Are you being exploited by films?

GI Joe poster

We watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra this past weekend and I was most disappointed with it. Aside from the fact that I was slightly surprised with the amount of violence and profanity in a movie that is based on a child’s toy, it just wasn’t a very good movie. Too many villains, too many things blowing up, too many sound effects, and visually a mess.

I recently read an article that blamed the demise in recent years of Disney’s animated film juggernaut on the fact that parents began to feel exploited by Disney. Many parents began to feel that the long list of animated films such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, etc. had become nothing more than a tool to sell merchandise to children and parents, cranking them out each year just for the sake of toy and video tie-ins.

It certainly is true that not only Disney, but all major movie studios strive to have films that tie in well with toy and merchandise. In some cases, effects and gadgets are written into films just because they would make a great toy, or the toy already exists.

Years ago I remember hearing the little creatures from the original Star Wars trilogy referred to as "the oh-so-merchandisable Ewoks". That didn’t work out too well for George Lucas (if that’s what he had in mind), since parents didn’t flock to the store to buy plush Ewoks, but he has certainly made up for it with subsequent movies.

A quiet moment in GI Joe when nothing is blowing up.

The article I read wondered if the recent trend of big-budget movies aimed at boys such as Transformers and G.I. Joe may have reached its end for the same reason.

I have always disliked marketing that tries to make you feel inadequate if you do not have the entire line, summed up with the statement "collect all 37!" Licensed merchandise plays upon that by having an entire line of characters from a movie, the full complement of children’s sheets, or limited edition items such as Disney video’s that will only be on the market for a few months. I don’t like feeling manipulated.

I recently posted about Toy Story 3, and this got me thinking a bit about Pixar and their films. Pixar has had a string of film success that is unprecedented. I love Pixar. Now this may be partly because an old friend of mine worked for Pixar for a while (prior to Toy Story) and their CEO is Steve Jobs, also the force behind Apple Computer. But is it also because of the wonderful films they produce and the talent and creativity at the company. Many years Pixar has released the only great "G" rated film. I know this from experience trying to choose child-appropriate films for middle school band trips.

But Pixar’s first film, Toy Story, was almost made for merchandising. That may have partly been because the very new medium of computer animation lent itself well to animating toys. But the movie, either by accident or design, reinvigorated some classic toy lines such as the Slinky and Mr. Potato Head. One anecdote about the Toy Story movies is that Pixar wanted to include Barbie in the first Toy Story movie, but they were turned down by Mattel because they didn’t expect the movie to succeed and didn’t feel they needed them. By the time they made Toy Story 2, Mattel was calling Pixar to get Barbie in the film. The point is that Pixar certainly capitalized upon Barbie in the film.

On the flip side, the recent Pixar film, "Up" was nearly un-merchandisable. There really were very few opportunities for toy tie-ins in the film. Pixar seems to have elected to concentrate on making a good film rather than concern themselves with merchandising.

Pixar is now owned by Disney and they are making Toy Story 3 (something Pixar fought against for many years). Will Pixar eventually succumb to the temptation of cranking out films in order to drive merchandising? It will remain to be seen.

Pushalong wooden toy

At Dave’s Cool Toys, we do not carry any licensed toys. We prefer toys that are not tied to the popularity of a movie franchise. We don’t concern ourselves with fads or worry about what is "hot" this year. Some of the toys you can purchase on our site have been in-stock for 14 years, since we first started out. Some of them have been around long before that, but are now hard to find in the giant big-box toy stores. Sometimes toys we loved have become fads, but that’s not our fault, so don’t hold that against us. Many of our toys are also low-tech. Batteries die, electronics stop working, video games get old. But a great wooden toy can last for generations.

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Dave’s Cool Toys Blog
We post news about new toys on our site, new toys in the market, general toy information, or stuff we just thought was cool (usually toys).

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Dave Ference

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