Everyone remembers toy commercials from the 90s – their bright colors, their catchy theme songs, their images of leaping kids and pure, blissful fun. We often get nostalgic for those days now that 90s kids are all grown up and have their own jobs and lives. We long to remember the days of tuning in to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, the days of the euphoric feeling of opening the next new toy.
But sometimes nostalgia also means looking at our fond memories through rose-colored glasses. If we look closely at some of our old 90s toys, it may turn out some of them weren't just innocent fun like we thought. Some toys were inappropriate because they hinted at jokes or adult themes that went sailing right over our young little heads, others weren't fit for kids because they were flat-out dangerous or toxic. Some of our favorite childhood toys even ended up being pulled from the toy store shelves after parents complained. Now that we think about it, a lot of the toys we so desperately wanted as kids would be considered troubling now, and looking back many of them probably wouldn't make it past censors or safety standards today.
What dark tales can we hear from the age of psychedelic colors, dial-up internet, political turmoil, and of course, grunge? Prepare to have your childhood ruined once and for all. Here are 28 inappropriate 90s kids toys that you definitely could not get made today.
28 Booger Jenga
Everyone loves gross-out humor sometimes. Maybe you were a fan of Ren and Stimpy back in the day, the show that pretty much put extreme humor on the map for cartoons. But even the most die-hard fans of the genre would have a hard time stomaching the concept of Gooey Louie, a board game for kids where–wait for it–the board is some guy named Louie's head.
You pull boogers out of his nose one by one until his brain pops out.
I have a lot of questions. Who thought this would be appealing? What was its target demographic? What demand was there for this? Booger jokes aside, there's a warning on the box for kids to keep their faces 12 inches away from Louie's head to avoid being struck by the spring-loaded brain, which tells you what kind of game it is.
27 They Sweat Awesome
These particular wrestling toys were truly bizarre all around. The WWF Maximum Sweat toyline apparently believed that kids wanted to play with Incredible Hulk versions of their favorite professional wrestlers, complete with grotesquely huge muscles, veiny necks, and monstrous facial expressions. While the proportions were bad enough, the worst part is that the name is meant to be taken literally: yes, these toys actually perspired.
Each toy came complete with a vial labeled "Official Federation Sweat." The kid would fill with water and pour into an opening on the wrestler's back. The "sweat" would be released by pushing a button. We're not sure what's worse: the fact that this is meant as a hook to reel kids in when it's really just a wrestling version of the dolls who wet themselves, or the fact that they were popular enough to have four sets of released.
26 Confirmed: Jar Jar Is A Sith Lord
If there's one franchise that knows merchandising, it's Star Wars. Before other toy-driven franchises like Transformers, He-Man, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, George Lucas' science fiction masterpiece was the first to capitalize on toys. In fact, Star Wars toys have made twice as much as the movies, profiting to the tune of billions. But with the amount of merch the series has, it's no wonder some would emerge that are just plain wrong.
Enter the Jar Jar Binks lollipop candy released for Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace.
While the movie displeased fans, this sucker where you open Jar Jar's mouth and actually eat his candy tongue right out of his mouth is just horrific. How could anyone eat this and not imagine kissing the character? This shouldn't be allowed anywhere near adults, much less children.
25 Bulls Eye
No list of inappropriate or dangerous toys would be complete without these. They're pretty much synonymous with "kids' toys that were a really, really bad idea." Lawn Darts seem like a fun concept: you put the targets down on the grass in your backyard and throw the foot-long plastic darts with weighted metal tips at them, in a sort of combination of horseshoes and darts. Sounds like fun, right?
It turns out giving little children access to flying things with sharp points made of weighted metal wasn't the greatest idea. Within eight years, the toys sent over 6,100 people to the ER, with half of those being 10 years old or younger. One girl even lost her life, while another was sent into a coma. Lawn Darts are now banned for sale in the United States and Canada.
24 The Rocket
Really? Couldn't it have been one of his arms or something?
