE
If you try googling “G.I. Joe Fridge” nowadays, you’re more likely to turn up one of those Fensler Film G.I. Joe PSA meme videos, but once upon a time, The Fridge was a much sought after G.I. Joe figure. Only the second living person to receive a G.I. Joe figure, after the WWF’s much deserved Sgt. Slaughter, The Fridge wasn’t available in stores, so if you really wanted him, you had to do a mail order with Hasbro Direct back in 1987.
And who wouldn’t want a G.I. Joe figure of William “Refrigerator” Perry, a former fullback who played for the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, who isn’t in the Football Hall of Fame but is in the WWE Hall of Fame. Plus, he made an anti-drug rap record, so that’s… that’s pretty cool, right? Look, it seemed cool at the time, so we all bought it. Forget a demigorgon, this is the real “stranger thing” that happened in the ‘80s.
13 NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
Ah Napoleon Dynamite. The lightning in a bottle Sundance hit that managed to conquer the world by capturing the post-emo, pre-hipster zeitgeist. It could be argued that Napoleon Dynamite paved the way for the massive success of later awkward outcast movies like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine, even if it didn’t lead to much success for any of the people involved in the actual film.
But eventually the zeitgeist cooled, the Vote for Pedro shirts got folded away as a relic of an era we never thought we’d be nostalgic for, and a failed animated sequel show proved the brand was dead in the water. So now, if you were so inclined to purchase a collection of one of McFarlane’s oddest IP acquisitions, you sit back, looking at your Dancing Napoleon figure and think “Was this a solid investment?” You wonder if the world truly needed a Pedro with removable hair. You feel certain that, today, a “Gangsta Kip” figure would warrant a think piece on Buzzfeed.
12 CONSTABLE ZUVIO
We understand if the anger is still a bit raw here for some collectors. In some parts of the country, the Midnight Madness rollout for Force Awakens toys was a bit of a sith-show. Very little merch was on shelves, and those weird dudes who were camped out way too early had already snatched up all the Kylos and Captain Phasmas, so many walked away with “mystery” characters who hadn’t appeared in the trailers. These figures could have any number of possible roles in the universe, like Constable Zuvio.
As we all now know, Constable Zuvio has a huge part in Force Awakens, single-handedly destroying the Starkiller… what’s that? No significant part, you say? No dialogue at all? Just in the background? Only relevant in a short story released digitally and packaged in a junior novel, you say? That’s absurd, they’d never make a figure out of somebody so meaningless. That would be like making a figure for Prune Fa... oh right.
11 DENNIS NEDRY
We all remember the excitement when Jurassic Park came out. A bonafide blockbuster with dazzling special effects, compelling characters and the type of sweeping directorial vision that could only come from the legendary Steven Spielberg.
And of course, we all remember begging our parents at holiday time, saying “Please, please get me Jurassic Park toys! I want the big T-Rex that goes roar! And one of the people, but not Malcolm or Muldoon or Grant. I want Newman from Seinfeld. Yes, that’s right. The schlubby bad guy, who should totally get a figure in Series 1 of the Jurassic Park toy line instead of Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm. And also, I want him to come with accessories he never uses, and I want the figure to look absolutely nothing like him. Like, just have him look like a Doc Ock ripoff instead. That’s all I want.” And thankfully, Kenner answered that oddly specific childhood plea.
10 THE BLAIR WITCH
“What?” you may ask. “How did they make a toy of the Blair Witch, when the whole point is that you never see the Blair Witch or even have proof she exists at all?” The answer, as you can imagine, is one word: McFarlane. When Todd McFarlane rolled out his Movie Maniacs toy line, he delivered a masterstroke of manufacturing, crafted the most stunning and detailed depictions of iconic horror characters like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Norman Bates, and more.
His Alien vs. Predator sculptures better capture the fantasies of fans than either film did, and his willingness to take on cult classics like The Thing and Jason X is commendable. But the sheer hubris it took to say “Yeah, sure, you may want to imagine what the Blair Witch could be yourself, but I can totally do it better” and then mass produce the result is absolutely staggering.
9 DJANGO UNCHAINED
In theory, creating toys around Quentin Tarantino’s revenge Western isn’t a bad idea. The toys produced for his previous action movies, Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, had proven popular, and Django was poised to draw even more buyers, by virtue of being an instantly iconic hero for young black movie fans whose previous representation in the genre had been limited to Shaft and that dude from The Last Dragon.
But in a classic case of “Well, yeah, I guess you could see it that way. Yeah, they probably should have seen this coming,” the toys produced were decried as objectionable on the virtue of, well, allowing people to buy and sell slaves. Yeah, we can see the issue. Thankfully, no less than the paragon of morality, Harvey Weinstein, intervened to ensure the toys were discontinued, preventing them from sullying the family friendly toy store shelves populated with Walter White and Princess Leia as a sex slave.
8 BAT CREATURE
Clocking in at close to three hours, Batman vs. Superman is not a film that’s light on content. Trying to cram an entire decade worth of world-building into one film isn’t gonna leave you with a lot of wiggle room, and some characters are gonna get short changed. It was the cause of outrage when fans, pumped about the Aquaman figures released in the Batman vs. Superman toy line, discovered that their beloved Atlantean had very little actual screen time in the finished film.
But if you were mad they made a figure for a hero who “Was only in the film for, like, five seconds,” try a figure for a character that only appears, even in the “extended cu,t” for literally five seconds. You might remember Bruce Wayne having a dream about entering his parents tomb, being set upon by bats, and having some enormous creature attack him. For literally five seconds. That merited a figure. Apparently the merchandising department followed the cue of the film itself: if it looks cool, who cares if it makes sense.
