Luck often plays a larger part in making a new toy successful than creativity or marketing. What's hot one day in the toy world can be virtually forgotten a year later. These days, a lot of toys are not even being made for children, but for adults to keep them carefully stored in their original packaging as collectibles.
With a narrow window for success, it's no wonder that there are so many toys on the market languishing in store windows that you glance at and wonder what made the creators come up with something so weird and unnecessary.
The days of making standalone toys are largely over. These days, almost every new toy on the market is a part of a popular film or cartoon's merchandise. Because Hollywood knows that kids won't be able to properly appreciate the world of Harry Potter unless they buy the patented Harry Potter wand, his wizarding robes, and a stuffed replica of his owl. Children are thrilled to run around with a 'Flying broomstick' between their legs. Toy makers are thrilled to ride the new cash cow as long as possible. And parents know a few hours of peace while their children play with their latest toy.
Not every toy that hits the stores becomes an instant favorite. In fact, the majority do not. We've combed the internet to find examples of toys that hilariously missed the mark when it came to demographic appeal.
23 iPotty Training
There's something about this toy that almost seems genius at first. What do modern kids love? Their iPhones! Why not trick them into potty training by luring them to the pot with an attached iPhone?
First of all, what this does is train kids to carry their iPhones with them everywhere, even to the toilet! Also, do you really want them touching the iPhone screen while carrying out their bathroom business? And you know the children will be too busy playing games on the iPhone or listening to their favorite nursery rhymes to focus on the task at hand.
22 Toy Airport Scanner
You know how when kids play with dolls, they go on all sorts of wild adventures? Like flying a plane, fighting alien invaders or building entire cities. Well, some kids have less elastic imaginations.
Some kids prefer their playtime adventures to be more grounded in reality.
For those kids, we have the toy airport scanner. The game is exactly what the description leads you to expect. You get a little scanner that your child can walk dolls through. And what if the scanner beeps?
21 Nimbus 2000 Broomstick That Shakes Slightly
This was a tie-in with, you guessed it, Harry Potter. Most objects from Potterworld sold as toys are usually there to be looked at without actually being able to mimic the magical properties of their film and novel counterparts. With the Nimbus 2000 broomstick, the creators decided to take a stab at making the toy closer in ability to the story.
The end result was a broomstick that vibrates.
How this was supposed to resemble a flying broomstick is anyone's guess. To the surprise of no one, the product was recalled not long after its release.
20 High Heel Shoes
Most people agree that wearing heels is ideal. They hurt the wearer's feet if worn too long and can even cause permanent injuries. One company decided that the solution was to get girls used to high heels at an early age. And we're talking 1 to 3 years old, with High Heel Pumps for babies.
In case you had any doubts about it the company that makes them clarified that the shoes are not for walking, but should be seen as fashion statements.
19 Kick Flipper
The Kick Flipper describes itself as a skateboard without the wheels. So it's basically a long piece of curved plastic and nothing else. What do you do if you want to get on a skateboard but don't actually want to move? Well, according to the description on the box, you can kick it, flip and pop it!
The beauty of such a toy is that it makes no promise of actually doing anything exciting. So when your child complains of being bored playing with it, you can point out that he or she has only themselves to blame.
18 Classical Musician Doll
The action figure genre of toys will likely never run out of steam. As long as there are cool fictional characters to grab the imagination of children, there will be action figures based on those characters to grab the parent's cash.
But which young kid would want an action figure modeled on early nineteenth-century heartthrobs like Mozart, Bach or Beethoven? Who's going to pick the classical musician doll when your friends grab Optimus Prime for a wrestling match? There just isn't a cool enough story to hang these dolls on for kids to draw on while playing.
17 Gelli Baff
Let's get one thing straight. Slime is only fun to squirt on unsuspecting friends. It's not something that can replace water for aquatic gunfights. The Gelli Baff dares to wonder what would happen if the water in your tub was replaced by sticky blue slime.
And the results... are not pretty.
