The most hilarious confrontation of Hollywood’s knack for making an excess of products attached to any blockbuster film was in Mel Brooks’ 1987 film, Spaceballs.
“Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made! Spaceballs, the t-shirt! Spaceballs, the coloring book! Spaceballs, the lunch box! Spaceballs, the breakfast cereal! Spaceballs, the flamethrower – the kids love this one.”
It’s a joke, of course, but Mel Brooks wasn’t far from hitting the mark. There are some pretty outlandish examples of merchandising going too far out there – maybe not as far as flame throwers, but still pretty crazy! There are examples that make sense, and that everyone really expects movies to make: we all expect that the Harry Potter franchise will make wizard robes available for purchase, and that the Star Wars franchise will have novelty lightsabers in toy aisles across the world. Then things get a little weirder: it’s not too weird to have a Lord of the Rings version of Risk, or a Doctor Who themed toothbrush that looks like a sonic screwdriver – that’s just creative! Then there are things that just don’t need to exist, or flat out shouldn’t exist. A graphic board game made for kids from the movie Alien with gut spilling characters in it? Or a Total Recall sex doll with three breasts? Why was this necessary? There are limits and lines in the merchandising world, and there are certainly studios and brands that cross it.
From snuggies and cookbooks to dangerous weapon replicas and weird desserts, here are some outrageous and hilarious examples of merchandising gone too far.
15. Game Of Thrones Dothraki Language Book
One amazingly hilarious episode of The Office features Dwight teaching receptionist Erin the Dothraki language to impress her boyfriend’s family (of course, it’s another foible the employees get themselves involved in). Apparently the joke was lost on some viewers, including whoever made this book: The Living Language Guide to the Dothraki Language. There’s an audio accompaniment, online membership with tutors and guides, and a grammar breakdown, just as if you were learning Spanish or German or English; except you’re learning the fictional language of the Dothraki people, the nomadic horse warriors of the grass plains of Essos in George R. R. Martin‘s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and from the serialized television version of the story, A Game of Thrones. You can also find books on the Valyrian language, but clips of people speaking the harsh and abrasive Dothraki native tongue are so hilarious, you won’t need to look any further.
14. Hermione’s Yule Ball Earrings
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you either loved or hated the fourth movie (The Goblet of Fire), in which the students take a break from a ridiculously deadly gambit of magical trials for underage wizards for the adolescents to have a school dance. At the dance, Hermione somehow shocks everyone by showing up in a gorgeous dress and looking stunning (who knew a smart girl could be so pretty, the crowd goes wild).
Lucky for us Harry Potter fans, we can purchase replicas of the small flower earrings she wears that no one actually noticed during the film: for $100. Never mind the fact that they look like they could be found at a mall kiosk for $5; because they look like something Hermione once wore, we should pay a $95 up-charge. If, for some awful reason, this offer actually entices you, the earrings can be found on the official Harry Potter website. Or probably at any Claire’s for a fraction of the price.
13. Batman V. Superman Cereal
With the recent release of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, you may have noticed a few new boxes of cereal on the shelf at the local grocery store: one had Batman’s new awkwardly shaped Bat-signal on it while the other had the iconic Superman logo on it, and fans who happened to be cereal eaters were encouraged to “pick a side,” as if our taste in breakfast foods determined our loyalties to justice seeking superheroes. It was a weird campaign, especially since the cereal seemed aimed at kids while the movie was definitely made for more of an adult audience. Unfortunately, the cereals also sucked. Batman fans were forced to endure chocolate strawberry flavored, and Superman fans got caramel crunch. If those cereals meant allying with those heroes, it meant we all rooted for Wonder Woman by abstaining. General Mills definitely had a swing and a miss with this DC team up to promote the movie via breakfast food.
12. Twilight Barbies
There were some truly terrible items made in the merchandising for this film series: diapers, an Edward-shaped man pillow, Twilight condoms and glitter lube (commonly found at Hot Topic) – replicas were even made of Bella’s engagement ring that ran for at least $2,200. While some of these weird and despicable products got the official licensing of the studios and some did not, they were all pretty atrocious and everyone should be appalled that they were bought.
Perhaps the most widely bought (and really kind of gross) product was the Twilight Barbie series. These unusually gray-skinned Barbies sold in stores worldwide, featuring all of the favorite characters. They weren’t a temporary best-seller, either; with every film release of the series, a new batch of Barbies would release with Bella and Edward and all their buddies in different outfits. It should disturb us all that there are Barbie collections out there with mini-replicas of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart that will be passed along to children someday.
11. Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag
In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker almost freezes to death on the ice planet of Hoth. He likely would have succumbed to the freezing temperatures if Han Solo hadn’t been so bold as to slice open a tauntaun with Luke’s lightsaber for Luke to sleep in and keep him warm. It’s totally gross, but it saves Luke’s life and this scene has become iconic for the devotion Han has for his friendship with Luke.
It’s a great scene, yes, but does that mean that we all want to relate to the moment and sleep inside of tauntauns ourselves? No! This tauntaun sleeping bag is zipped open with a lightsaber zipper. You crawl inside, bundle up, and sleep like a baby inside of this smiling tauntaun. Come on, Star Wars! Can’t we just feel bad for the animal that had to die so Luke could live? Do we have to make a joke and gag gift out of it? It kind of cheapens the scene if kids everywhere are taking tauntaun carcasses to sleepover parties…
10. Star Trek Marshmallow Dispenser
Yes, you did read that title correctly: this is a Star Trek themed marshmallow dispenser. First of all, it’s important to note that someone believed it was necessary to have a dispensary for marshmallows. Are they difficult to pull out of the bag? Do they create complications when stored in bags? Never before has someone expressed the need for a dispensary for marshmallows.
The product was made because it was used for the briefest of moments in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It’s one of those instances where the writers put in a tool where one isn’t typically used just because it creates a technological rift between our time and theirs. In reality, no one will ever need or want a dispenser for marshmallows. This is just a waste of plastic. It also comes with a plastic spook and fork that look like they belong in a Little Tykes play set for toddlers. If this is what Gene Roddenberry’s future looks like, we don’t want any part of it.
9. Dune Coloring And Activity Books
If you haven’t seen or read Dune before, you definitely should; it’s an iconic piece of science fiction that all nerds should see. If you have seen or read it, you know that it’s a very complex story (we’re talking Game of Thrones complicated) and it is definitely not a story for kids. Yet, that didn’t stop merchandisers from making coloring and activity books for little kids with really disturbing quotes at the bottom.
The page that is pictured above is actually fairly tame compared to some of the other coloring pages and weirdly outlined activities in the book. There are other pages with captions like “Duke Leto and Piter die,” “A Traitor Activates a Hunter-Seeker That Could Kill Paul,” and “Dr. Yuch Gets Ready to Poison Duke Leto With His Dart Gun.” Overall, it looked like a coloring book made for either very immature adults or the most disturbed children of 1980s.
8. Letters To E.T.
This book released not too long after the iconic film was released on VHS for the public; the title would lead fans to believe that it was a collection of letters written to the fictional character of E.T., a beloved icon that maybe children believed in and found a friend in.
Well, you’d be wrong. The book that was published was more or less a collection of fan mail written to Steven Spielberg, mostly praise and weird comments on the film. A particular favorite was from a 73-year-old woman who cried her contacts out of her eyes twenty minutes prior to the end of the film and wrote Steven in hopes of him buying her new prescription lenses, and in hopes that he would pay for her ticket to see the movie again (as well as a refund for her last ticket), since he so rudely made her cry. Why studios thought this was a worthy piece of merchandising, no one will ever know.
7. G.I. Joe Shampoo
G. I. Joe shampoo: for when your hair is filled with cobras.
The shampoo was made at a time when children’s cartoons rarely had things like shampoos made for them. Now you can find that stuff everywhere. You can even find Frozen themed sunscreen and if that doesn’t confuse you, nothing will.
Perhaps the best part of this shampoo was that it came in a gift set. Imagine being an eight year old boy on Christmas morning and opening a box that says G. I. JOE in big letters across the top and looking down and realizing that your mom gave you a set of liquid soap and shampoo for Christmas. And when you complain, her consolation is that it comes with 48 temporary tattoos… that she’s going to make you wash off with G. I. Joe soap, of course. Nothing says hygiene like a real American hero fighting Cobra terrorists!
6. Merle’s Knife Hand From Walking Dead
Spoiler alert, if you haven’t figured that out already. Fairly early on in AMC’s The Walking Dead, Merle Dixon makes a hard choice and cuts his hand off in order to escape a prickly situation. He replaces the hand with a knob-knife attachment, pictured above. For someone with Merle’s seemingly bottom of the barrel IQ, it’s a fairly ingenious design and we all gave him kudos for surviving as long as he did.
