The Mother Brain Files: Ten Unproduced Movie Toys of My Childhood
By Mother Brain
As a child, have you ever wished for your favorite movie to come out with a line of action figures and vehicles so you could bring the cinematic experience into your room? As an 80â€™s baby, there were countless movies like Star Wars and Ghostbusters that spawned dozens of toys to make my playtime so precious; however, there were many others that did not reach the toy shelves. Now pushing into my 30s, it pains me to go to places like Comic Con to see these toys get made three decades too late.Â
The following is a list of my top ten unproduced toys based on popular films from my childhood. Some of the films listed here did have planned toy lines that never made it past the prototype stage while others wouldnâ€™t be made until the 2000s. Feel free to add to the list by commenting at the end of this blog.
10)Â The Golden Child
What many people consider to be one of Eddie Murphyâ€™s worst movies happens to be one of my earliest childhood favorites. Made at the height of his box office success, Golden Child was Murphyâ€™s attempt at creating a black Indiana Jones, playing a detective for missing children hired to rescue a boy with magical powers from the demons of the underworld. No toys were produced to capitalize on the film but I always wondered how great it would be to have an Eddie Murphy action figure that came with the Ajanti Dagger as well as Charles Danceâ€™s villainous character in his demon form. I would have preferred this over Kevin Costnerâ€™s Robin Hood figures.
9)Â Cannonball Run
As someone who used to love playing with Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars, I was stunned to know that there was never an action figure line inspired by the 1981 cross-country racing comedy. More than just an all-star vehicle with Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Jackie Chan, and countless others, the film was full of eye candy on wheels. Although the cars used in the film (i.e. Aston Martin DB5, Lamborghini Countach, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, etc.) have been produced by Ertl Toys, I would have loved to have seen a complete line with each car including a 3 3/4 inch figure of their respective driver.
For Sylvester Stallone, the inspirational Rocky films spawned countless action figures and video games while the ultra-violent Rambo films did exactly the same, including a cartoon series with figures produced by Coleco. Stallone had high expectations for a third 80s franchise with his badass L.A.P.D. cop who wasted serial killers with an uzi. Perhaps one of the reasons it failed at the time was because there was no Rambo-esque action figure line to compliment it. Also in the era where realistic-looking toy water guns were the big trend, the film was literally screaming for a water gun version of Cobraâ€™s Jatimatic SMG uzi for kids to tag their friends with in the backyard.
7)Â Mad Max
Although the franchise began with George Millerâ€™s controversial 1979 film, it was the sequel, The Road Warrior, that made Mel Gibson a star and Mad Max a household name around the world. Between its groundbreaking action sequences and colorful characters such as the Gyro Captain and Lord Humongous, the Mad Max films had serious merchandising potential at the time. Unfortunately, we would not see the Mad Max characters get produced as action figures until N2 Toys produced a Road Warrior 6 inch figure line in 2000 which featured the key characters as well as famous vehicles like Maxâ€™s Interceptor. Ironically, the now defunct independent toy company was operated by former employees of Kenner, the original makers of the Star Wars toys.
6)Â Total Recall
Why is it that even Arnold Schwarzeneggerâ€™s worst films (i.e. Last Action Hero and Batman and Robin) spawned countless toys but not his 1990 classic directed by the great Paul Verehoeven? Again, there was a huge opportunity to capitalize on Recallâ€™s success with a whole variety of gun wielding good guys, bad guys, and mutants from Mars (Yes, even the three breasted chick would have sold like hotcakes). Imagine a Mars playset to have your Schwarzenegger figure dismember bad guys with breakaway glass and a reactor that lights up when you touch it! Sadly, it was just too violent for kids in the era of Batman, Ninja Turtles, and Dick Tracy. Then again, two other Verehoeven classics did make the action figure cut: Robocop and Starship Troopers.
5)Â Alien (1979)
At the height of the Star Wars craze in the late 70s, every studio scrambled for the next big space adventure flick not only to make blockbuster numbers at the box office but also the toy shelves. Fox hoped to repeat their success with Star Wars when they granted Kenner the license for Ridley Scottâ€™s Alien in 1979. Prototypes of 3 3/4 inch figures of Ripley, Dallas, Kane, Ash, and the Alien itself were made as well as a 12 inch Alien doll. The doll hit shelves just when the film was released. Despite the filmâ€™s success, Alien proved to be too scary for kids and the doll was banned from stores, effectively canceling plans to release the figures. Then in 1992, Kenner retained the license to produce a highly successful line of toys from its 1986 sequel, Aliens.Â Â
4)Â Superman: The Movie
Why no one made a toy line out of this one is beyond me. Weâ€™ve seen countless Superman toys for decades but very few that captured the likeness of Christopher Reeve as Superman or Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. Only a 12 inch Mego doll was released which unsuccessfully had its head sculpted to Reeveâ€™s likeness. As I soon found out, the Mego Corporation did in fact plan a 12 inch line which included Lex Luthor, Jor-El, and General Zod as well as a 3 3/4 inch line with playsets. Pictures of the prototypes were seen on MegoMuseum.com. Most recently, Hot Toys produced a tribute doll with interchangeable hands and a Fortress of Solitude figure stage.
3)Â Short Circuit
This E.T. imitation from the 80s proved to be popular with kids like me. We fell in love with Number â€œJohnnyâ€ 5 a robot who found artificial intelligence after getting struck by lighting. When Short Circuit 2 came out with its premise of Ben Jabituya making battery powered Johnny 5 toys, most fans in America wanted one for Christmas. For many years, I wondered why we never saw a real Johnny 5 toy outside of Nintendoâ€™s R.O.B. the Robot. Recently, I discovered an old Matchbox toy fair catalog which revealed a prototype for an R.C. Johnny 5 toy that lets you transmit your voice to match his, lights up, and has spring loaded arms. I speculate this toy never saw the light of day because of the box office failure of Short Circuit 2. Since then, various model makers on ebay have sold their homemade models of Johnny 5 for upwards of $1,500 a piece.
2)Â The Goonies
When The Goonies was set for release in the summer of 1985, Warner Bros. went on a serious merchandise blitz for the Steven Spielberg-produced adventure. Everyone remembers the hit soundtrack, video games, bubble gum cards, board game, etc. Yet, no action figures except for a small PVC figurine of Sloth. Some say that in the 80s, young boys had a resistance against buying action figures of females and kids (Spielberg-Related Side Note: LJNâ€™s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom toy line had Willie and Short Round figures planned but never released). In 2007, Mezco Toyz released a five figure set which included Mikey, Sloth, Mouth, Chunk, and Data. Too bad it was 22 years too late.
1)Â Back to the Future
Everyone knows about the countless number of DeLorean models, remote control cars, Power Wheels, etc. We were fooled into believing that the Hoverboard was real and even when it finally got made recently, you couldnâ€™t stand on it. But where were the Back to the Future action figures? Itâ€™s understandable that the first film was not guaranteed to be successful and no toy company dared to make figures from a movie where part of the premise deals with a boyâ€™s mom falling in love with him. Yet, Part II and Part III had so much potential for figures. Part II had plenty to work with including Marty McFly in three different outfits from three different time periods as well as Doc Brown in his 2015 yellow trenchcoat. Were the likenesses of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd too expensive? Who honestly knows? Instead, I had to resort to using my Michael Knight and Mad Scientist figures in their place. The closest we would get to a figure line was the Kubrick line produced in the late 2000s featuring all the key characters in Lego-like form. But there was just so much more potential for something bigger.