Aug 10, 2023
10 Children's Toy Lines That Are Based on R
A wonderful blend of adult-oriented cinema and kid-friendly playtime, from Terminator action figures to Rambo playsets and Alien collectibles. In the bygone era of the 1980s, cinema witnessed a
A wonderful blend of adult-oriented cinema and kid-friendly playtime, from Terminator action figures to Rambo playsets and Alien collectibles.
In the bygone era of the 1980s, cinema witnessed a peculiar and fascinating phenomenon that defied conventional marketing norms. Movies boasting R-rated mayhem, gritty violence, and mature themes were somehow entwined with the whimsical world of children's toys. It became commonplace for some of Hollywood's most adult-oriented properties to expand into the realm of children's toys, which would now have parents across the globe raising questions about the appropriateness of such merchandise.
Here, we take a look at the intriguing world of R-rated movie toy tie-ins that showcased an unexpected blend of adult-oriented cinema and kid-friendly playtime, from Terminator action figures to Rambo playsets and Alien collectibles.
RoboCop, the gritty and brutal sci-fi action film, stands as a stark example of a movie that masterfully bridged the gap between adult-oriented content and child-friendly toys. The film's unapologetic depiction of violence and gritty, dystopian themes may seem an unlikely fit for children's playtime, yet RoboCop action figures and merchandise became a sensation among young audiences.
The reason behind this intriguing phenomenon lies in the film's portrayal of the titular character, a part-human, part-robot cyborg infused with justice and heroism. Children were drawn to the awe-inspiring visuals and the idea of a high-tech crime-fighting hero, ultimately overlooking the mature aspects.
Related: Best R-Rated Comedies of All Time, Ranked
Rambo is a film franchise that is synonymous with action-packed violence, intense combat scenes, and a rugged, unstoppable hero. The series follows the story of John Rambo, a highly skilled Vietnam War veteran and Green Beret, as he takes on various missions that often involve facing overwhelming odds and battling ruthless adversaries. The movies are known for their gritty realism, showcasing the horrors of war and the physical and emotional toll it takes on the protagonist.
Despite its adult-oriented and often graphic content, the franchise spawned a successful children's toy line. Action figures of John Rambo, alongside other characters and vehicles from the movies, were made available for young fans to play with and imagine their own action-packed adventures. Children would have seen Rambo as a kind of G.I. Joe character, so, without them even having to have seen the movie, it makes sense that the action figures were such a hit.
The unique design of the Xenomorph alien in the Alien movie series certainly provided an ideal foundation for captivating tie-in children's toys. The Xenomorph's iconic and otherworldly appearance, with its elongated head and jaws, and razor-sharp tail, struck a delicate balance between being menacing and intriguing. Children were drawn to its unique, alien-like features, sparking their imaginations and curiosity.
The combination of the creature's captivating design and the haunting space setting allowed toy manufacturers to create thrilling action figures, board games, and model kits that enabled children to recreate their own spine-chilling space adventures, tapping into their fascination with the mysterious and unknown. The success of these Alien-themed toys among kids showcased the ability of even the most sinister and suspenseful movie concepts to inspire imaginative play and capture the hearts of young audiences.
Lloyd Kaufman’s cult classic bloody splatter fest, The Toxic Avenger seems like the last thing studios and parents alike would ever want children exposed to in any way, but, believe it or not, the movie has produced a somewhat successful tie-in toy range. While it could be argued that the toys were more aimed at adults, it’s definitely the case that these deliberately disgusting toys ended up in more than one child’s Christmas stocking at some point. In fact, the movie spawned a total of nine different (disfigured) figures and five vehicles and even a short-lived family oriented cartoon series that ran in the early-90s.
Similarly, to the Xenomorph in Alien, the awesome design of the Predator creature seemed just too cool to pass on making into a badass children’s toy, despite being an intensely R-rated film series. One notable example was the 1990s line of Predator action figures produced by Kenner; a company primarily known for creating family-friendly toys.