We're pretty sure even kids will quickly get tired of playing with slime that's plastered on their body on purpose rather than as part of a prank. Not to mention the lengthy bath afterward to wash all the blue gunk off that has settled in unfortunate places.
16 Pet Rock
In the annals of bizarre toys that were confusingly popular at one point, the Pet Rock stands tall... or at least, lies there smugly. The 'toy' is nothing more than a rock that has been sanded into a neat little semi-circle. And that's the whole toy.
We encourage children to use their imaginations, but it would take a kid with the faculties of Steven Spielberg to come up with interesting uses for the Pet Rock day after day. Also, you know, it's a rock. Instead of buying it at a store, just pick one from a garden.
15 Thumb Wrestling Set
Thumb wrestling is as basic a 'sport' as lazy people who want to experience the thrill of battle without having to stand up can come up with. You interlock your fists and start jabbing at each other's thumbs.
But what if you're too lazy to even interlock your fists properly and keep them that way for the duration of an entire match? For those exceptionally lazy individuals comes the thumb wrestling set! You can play with it once, realize it doesn't actually make the process of thumb wrestling any easier, and then never use the set again.
14 Freddy Fright Squirter
One of the most iconic horror movies is Nightmare on Elm Street, and it features one of cinema's most iconic monsters, Freddy Kruger. While the movies are all about Freddy finding new and creepy ways to end his victims, the company decided he needed to have a PG-13 makeover to appeal to a younger demographic.
Thus we got the Freddy Fright Squirter. First of all, the toy comes only with Freddy's head, and not his famous razor hands. Also, there's something ridiculous about seeing water squirt out of Freddy's grimacing face. Nothing even remotely scary about it.
13 Gun O'Clock
We can't decide whether this entry falls under the awesome toys list or the stupid toys list. And it's not even technically a toy. It's an alarm clock with an accompanying gun. You turn off the alarm by shooting at the bull's eye mark every morning. That's a pretty gangsta way to start the day.
But what if you can't find the gun? Also, how many people wake up and are clear-eyed enough to take aim at a target, even when said target is only a foot away. We've got a feeling this novelty item gets old fast.
12 Hulkey Pokey
This was a plush toy in the shape of The Incredible Hulk that Hasbro released in 2008 to coincide with the release of the character's feature film. Along with sporting a sheepish grin, the toy came with the added attraction of singing and dancing with the push of a button.
Do any of those features remind you of The Hulk from the comics and movies we've all grown up with? Hulk has one defining feature: Blind, all-consuming rage.
A Hulk who sings, grins and dances is like a parody of the actual character that no fan could take seriously.
11 Spider-Man Intercom Masks
Sam Raimi's third Spider-Man movie had a lot of hype building up to its release. IMC Toys LTD. tried to cash in on the frenzy by releasing a pair of masks for Spider-Man and Alien-Symbiote possessed Spider-Man. With built-in walkie-talkies.
The most baffling part of the toy design is obviously the walky-talkies. Why are they there at all? Do they refer to a deleted part of the movie where Spider-Man takes a job at a call center? The most logical explanation is the masks depict communication between normal Spider-Man and his symbiote-possessed self at a subconscious level. Pretty deep for a toy.
Bunchems seem like a cool idea. They're little colored balls that stick together to form all sorts of cool shapes. Like a new style of legos. The problem is kids keep sticking the stuff in their hair.
And there it often stays stuck until the entire length of the hair is cut off.
Parents have been up in arms about the new toy, claiming they pose a choking hazard. And then there's the whole emergency haircut for all the times kids get bunchems stuck in their hair. Just an all-around bag of grief that's more trouble than they're worth.
9 Star Wars IOU
In 1977, kids all over were in a rush to get their hands on the Star Wars toys from A New Hope. The only problem was, manufacturing had gotten delayed, and the toys would not get released until the next year.