Chances are any kids who are old enough to have a toy of The Punisher would be old enough to laugh at the design of this toy and the rocket's resemblance to another part of the body.
23 Ken Came In Another Box
Yes, they did actually make a pregnant Barbie doll in the 90s. And why not? Because when you think of Barbie, you think about how realistic the dolls' bodies are, right? The "Happy Family" playset came with a character named Midge, who was sold "pregnant" with a baby named Nikki. Surprise, surprise, the doll created controversy when it was seen as inappropriate for children and accused of promoting teen pregnancy (Midge was given a wedding ring and shown next to Alan in later versions).
The pictures of the plastic baby inserted into the doll are pure nightmare fuel. Why am I thinking of the Alien franchise right about now? Really, if Mattel thought this was a good idea at any point during the pitch, they should've stopped at the moment when they uttered the phrase, "magnetically detachable belly." Not the most like-like example for kids.
22 Every Good Cook Had To Start Somewhere
Ah, the good ole Easy-Bake Oven, one of Hasbro's oldest cash cows. Let me ask you this: have you ever met anyone who actually liked anything they baked in one of these things? If you have, let me know, because over 16 million were sold by 1997. Going along with those big numbers were also recalls when, shocker, children were taken to the hospital with severe burns.
It turns out giving kids a toy with an incandescent bulb as a heat source that could reach up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit wasn't the best idea.
Particularly when one model had a faulty door that could get their fingers trapped in it, even inflicting second and third-degree burns. Over 77 reports of burns lead to a recall of millions of them. Turns out baking is not so easy after all.
21 They're Squirmy, And Wormy
Confession time: I had one of these as a kid and filled my parents' house with little rubbery multi-colored scorpions. Imagine my surprise when one day I realized that the Creepy Crawlers oven was pretty much just the boy version of the Easy-Bake Oven, except that you couldn't eat the critters you made. In the 90s, Toymax sold more than five million ovens and 60 million bottles of the "Plastigoop" that turned into rubber when heated. There was even a TV show. So, what's the problem?
The thing is that Creepy Crawlers came with die-cast metal molds which were then heated to about 400 degrees. And if you think that's dangerous, check out the original one from the 60s that got much hotter and, as it turns out, put out toxic fumes. Makes you wonder how our parents survived the days before regulations. Creepy, indeed!
20 Movie Snack Time
Few toy lines have been as successful as the Cabbage Patch Dolls. The iconic 80s toys enjoyed continued success in the 90s and beyond. But there is perhaps no better example of a nightmare "bad idea" this side of Lawn Darts than the Snack Time Cabbage Patch Kid. The idea behind the doll, released for the 1996 holiday season, was simple.
The doll would eat snacks through its mechanical jaw, which provided "real chewing action."
Here's where they messed up: they forgot that the doll's unforgiving maw couldn't differentiate between plastic food and a child's fingers or hair. Mattel recalled the dolls in January of 1997 after a girl was nearly scalped when the doll began chewing her hair. Her parents called 911, and she had to be freed by rescue workers.
19 Secret Of The Ooze
Is it possible to have a more 90s name than the Oozinator Gun? Hasbro's addition to the extensive and popular Super Soaker family was unique, in that it shot a gooey liquid onto people instead of just plain water. It seems like a bright idea for ooze-and-slime-obsessed 90s. But it quickly gained fame for all the wrong reasons after the first eyebrow-raising advertisements were on TV.
If the pumping action you have to do every time you fire the Super Soakers wasn't bad enough, having a gun where you squirt "bio-ooze" onto unsuspecting children makes it ten thousand times worse, and the imagery in the commercial added to this uncomfortable perception. The Oozinator was so infamous that in 2006 it was the subject of a sketch on The Daily Show, where it was mocked as "the Devil's favorite plaything" for the holiday season.
18 To Infinity And Beyond!
Disney faces a lot of scrutiny in their products since they're marketed to children, and because this once-humble production company now owns about half the planet (they bought Star Wars, okay?). That's why people notice things like inappropriate images on the old cover for The Little Mermaid or say they see and hear secret messages in scenes in The Lion King and Aladdin.