These action figures featured detailed sculpts of the fearsome Predator creature and its various weapons and accessories, as well as several other characters from the Predator universe, such as Dutch (portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original film) and various alien creatures. The Predator toys allowed children to embark on their own action-packed adventures, battling intergalactic threats and imagining their own confrontations with the infamous Predator hunter without ever having to have had seen the actual movies (one would hope…).
The Terminator franchise, with its brutal violence and intense action, made an indelible mark on popular culture. Surprisingly, the toy tie-ins for the movies (especially Terminator 2) became a cultural phenomenon in their own right. The action figures and play sets based on the iconic characters, especially the relentless Terminator cyborg and the resilient Sarah Connor, captivated the imagination of youngsters across the world.
Despite the mature themes of the films, these toys became sought-after collectibles, reaching beyond the intended audience and gaining a dedicated following among both children and adult collectors. The unexpected success of the Terminator toy tie-ins showcased the enduring appeal of the franchise beyond the films themselves and its ability to resonate with audiences of all ages, solidifying The Terminator and its cast as beloved cultural icons.
Related: 11 R-Rated Movies That Featured Child Actors
The decision to produce a children's toy range for A Nightmare on Elm Street, a horror franchise notorious for its terrifying antagonist Freddy Krueger, was undeniably bizarre. Freddy, the claw-wielding, dream-stalking serial killer, haunted the nightmares of countless moviegoers, causing sleepless nights and spine-chilling fear. Yet, somehow, someone saw fit to translate this malevolent figure into a toy.
The Freddy Krueger action figure, with its sinister grin and razor-sharp claws, managed to look even more creepy as a toy, and this uncanny transformation became a fascination for some children while instilling terror in others. Nevertheless, the Freddy Krueger toy range has now become a unique and obscure collectible, showcasing the unexpected appeal of horror icons in the world of children's playthings.
The Police Academy toy set proved to be a perfect fit for kids who had never seen the more adult-oriented movies due to its whimsical and comedic nature. The toys, inspired by the characters from the Police Academy film series (minus the bad language and off-color jokes), showcased exaggerated and light-hearted representations of the lovable misfit police recruits. The action figures were designed with a cartoonish charm, emphasizing their distinct personalities.
This made the toys accessible and appealing to young audiences, regardless of their familiarity with the mature content of the movies. The Police Academy toy line allowed children to immerse themselves in a world of playful police antics and hilarious adventures, providing innocent fun that could be enjoyed independently of the adult-oriented nature of the films.
Whilst by the mid-90s the concept of R-rated movie toy tie-ins was dying out, we were still treated to some fairly marvelous toys in 1997 based on the R-Rated cult hit Starship Troopers. The movie inspired a toy line by Galoob, featuring action figures of Mobile Infantry soldiers and the formidable Arachnids, along with toy vehicles like armored battle suits and spaceships.
Whilst toys lines based on R-rated movies seemed to be all the rage in the 80s and the early-90s, by the turn of the century, it seemed that the craze had all but died, with people questioning the appropriateness of such merchandise. That is until Ted. In 2012 the very adult-aimed movie Ted spawned a toy line that saw the production of cuddly toys based on the titular foul mouth Ted character. Somehow, these cute yet sweary teddy bears found themselves in an unexpected predicament when they accidentally ended up in the children's sections of stores. The cuddly and seemingly innocent plush Ted toys would, in fact, recite X-rated lines from the movie when squeezed.
This "mix-up" was likely due to the toy's endearing teddy bear design, which naturally gravitated towards the children's toy section. As a result, parents and shoppers were taken aback to discover these seemingly child-friendly toys that actually represented a character known for his adult humor and inappropriate behavior. Needless to say, the accidental placement of Ted toys in the children's section sparked nationwide controversy and prompted discussions about appropriate product categorization, highlighting the challenges toy manufacturers faced in striking a balance between marketing strategies and maintaining consistency with the film's adult-oriented themes.
Movie geek, musician and all round nice guy...toysRoboCopRamboAlienThe Toxic AvengerPredatorThe TerminatorA Nightmare on Elm StreetPolice AcademyStarship TroopersTed