Remember Lost? Think hard, it’s in the back of your mind somewhere. The Avatar of TV shows, this quirky sci-fi series became a smash hit with a rabid, passionate fanbase, and dominate the cultural conversation upon release, inspiring many imitators, only to leave little actual impact less than a decade after its credits rolled, and drifting out of our collective consciousness.
So why did the show get action figures? And why were they called “action” figures when they actually featured zero points of articulation, rendering them nothing more than plastic statues? And why on God’s green earth did we get, in Series 1 no less -- when we didn’t get a Sawyer or a Jin -- why in the bluest of hells did we get a bikini clad Shannon on a beach blanket? The answer to all of those is: Because Todd McFarlane.
6 TOON BURNE
Look, the ‘90s were oversaturated with Ninja Turtles toys, and we’re not gonna pretend like all of them were necessary. Did the Ninja Turtles need to take on the uniforms of various professions? No. Did they need to become classic movie monsters? No. Did they need to pick up musical instruments? You’re g*ddamn right they did. Out of Our Shells is the Sgt. Pepper’s of turtle rock.
But at least in those cases, you still got to play with the iconic characters you loved. Yet, somehow, someone thought “You know what kids really want? They may have the four turtles, and Shredder, Splinter and April O’Neil, but you know what they’re really clamoring for? April’s boss.” And so, Toon Burne was made. And Toon Burne was bought. And you used Toon Burne’s cool accessories to decorate your Turtle lair. And you let Toon Burne get chewed up by your dog. And you felt nothing.
5 OSCAR GOLDMAN
You remember The 40 Year Old Virgin? That raunchy Judd Apatow comedy that surely we all watched thinking “Ah, those Steve Carrell and Jonah Hill fellows will surely be multiple Oscar nominees”? Then you might remember a scene where Carrell’s friends ridicule him for his massive toy collection, including “The Six Million Dollar Man’s Boss,” and you probably laughed at how one of those actors must have improvised such a silly idea.
We’re here to tell you that it is, in fact, very real. Produced by Kenner toys, unironically, mind you, as something they assumed kids would want to play with, Oscar Goldman did indeed receive his own doll, which not only came with a headset and briefcase, but manilla folders with files! Oh, the excitement. Who wants to play as the Six Million Dollar Man ON a mission, when you can be the guy that assigns him the mission, right?
4 DESTROYED CASSANDRA
We get that we may lose some of you with this one. If you’re not a Doctor Who fan by now, you never will be, so intense and sometimes grating is the fanbase. Whether its too many Tumblr memes or the recent “You can’t fly the Tardis without testes” sexism, it just makes you want to tell the fans to go away... far, far away. Well, it seems as though the people who produced the Doctor Who toys wanted to send much the same message when they released this glorified accessory.
Releasing a solo figure of Cassandra, the skin stretched out onto a flat canvass, would have been absurd enough on its own. Releasing a “destroyed Cassandra”, which was just the canvass, sans Cassandra, is proof that Doctor Who fans will buy just about anything. You know, except a Doctor with two X chromosomes. Blimey.
3 C.B. MCHAUL
If you instantly recognize the name C.W. McCall, congrats on your recent retirement (we kid, we kid). If you’re too young, look up the hit song “Convoy,” and then bring it up any time your parents complain that rap music is bad because “it’s just people talking over music, there’s no talent.” Yes, C.W. McCall was an inexplicable one hit wonder, made famous for making trucker talk over '70s synth, and partially inspiring Smokey and the Bandit, because even stupid things can sometimes produce good.
No such good was produced, however, by the even more inexplicable line of CB McHaul toys. When C.W.’s song inspired a “CB Radio Craze” that swept the entire nation because the ‘70s were just a cultural garbage fire, Mego decided this would surely be a long lasting fad, and jumped to produce toys of the fictitious trucker world from McCall’s song. The fad was dead before the toys even arrived at their destination.
You may remember Starsky and Hutch from the classic ‘70s tv series, with its cool music, slick car and thrilling action. You may remember it from its mid-2000s failed movie reboot starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, memorable for Snoop Dogg as the smooth-talking Huggy Bear and literally no other reason. Either way, you don’t remember the character of Chopper.
No one does, because he isn’t one single bad guy, but a composite of various “low lifes” depicted on the show in order to add a villain to the toy line, which also included the two titular characters, Huggy Bear and Captain Doby. Chopper stood out, not just because he was the only character depicted in an illustration rather than a photograph on the back of the package, but for his overall odd design, which ranges from awful to oddly offensive depending on how you interpret certain artistic choices.
1 TODD MCFARLANE’S DOROTHY OF OZ
Look, this article has done a fair bit of Todd McFarlane bashing, and let’s not drag the man too hard. The fact is, he’s a genius. His effect on both the comic book and toy industries is undeniable, his vision helped shape a decade of popular culture, and his work is to one generation what that of Jack Kirby or Carmine Infantino was to a generation before. That such a creative mind was allowed to flourish unfettered by naysayers is, in many ways, a gift to the collective geek world.
That said, sweet god, someone should have said “Nay” to this. That McFarlane decided to apply his “twisted” vision to childhood classics is one thing, but somehow making a bondage scene that would make Pinhead blush seems to cross the line so far it winds up over the rainbow.
Can you think of any other characters that should never have gotten a toy, but totally did? Let us know in the comments!