Sometimes one doesn't have to look far to see stuff in Disney products.
Enter the Buzz Lightyear and Belle Funtime Tumblers. The unfortunate straw placement, which I remind you is meant to go in your kid's mouth, casts a shadow on both their facial expressions. Belle seems delighted by whatever you're doing, and Buzz's arm placement and cocked eyebrow are certainly disturbing. I can't imagine looking up at these as an adult, much less a kid.
17 The Candy That Explodes
The Fr-ooze pop is another manifestation of the 90s obsession with slime and ooze gone wrong. It's also another product for kids that's shaped like something you'd see in the window at a shop, shall we say, aimed at adults. But the similarities to a certain part of the human body don't stop with its shape. Get this: if you lick and suck on the Fr-ooze Pop for long enough, it squirts a gooey substance into your mouth from its tip.
What goes through the minds of people who design these toys? Is it that they're hopelessly naïve or are they laughing all the way to the bank, waiting to see what new ideas they can sneak past their bosses? If anyone working for these companies was too embarrassed to say anything in a workplace setting, the kids who bought them certainly weren't.
16 I Am Vengeance, I Am The Squirt Gun
This one is a double whammy, as the saying goes. Batman is certainly a beloved character these days, between the Nolan film trilogy, the Batfleck in the new DC Extended Universe, the Arkham series and the Telltale games, not to mention all the excellent fan-made content out there on YouTube.
But all that glorious media out there for us to enjoy doesn't make this water pistol any better.
The layout of the toy speaks for itself: you pull the plug out of Batman's rear and fill it with water, then you reach around and pull the poorly-placed trigger which causes him to squirt water out of his mouth. I wonder if they ever made any other Batman characters into undignified toys like this. Somehow it seems more fitting for the Joker than anybody else.
15 Buckets Of Fun
Every 90s kid saw this commercial about a million times. There was a similar toy with an elephant that spewed butterflies from its trunk. The concept of Mr. Bucket is simple but effective: you put balls into Mr. Bucket's bucket head, and balls spew out of his mouth. Rinse and repeat. This is one of the toys on this list where we can't blame the designers. Mr. Bucket's look is certainly tasteful and kid-appropriate. But what's not appropriate is his jingle.
Let me give you a sample: "I'm Mr. Bucket, toss your balls in my top/ I'm Mr Bucket, out my mouth they will pop." It continues, "I'm Mr Bucket, balls pop out of my mouth/ I'm Mr. Bucket, a ball is what I'm about." It's not difficult to read between the lines.
14 Not The Philosopher
Yes, the real name of this toy is the Balzac Balloon Ball. It was a sort of cloth sack in which you'd put an inflatable balloon. Then you'd kick the thing around like a ball. The idea was that it was pretty much indestructible. Milton Bradley really went all out with this one: the commercials in the 90s were filled with kids running and jumping and smacking this balloon ball around, with the cringe-inducing jingle:
"You can smack it, you can wack it, Balzac!"
It just all sounds so painful. That's not the worst of it either: when the kids finally catch the bouncing ball but it escapes nonetheless, a voice says, "Bet you can't bust Balzac!" Seriously, they really didn't care at this point.
13 Oh My, Mickey!
Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse can't even handle the imagery invoked by this toy microphone right now. At first glance, it resembles a dangerous weapon of some sort, like a club, but upon closer inspection, it resembles something you definitely do not want your kids getting their hands on. This sort of thing is inevitable with a media empire as vast as Disney's and with merchandise so extensive there's a demand for Mickey microphones.
Mickey Mouse has been around for 90 years now, and it goes without saying he's probably the most famous cartoon ever. That's the price of fame, we guess: sometimes you're on plush toys, figurines, watches, t-shirts, drinking glasses, shower curtains, and all that good stuff, and sometimes you hawk a microphone that looks really suspicious.