That's when one exec had the idea of selling kids IOUs instead. Basically, parents would gift their children a cardboard box at Christmas. Inside the box was a mail-away certificate that could be redeemed a year later in return for the actual toy. Guess that's one way to teach kids the importance of waiting before getting their dream present.
8 Human Torch On ATV
When the 2005 Fantastic Four movie came out, one of the tie-in toys was of the Human Torch riding atop an all-terrain vehicle. On any other character, the ATV would have been a cool addition. But the problem is, one of the main defining superpowers of the Human Torch is that he can fly.
In fact, he's the only member of the team who can do so.
Having him riding an ATV feels strangely disappointing from a child's perspective. Is this a low-effort version of the Human Torch? Or simply one that is afraid of heights?
7 Wayne's World VCR World Game
You play the game by rolling the dice and moving your peg along the board. At various intervals, you watch corresponding segments from a VHS tape, where titular characters Wayne and Garth have a back-forth banter session.
Just... what? How was this game ever conceived? And how did it reach the manufacturing stage? Even Wayne and Garth look thoroughly bored, maybe because they weren't getting paid for the extra filming time. Far from making you want to watch the movie, the performances on the VHS tape might make you avoid the Wayne's World series altogether.
6 Cup And Ball
Not every toy that entertained our forefathers deserves to come back. The Cup and Ball is a pretty ancient invention. Kids in the olden days would hold the cup attached to the ball with a string, and try to get the ball inside the cup.
Let's be honest. This was never an interesting game for anyone longer than 30 seconds. Our forefathers played the game because they didn't have a Gameboy or Lego's, not because it was the coolest toy around. Kids of today can't even conceive of spending more than a minute on such a pointless toy.
5 The Space Monolith
2001: A Space Odessey is considered one of the most important films ever made. It's an intellectual film. A fine piece of speculative fiction. But it's not a particularly enjoyable film. The Space Monolith is a simple black bar that shows up in the movie, and it also showed up on toy stores to generate interest among children for the film.
Does the monolith toy do anything?
No, that would go against the movie. So what are children supposed to do with it? Probably use it to ponder the nature of reality and man's place in the universe. Fun.
4 The Baroness
This toy was released as a tie-in with the G.I. Joe live-action movie along with a host of other action figures for other characters. But it was somehow only The Baroness who came out looking like she hadn't seen food in a year.
Considering G.I. Joes started out as action figures in the 60s, you'd think they would know how to create cool tie-in toys for the movie. Also, it's pretty distracting that The Baroness's glasses are at least two sizes too big for her face.
3 The Birds Barbie
The one thing that Barbie has always been about is empowerment. But that principle went out the window when it came to creating a tie-in with Alfred Hitchcock's avian horror thriller, The Birds.
The toy features Barbie looking distressed and perplexed while three crows try to eat through everything. While the usual Barbie doll invariably sports a cheerful smile and a can-do attitude, this Barbie's whole point is to show the fear and helplessness experienced by a young woman who finds herself the subject of an attack by a pack of flying psychopaths.
2 Transformer Groom 'n Go Bath Set
Following the enormous success of their movie, The Transformers were everywhere at one point. Their parent company knew slapping the face of Bumblebee or Optimus Prime would make kids buy anything.
And that's how we got the Transformers Personal Grooming set.
Adults were left wondering what age the product was aimed at when you apparently still harbor a passionate interest in transforming robots but also are old enough to shave. Then there is the whole idea of alien robots made of metal promoting a shaving kit that they have no personal use for.
1 Ethan Hunt 'Pointman'
This was a tie-in with the Mission Impossible films, and at first, the premise seems quite reasonable. You have the impossibly buff Tom Cruise doll looking ready to take on a mission. You have a few standard spy gadgets. And then you have a mask that Cruise's doll can wear while going undercover.
It's the Mask that ups the creep factor. Far from being the perfectly fitting disguise from the films, the mask merely looks like a sackcloth made out of skin. The 'disguise' looks like it belongs in a Halloween movie rather than Mission Impossible.