?For chubby ugly smiling dudes with pointy hair, troll dolls are surprisingly complicated. While the original troll dolls hailed from the Danish Dam Company beginning in the early ’60s, the toys were imitated abroad by essentially every toy company ever, each version less discernible than the last. The toys enjoyed relatively steady popularity through the decades, but one of their most notable booms came in the early ’90s, when the things were as wired into the American pop culture consciousness, despite the fact they were toys of hideous midgets with upsettingly large hair. Of course, no matter how broad a trend seems, there’s always more money to be made by digging into niches. That’s how the world became “blessed” with a wide variety of bizarre troll spin-offs intended to cash in on the playtime preferences of various girls and boys. Sure, troll dolls are disturbing and worthy of scorn, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rank the best of their spawn — even if just means we’re ranking the least awful. Continue reading for a heaping helping of trollstalgia too tantalizing to turn away from.
2005-2007 were tough years for Dam and its trolls. In Dam’s bid to revive their off-the-radar brand in the consciousness of the young, this horrible abortion of all things trolltastic was commissioned. Trollz was DIC’s (you know, with the studio with the perpetual moon outside every kid’s window at night) wrongheaded attempt at marketing trolls to tweens. Basically, DIC dragged the “z” of off “Bratz” and tacked it onto the end of “troll,” tarting up group of female ciphers before loosing them on a magical realm of acidic animated drama. The folks at Dam were no fools, and quickly sued over what amounted to a pox upon all mankind and an astonishing misrepresentation of their product. According to lies I made up, the program is currently shown to Danish inmates as a disciplinary measure.
7) Dudes With Attitude/Trolls From Treasure Island
While many of the troll spin-offs on this list received the videogame treatment, the dubious Dudes With Attitude, a.k.a. Trolls From Treasure Island, is the sole property developed exclusively as a barely-playable 8-bit instrument of player dissatisfaction. There are many problems with the game, but the biggest is not lackluster gameplay, but rather nonexistent gameplay. Essentially, players “steer” an erratic bareassed goon with an unquenchable lust for treasure through dingy levels. What occurs onscreen has more to do with player rage than player skill, resulting in something akin to an animated wager rather than an actual gaming experience. It’s too bad really, because the world had such high hopes for the game based on its allusions to casual nude windsurfing back in 1992.
6) Superhero Trolls
Batman’s sported many a suit over the years, but his troll self from Earth-23 (or something) is likely the most identifiable. He had the courtesy to put his name right there on his chest in case he attends any corporate troll mixers, which is pretty darn considerate. The Superman troll is less thoughtful, leaving it up to his iconic felt “S” shield to spell out his identity to the citizens of Trolltopolis, but considering his limited range of motion, it’s a wonder any of them can dress themselves at all.
5) Burger King Kids Club Trolls
Remember Burger King’s Kids Club? You know, that team designed to appeal to every conceivable type of kid with a lineup choked with stereotypes? The trolls do! Trollified versions of I/Q, Jaws and the Gameboytastic Kid Vid were made even more obnoxious with disproportioned faces, crazy hair and – yes – glow in the dark skin! The only thing that could have made the line any more ’90s would have been a President Clinton saxophone solo.
4) Mighty Max Hairy Heads/Dread Heads
When it comes to miniature action figure playsets, it’s hard to beat Mighty Max. A kid armed with nothing but a ball cap and his wits traversed hellish dungeons of all shapes and sizes all by himself (until his underrated animated series came along) with no other goal than to be rad. That’s why, if he had to tie into something trollish, it may as well be via a series of toys called “Dread Heads.” The playsets were on par with the other MM lines, just with added hairiness and a name that seemed to mock overzealous Jerry Garcia fans. If anything it was a bonus feature. Besides, any kid who didn’t dig the added fuzz value could simply shear the brightly colored fibers off with a utility knife without much fuss.
3) Ninja Turtle Trolls
Given the number of ridiculous number of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure spin-offs, it’s only logical that the green machines would wind up fused with trolls at some point. This particular mutation seems like a bit of a stretch, though. As terrifying as literal anthropomorphic turtles would seem in real life, at least they’d have the decency not to grow neon shocks of hair color-coordinated with the rest of their fashion accessories. Everybody knows it’s not cool for redheads to wear red ninja masks, knee and shoulder pads and potentially belt buckles — Clash City, bro. It’s unseemly and a bit disturbing. In terms of raw, misguided product hybridization, however, the things are a little too insufferable not to warrant at least a little love from fans. And sometimes, a little love is all it takes to be mondo better than some of the regular trolls.
2) Battle Trolls
For what the “Big Haired Dudes With Bad Attitudes” lacked in articulation and thoughtful paint application, they more than made up for with an advertising campaign that helped form every little boy circa 1992’s masculinity. “Trolls are for girls! You should like these ugly things that stick to pizza!” The message was easily understood and embraced. Advertising aside, the toys’ parodic nomenclature made them pretty fantastic. Count Troll-U-La? Trollbot? Trollminator? It was like Mad Magazine was turned upside and shaken until toys dropped out. As perfect as the line seemed, it lasted little more than two years with a planned third wave of action figures canceled before they reached production. It’s a shame because after that troll gender rolls went and got all blurry again, dragging society at large with it. What does it mean to be a man?!!!
1) Stone Protectors
Of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clones of the ’90s, Stone Protectors was one of the most blatantly self-aware. With elements borrowed from every fad from the past five years, the Stone Protectors weren’t just clones – they were clones of clones, which somehow made the protagonist archetype mashups tolerable. Sporting character concepts like “Elvis Samurai” and featuring plenty of brazen rollerblading, the teenage rock band-turned-treasure troll super heroes practically winked at its audience. Even though the franchise faded fast behind the glamour of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and their ilk, with a ridiculous button-masher of a video game on the SNES, a haunting comic book series and plenty of toys in its wake, the Stone Protectors rose to the top of the ill-fated troll spinoff heap by living hard, dying young and leaving a horrible corpse.