12 Gives A New Meaning To Parents Having Puppies
We're not sure what's with 90s toy companies wanting to familiarize children with the birthing process. One would think there were enough books and educational videos out there instead. But surprise, we get toys like Puppy Surprise, which apparently led an entire generation of kids to believe dogs gave birth to puppies through a Velcro-sealed pouch on their bellies.
Yes, toy company execs decided to make a toy that bravely defied the laws of nature.
They put the idea in kids' heads that you can simply shove a baby back into the womb when you're done with it, which probably led to some really awkward conversations. As if that wasn't enough, the "surprise" with each doll was that it could come with three, four, or five puppies inside. You can bet parents had a great time with the tantrums of kids who only got three.
11 Marvel At The Bad Taste
This one was so easily avoided. All they had to do was choose another spot to put the inflation nozzle, but no. Instead, Marvel decided you needed a real close-up look at Wolverine's areas while you're blowing up the inflatable squeaky hammer of everyone's favorite member of the X-Men.
This one has to be one of the most intentional of the bunch. Because there's no way the placement of the nozzle is an accident. The Wolverine with the nozzle isn't even the main one on the head of the inflatable hammer. I don't think this what people who are really into meditation mean when they say "find your center." Imagine if the hammer sprung a leak and you had to keep blowing air into it. Yeah, it's not a flattering image, is it?
10 The Care And Keeping Of Barbie
Barbie's "Growing Up Skipper" doll is truly the little toy that could. If you think the other toys on this list showing birth are a bit much, try on Skipper, Barbie's kid sister. She was originally released in 1964, and years after her introduction it was decided she should, shall we say, undergo some changes.
Namely, have a doll designed to teach kids about how their bodies would eventually change.
How did this very questionable idea work in practice? About as well as you'd expect: you rotated her left arm, she grew an inch taller and her chest popped out transforming her, as the box put it, "from a young girl to a teenager." It was probably meant as an educational tool, but Skipper understandably caused controversy and was eventually pulled from the store shelves.
9 A Slap On The Wrist
If you grew up in the late 80s or early 90s, you remember the commercial for these slap-on bracelets. Though they were just layered stainless steel bands with colorful plastic on them, the appeal of the simplest toys can't be overstated. You would straighten the bracelets so they were rigid, then slap them against your wrist, causing them to curl neatly into place.
Slap bracelets were very popular in schools, becoming a serious 90s fashion statement. Unfortunately, its status as a symbol of the decade didn't stop the slap bracelet from cutting into the fingers and wrists of children when the metal band inevitably wore through the plastic sheath. Cheap knock-offs were recalled in droves, and the bracelets were banned in schools in the state of New York.
8 Can You Feel The Love Tonight
This figure of Rafiki and young Simba was given away as a free gift to promote the legendary Disney animated movie The Lion King, recreating the iconic opening scene where the wise old baboon presents the cub by holding him aloft. But due to the unfortunate pose of the toy and the angle at which he held the cub, the way the figures move when you flick Rafiki's tail makes it look like they're performing an act that's not appropriate for young eyes.
While the toy came out years ago, a YouTube video showing the toy's movements went viral.
It got almost three million views. Look it up and watch it if you dare. It's so wrong on every level that you can wave goodbye to your childhood forever upon seeing it.
7 Not Used To Grip Vines
Here's another real pause-worthy gem from the Disney animated canon. Disney's Tarzan may have made a positive impact on critics and fans and been a success at the box office, but that wasn't a saving grace when it comes to its toy line. "Rad Repeatin' Tarzan" is proof of that. Disney ended up recalling this toy of everyone's favorite jungle man, and not because of safety issues or because he's a dude wearing nothing but a loincloth.
No, the problem was when you press the button on Tarzan's back, his hand furiously goes up and down in a rather suggestive gesture. He also lets out his signature ululating yell the character is known for in what's probably the worst timing ever. The toy was pulled, and unopened toys now sell for high prices on eBay.
