By Adrian Beiting
Watching a movie that prominently features a really cool toy is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you've just found out about some cool toy that you just have to get your mitts on. On the other, even when you get it, it's probably not going to be nearly as awesome as the one you just spent 90 minutes drooling over because Stan Winston and Pixar didn't make it, some toy company trying to spend the least amount possible did. Thus, here is a list of toys from movies that we really wanted, and the crappy actual movie toys we got instead.
5) Turbo Man from Jingle All The Way
Arnold Schwarzenegger risks life and limb to obtain Turbo Man, the toy every kid wanted in Jingle All The Way's alternate timeline of the 1996 holiday season. Not that toys have to necessarily be special to be the "it" toy of the holiday shopping season, but jeeeeez this guy was lame in real life.
Spouting such self-congratulatory phrases as "You can always count on me!" in a voice that sounded more like your neighborhood's insurance agent Bernie Camden than a superhero, and sporting an underdeveloped torso that betrayed what was possibly a mild case of scoliosis, there was nothing terribly special about real-life Turbo Man that would have separated him from his colleagues on the toy shelves of the local Kmart. They did manage to nail the elusive wing-light feature though, unlike a later entry on this list.
4) Talkboy from Home Alone 2
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York served the dual purpose of both acting as a manual on how to dispose of bungling burglars in the cruelest ways imaginable, and as a toy commercial for Kevin McCallister's weapon of choice, the Talkboy. For those uninitiated, Kevin McCallister used his Talkboy to thwart suspicious personnel and pull of cool pranks while living by himself on his dad's credit card in a five star hotel penthouse like a 5 star bastard. After seeing this, it was only natural for any kid to want a Talkboy of his very own in order to have his own McCallisterian adventures.
Aside from being cheaply manufactured, the problem with the real-world Talkboy wasn't that it didn't function in the same way that Kevin's did in the film. To the contrary, it looked identical, down to the extendo-mic and did everything (and more) that Kevin's could do, including recording, tape playback, and slow-mo/chipmunk voice features. The true issue with the Talkboy was that the shenanigans that made it so fly in the movie couldn't possibly come packaged with the product. Unless you were in Kevin's exact situation, (notice the best thing the commercial could come up with was cockblocking your big sister) you were basically left with a glorified memo tape recorder (in the burgeoning age of CD's no less) which is a pretty lame thing to give a 10-year-old to play with, even though he probably asked for it.
3) Little Bear from The Indian in the Cupboard
"Wow! My very own Little Bear? This is awesome, I'll be just like Omri!" Or, since the plastic warrior that came with your VHS copy of The Indian in the Cupboard didn't have magical powers like the one in the movie, you were more likely to have been left with an accessory-less non-articulated hunk of plastic that was best used as G.I. Joe cannon fodder.
Even though it was just a give away to get kids to beg their parents to buy the flick, it was still a bit of tease. Who wasn't hoping their toy tie-in Iroquois would come to life? Maybe if I try the closet down the hall...
2) Small Soldiers
Disgusted with ad campaigns that mislead the consumer, Globotech CEO Gil Mars (Denis Leary) declares, "I want toys in short, gentlemen, that actually do what they do in the commercials." And so, his underlings David Cross and Jay Mohr go to work, netting a small army of Commando Elite figures and the opposing mutant gang Gorgonites to fight them. Run by X1000 military weapon system chips and batteries that never needed to be replaced, these figures came with light up belt buckles, were voice activated, doubled as walkie talkies and saluted you right out of the box. Did I mention they walked, talked and fought each other? Granted, the Commando Elite lead by Tommy Lee Jones' Chip Hazard were evil and shot flaming, toaster propelled projectiles at the humans in the story, but they were still cool.
So naturally, this would be a great opportunity to advance action figure technology in real life, right? While they would have cost a pretty penny, as long as the toys didn't try to kill you, they would have been quite sweet to have. Predictably, the toy company behind them had no problem taking the beaten path and we had to settle for the same old, same old blah figures that talked and lit up only when you pressed their buttons and pretty much just stood there the rest of the time.
1) Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story
What is there left to say about Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear action figure that Andy gets on his birthday? Karate chop action. Light up 12-inch spring-release wings. A wrist communicator. A retractable space helmet that would disappear and reappear at the press of a button. Sounds pretty much like the toy fan's dream come true right? Unfortunately, the only thing that all of these features share in common with the real-life version of the Buzz Lightyear toy is that they aren't included with the figure. Buzz Lightyear, quite possibly the coolest toy ever to first appear in a feature film, received one of the most disappointing real-life action figure treatments ever.>
The original 12-inch Buzz Lightyear sold to us in stores had a piddly six-inchish wingspan, no light up wing tips, a bad glow-in-the-dark paint job, no wrist communicator and no karate chop action. He didn't even come in his cool rocket ship box. To its credit, the figure did have the laser, talked in Tim Allen's voice, and resembled Buzz Lightyear. Toy Story 1 & 2 are being re-released in theaters this October, along with Toy Story 3 slated for next year, so this may be a chance for some intrepid toy maker to give Buzz justice. Don't be afraid, slap that 3 figure price tag on him. I'll still buy it. Until then, we can only dream of what could have been. To infinity...