It’s very common to find bootleg toys online or in your local dollar store that are not only shoddily made but of questionable taste as well. However, it’s not just the unlicensed tat that’s making many shoppers cringe as they’re walking down aisles at their local toy stores...
It’s likely the marketing directors, quality control officers, or toy designers responsible for the following massive toy industry failures were fired when these controversial toys hit the shelves. Some of these shocking toys were pulled from the shelves once angry parents started to voice their outrage, but some of these products can surprisingly still be purchased if you know where to look. While there are strict regulations in place for toy safety in the United States, these rules apply to standards like the amount of lead or phthalates in a toy; the standards don’t necessarily protect children from the emotional scarring they may endure by playing with a shockingly inappropriate knick knack.
In 2005, over 200 injuries and 20 deaths of children under 15 occurred as a result of toys. Because of statistics like these, product recalls occur all the time and many high profile toys have been recalled and banned. Even if a toy is not deemed dangerous, but has garnered enough high-profile criticism, it can be recalled. Banned toys can fetch top dollar from collectors on the black market; like the infamous Generation 1 Megatron figure from the Transformers toy line which was banned for sale on eBay because it transformed into a toy gun. The figure regularly sells on Amazon for more than $200 USD when it is mint in box. From toys laced with an inappropriate dose of sexual innuendo to extremely dangerous children’s playthings, here’s a look at ten of the most shocking children’s toys of all time.
10 Stripper Pole Dolls
Dolls are often placed in aspirational scenarios. We've had veterinary Barbie, lawyer Barbie, popstar Barbie. All varyingly positive role models for young, impressionable kiddies. Pole Dancing Barbie, though, never quite made it off the cutting room table. The above Pole Dancer somehow did. In 2009, a USB controlled pole dancing doll was released in the United Kingdom and was soon pulled from shelves of retailer, upmarket high street store Marks and Spencer. However, we can safely assume this desk toy was never actually intended for kids to play with - it seems to have been more of a novelty item that was misconstrued by angry parents.
9 Vibrating Nimbus 2000
This seems innocent enough. It’s just a replica Harry Potter quidditch broom. Where’s the harm in that? Well, it’s the vibrating feature that makes this product questionable. Parents who bought the broom as a gift for their children opted to leave the batteries out. On the other hand, one innovative, if not a little disturbed, Amazon reviewer transformed the broom into an actual sex toy for his girlfriend!
8 Black “Oreo Fun Barbie”
In 1997, Mattel and Nabisco teamed up to release the “Oreo Fun Barbie.” Somehow, no one at either company was aware the term Oreo is an offensive and wildly politically incorrect term used to describe a black person who 'acts like' they're white. So, when the dark-skinned version of the “Oreo Fun Barbie” hit store shelves there was quite an outcry. The white version of the Barbie can be purchased for a few dollars, but the black version can fetch prices as high as $100 because Mattel recalled the unsold stock of the doll.
7 Dora The Explorer Aquapet
This “virtual pet” would be a decent enough toy if it didn't look like a male appendage or an adult toy. The skin coloured base doesn’t help it either. Surely the person who designed the toy must have realized this was not the best shape for it, or perhaps he or she just didn’t care. The giant D in the middle of the toy might not stand for Dora after all...
6 World Trade Center Airplane Toy
In 2004, a company called Lisy Corp. purchased a large quantity of small toys to insert into bags of candy as a toy surprise. The company ordered the toy from an import group called L&M Import, and they didn't know what they had until it was too late. The toys clearly depicted a plane between two skyscrapers. These toys were no coincidence, either, as they were clearly labeled with the product number 9011. The insensitive and offensive toys were inserted into 14,000 bags of candy without anyone taking a close look at them. When customers complained the candy and toys were taken off the shelves.
5 Lego Concentration Camp
This piece was never released to the public and never for sale in toy stores. Instead, it’s a work of “art” by Polish artist Zbigniew Libera. In 1996, Liberia was given the Lego bricks used in this model for free from the Lego Corporation itself and the company’s logo is plastered on the boxes of the shocking Lego set; the company later said it did not know Libera would use the bricks for this purpose. Lego threatened to sue Libera, but the lawsuit was later dropped. In 2012, a Warsaw museum purchased Libera’s Lego artwork for $71,800 USD.
4 Black Peter Toys
In the Netherlands they have St. Nicholas instead of Santa Claus, and he has a black sidekick called Black Peter. Dutch people often wear what is generally accepted to be politically incorrect 'blackface' and dress as the character, handing out candy during the holidays. The practice has been criticized for many years. Many toys featuring Black Peter have been produced including by German toy giant Playmobil. Palymobil sets featuring St. Nick and Black Peter have been released and a Playmobil set with three Black Peter figures has also been made.
3 Rad Repeatin’ Tarzan
Often referred to as the self-pleasuring Tarzan toy, this Disney action figure was supposed to have a karate chop action, but it really looks like Tarzan is doing... something else. Even worse is the yell Tarzan makes when he moves his arm up and down. This is easily one of the biggest 'fails' is toy history.
2 Snack Time Cabbage Patch Dolls
In the 1980s Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage and nearly every little girl had one. Mattel was constantly releasing new versions and characters in the popular doll line, including the infamous Snack Time Cabbage Patch dolls. These dolls came with plastic food you could feed to the Cabbage Patch Kid, but the dolls had an appetite for children’s fingers and hair, too - without an 'off' switch, there were worrying reports of kids who had these extremities caught in the doll's mechanism. Mattel received numerous complaints from angry parents and the corporation decided that offering a $40 cash refund and having a warning sticker inserted on the toy’s box would be enough. It wasn't, and the dolls were pulled from shelves under authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
1 Lawn Darts – The Original Dangerous Kind
You can still buy lawn darts, or jarts, today, but only the redesigned safer versions with plastic tips are sold in stores. The original design for lawn darts featured a heavy metal tip that could prove to be extremely dangerous – and even deadly. The father of a girl killed by a lawn dart when it pierced her skull managed to get them banned completely in the United States in 1988; before 1988 the metal-tipped lawn darts were banned from being marketed as children’s toys, but they were still allowed to be sold to anyone without a license.
featured illustration: Ryan Olbrysh via Las Vegas Weekly