6 One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Safety Standards
A lot of us 90s kids reading this right now remember the commercials for Moon Shoes. They sure looked fun, and we all wanted them. Many of remember having trampolines in our backyard, all the fun we had jumping on them and the many, many injuries that probably resulted when we landed wrong. The makers of Moon Shoes thought to themselves,
"They're like mini-trampolines strapped to your feet! What could possibly go wrong?"
As it turns out, a lot. Many broken ankles later, Moon Shoes were pulled from the market, since one wrong jump could send a kid tumbling and cause serious pain. Even more incredible, the original models from the 70s were made of sharp metal and springs, which makes you wonder how your parents survived their own childhoods.
5 Asbestos They Can
Okay, so this toy was actually released in the 2000s, but CSI barely missed the 90s in terms of its 2000s craze, and this story is so insane that we'd be remiss if we didn't include it on any list like this. CSI was such a smash hit it had a toyline, including this. But there was a massive recall of the fingerprint kit when it was found that it contained asbestos in the very powder that children were supposed to use to dust for fingerprints.
How in the world did this get a green light? How was it even legal to sell this to kids? On a side note, who were the kids who were watching CSI so much that they needed a toy forensic kit? Sadly, the toy was a huge seller. A class action suit was launched against the company that was settled in 2009.
4 Oh, Fairy
Like many of these toys, Sky Dancers seems like a great idea on paper: plastic fairies that twirl around and spin their wings when you pull on their cords, flying into the air just like the real thing. They were understandably popular during the holidays seasons in the 90s. In practice, when you yanked the ripcord and the fairies started rotating so fast that they shot up into the air, their foam wings effectively became lawnmower blades.
Combined with the fact that they shot off their base in random directions, you can probably guess what happened next.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission received 170 reports of the toys striking children and adults, resulting in 150 injuries, including scratched corneas, damaged teeth, temporary blindness, cuts requiring stitches, and even a broken rib. Sky Dancers were recalled in 2000, an astounding six years after their release.
3 More Fun Than A Pillow Fight
You can hear the jingle in your head right now, can't you? "More than fun than/ a pillow fight!" Their name was changed to Socker Boppers after a lawsuit by Mattel over infringement of their Rock'em Sock'em Robots, but these inflatable punching devices were heavily popularized in the 90s and remain fondly remembered by many in spite of all the trouble they caused.
As it turns out, giving kids inflatable boxing gloves and telling them to punch their contemporaries as hard as they can without fear doesn't always have positive results for the involved parties. The gigantic plastic fists were responsible for more than a few mishaps. The toys themselves had barely any cushioning beyond whatever air the kids themselves blew into them. In the end, the Boppers were more painful than a pillow fight too.
2 A Magical Feeling
If you want a good laugh, look up some of the reviews for this one. Harry Potter merchandise is just as popular now as it was back then during the craze, but the Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 toy stands out. What is it? A plastic Harry Potter broomstick that you put between your legs to pretend to fly.
Oh, and it vibrates. Yes, it vibrates, just like the real Nimbus.
Since most of the audience of Harry Potter were pre-teen and teenage kids, this Nimbus toy offered kids a rather magical experience. The Nimbus 2000 wasn't around for very long. Parents complained when the broomstick became popular among teenage girls for all the wrong reasons, and even more when it started being sold in adult-oriented shops. Amazon eventually deleted the Nimbus 2000 toy from their website, and it was quickly pulled from shelves everywhere. Now it's a valuable collector's item, because of course it is.
1 Phone Home
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one of the most beloved movies ever made. But even though this represents an iconic moment in Steven Spielberg's 1982 cinematic masterpiece, this children's toy looks like it would fit in better at an adult shop than at a Toys "R" Us. This long finger toy is meant to be worn over the index finger. It glows on the end to recreate the famous scene.
Sharp-eyed people notice it resembles something else that you would definitely not let a kid play with. The "battery included" label isn't helping either. It's worth noting that they switched to a version that recreated the whole hand of E.T. rather than a single finger. This probably means we're not the only ones who thought it.