However, no one in the real world has a need for this prosthetic attachment. Unless Jaime Lannister or Luke Skywalker are the ones mail ordering the prosthetic, we can’t wear it properly. Why would fans pay for this: to put it on top of their bookshelves and admire it from afar? To fondly remember a time when a man, dying of starvation, thirst, and exposure, was forced to mutilate himself in order to survive? Maybe we should be putting purchasers of this product on a watch list…
5. Jar Jar Binks Candy Tongue
Just looking at this piece of candy is enough to make a person lose their appetite.
Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace was released at a time when one of the most coveted pieces of candy was the Push Pop: a lollipop that could be pushed in and out of a holster-like container, akin to a stick of lipstick. It meant saving candy for enjoyment over longer periods of time: fewer messes for parents, more sweets for kids. So of course Star Wars wanted to jump into the fold when they announced they were starting the second trilogy in the epic saga. While the character of Jar Jar Binks was loathed by many, the few that actually liked the character were typically children that didn’t understand the racist undertones of the character and enjoyed his goofy mannerisms, including his frog like that he used to annoy Qui-Gon Jin. So this monstrosity of a candy was made for children. And it will haunt your nightmares.
4. WWE Talking Soap
For a time, the WWE sold talking soap that you could use in the shower. It’s got an overwhelmingly citrus scent (we’re talking Lemon pledge here) and yells very odd things at you as you lather yourself up. Of course, the WWE did not make this product for women; it’d be shocking if a single woman actually ever used this product. So imagine a man washing himself and hearing his bar of soap yell up at him in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s voice, “Go wash up, Jabroni, cause quite frankly you stink!” Better yet, “wash your ass” and “pick up the soap, NOW!” Most people that bought the soap ended up not using it more than once. However, if you’re into that sort of demeaning shouting from big, intimidating men in the shower, you might love the product; I’m sure there’s a stock of extras somewhere you can locate online.
3. Boondock Saints Rosary
Nothing says fun merchandising like a little religious blasphemy! The cult favorite Boondock Saints is about a couple of brothers who have a religious calling to kill criminals that have wronged them and their community. They believe they are killing these criminals in the name of God and think they are very religious, Catholic men. They see themselves as martyrs for their community; good, Godly men! The images of this rosary pop up time and again throughout the film, so much so that this design has become interchangeably known as an icon of the film. Now this rosary is on sale to be bought all over the internet, which is pretty messed up since the rosary is an important prayer piece of the Catholic community. If that part doesn’t offend you, maybe the pictures in the customer reviews will: where customers wear them around their necks as if they were pieces of jewelry (which is NEVER to be done, someone who did that in a church would get a serious scolding for it)?
2. 16 Inch Tall Darth Vader Christmas Inflatable
Do you think making Darth Vader hold a candy cane makes him Christmasy? NO. YOU’RE WRONG. AND YOU’RE RUINING CHRISTMAS, DARTH.
Of all Star Wars characters to make a sixteen foot tall inflatable version of for Christmas decorations, they chose Darth Vader? The most unhappy and angry character in the series? That’s like replacing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with a sliced open tauntaun, or replacing Frosty the Snowman with Obi Wan Kenobi (get it? Because when they both die, they just turn into puddles of clothes on the floor…).
Placing a sixteen foot tall Darth Vader in your front yard for Christmas is like turning your porch lights off on the night of Halloween or going to bed early on New Years Eve: it’s just crapping on the holiday. Almost any other character would have been more suitable. Way to fail at the Christmas spirit, Star Wars.
1. Hunger Games Light Bulb
That’s right! The fan girls and boys out there worried about function over fun can still get their geek on with a Hunger Games light bulb. This bright idea is brought to you by the dummies at NECA, the National Entertainment Collectables Association, who are probably going out of business right about now for such horrible ideas as these…
The light bulb doesn’t even light up all the way: the mockingjay at the center lights up very faintly, about at the intensity of a nightlight. So basically, if you’re willing to blow $20 (plus shipping and handling on a delicate and fragile item) on a light bulb that barely lights up and can be used to show you where the light switch is in your bathroom in case you have to get up in the middle of the night, this is the perfect product for you. Otherwise, maybe just opt for a normal light bulb like any other normal human being.