We take a look back at some of the biggest and baddest (sometimes being the operative word) films that have one thing in common… They where all inspired by a Toy!
by Matt Allen
- Transformers (2007)
Originally developed by the Japanese toy company Takara Tomy, the Transformers line was bought out by Hasbro in 1984 and subsequently marketed to North America. The franchise consisted of two opposing factions of a robotic shape-shifting alien race (with the ability to ‘transform’ into various vehicles) hailing form the planet Cybertron; the heroic Autobots and the evil Deceptecons (known in Japan as the Cybertrons and the Destrons, respectively). The franchise lead to a comic-book series as well as the hugely popular animated television series that originally ran from 1984-1987.
With the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction (read our review here) the cinematic franchise has now reached its fourth instalment and shows no signs of stopping there. Helmed by the notoriously heavy-handed Michael Bay, the films have proved to be inundated with explosions and awash with lashings of CGI while lacking in anything substantial such as character development or plot. As a result, the sequels have generally been received poorly by critics and audiences – although there are still legions of fans ready to leap to its defence at the slightest hint of criticism.
- The Lego Movie (2014)
As if we needed to tell you, Lego comprises of colourful inter-locking plastic bricks and comes in an array of themes from Arthurian castles to futuristic space stations and everything in between. Manufactured since 1949 by a privately owned Denmark based company, The Lego Group, the toy has become an international success and a veritable staple of childhood nostalgia. The name was born from a compound abbreviation of the Danish phrase ‘leg godt’ which translates as ‘play well’. By astonishing coincidence, the Latin translation of ‘lego’ is – rather appropriately – ‘I put together’.
The wildly popular, computer animated film was received extraordinarily well by both critics and audiences alike (read our review here). Part of the appeal, aside from the clever humour, certainly seems to be the inclusion of many of the classic Lego sets and minifigure characters (our favourite being the spaceship obsessed 80’s Spaceman – complete with snapped helmet). And of course, who can forget the intrepid earworm that is the theme song ‘Everything is Awesome’?…and now you’re signing it too. The sequel is currently scheduled for 2017.
- G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Another entry from Hasbro, G.I. Joe was nothing short of seminal and even led to the coining of the term ‘action figure’. The line originally offered products based on the four branches of the US armed forces: Action Soldier (US Army), Action Sailor (US Navy), Action Pilot (US Air Force), Action Marine (US Marine Core). When it was eventually licensed to Palitoy for marketing in the UK it became simply known as Action Man.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra was released in 2009 and starred Channing Tatum in the lead role. When a leaked version of the script was met by criticism, Larry Hama, writer of the comic, was hired to consult on the rewrite. Despite this, critical reception was mostly negative. The sequel, GI Joe: Retaliation, was released in 2013 and met much of the same responses.
- The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)
A unique entry in this list, The Garbage Pail Kids originally appeared as a series of trading cards produced by the Topps Company most famed for its collectible Baseball Cards series. Released in 1985, the cards were designed to be a parody of the then popular Cabbage Patch Kids. Each card featured one the GBKs exhibiting a comical deformity or suffering some terrible fate. The characters’ names were traditionally pun-tastic including such eye-rollers as Adam Bomb, Glandula Angela and Hole in Juan.
The film featured various Garbage Pail Kids (portrayed by dwarfs sporting surreal and frankly disturbing plastic masks) befriending a regular boy. Often touted as ‘the worst film ever made’ by critics at the time, the film boasts a staggering 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. In 2012 it was reported that a reboot was ‘on the cards’ but nothing has been mentioned since.
- Masters of the Universe (1987)
In 1976, Mattel CEO Ray Wagner turned down the opportunity to manufacture a toy line based on the Star Wars films (a job which later fell into Hasbro’s lucky lap). Then, in 1981 and after many failed attempts at tapping the public’s imagination, Mattel released the Masters of the Universe line which revolves around the conflict between the heroic He-Man and the evil Skeletor on planet Eternia. The franchise eventually launched six lines of action figures, four animated TV shows, several comics and a feature film. Other names considered were Mighty Man, Megaton Man, Strong Man and Big Man.
Released by Cannon Films, starring Dolph Lundgren and marketed as ‘the Star Wars of the 1980s’, Masters of the Universe failed to live up to its own hype and quickly faded off into obscurity. That being said, there is still a lot of kitsch-love for the film that many 80’s kids look back on fondly. The end credits scene – in which Skeletor is seen to have survived – suggests a planned sequel but clearly this idea was abandoned.