THE CARE BEARS MOVIE (1985)
1985 was a watershed year for movies based on kids’ toys. First there was the huge success of The Care Bears Movie, a Canadian animated film by Nelvana, a Toronto production company. The film earned just shy of $23-million (U.S.) at the North American box office on a budget of just $2-million. Later that year, the release of the live-action film Clue may have seemed strange – a movie about a board game? – but the genre was born. Critics called The Care Bears Movie “endearing,” although unlike today’s kids’ flicks, there was no playing to adults with sly winks or knowing irony.
THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE (1987)
The Garbage Pail Kids were one of those phenomenons in the 1980s that every child seemed to be obsessed with, like Rubik’s Cube and Alyssa Milano. And with the success of The Care Bears Movie, toymakers were hearing the sounds of cash registers ringing. The massive flop of the live-action The Garbage Pail Kids Movie in 1987– it took in just over $1.5-million on a budget of $30-million – nearly destroyed the genre. It would be nine years before another live-action adaptation of a toy would hit theatres. How bad was it? It’s got a zero-per-cent rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
By 2007, the line between childhood and adulthood had blurred beyond recognition, making for a huge potential audience – every dad I know was keen to see this movie; I don’t remember my father being stoked to watch Masters of the Universe with me way back when. And just as importantly, CGI technology was able to convincingly render the full awesomeness of Optimus Prime. With kaboom king Michael Bay at the helm, the Transformers franchise has earned a worldwide box office of $2.6-billion.
This live-action adaptation of the popular toy came out the same summer as Transformers, and suffice to say it didn’t make a billion anything. Most movies based on toys marketed to girls are consigned to the direct-to-video market, but this was a rare exception. Although it was modestly successful, the total financial domination of Transformers would determine the boy-centric, action-packed, explosiony course of the genre. It didn’t help that Bratz was an awful movie that critics rightly savaged.
When word got out that Hasbro and Hollywood were making a live-action film based on the game of Battleship, reaction was bewildered derision. Battleship? How are they going to? Battleship? Heavily influenced by Transformers, the movie made back more than its $202-million budget when it was released in 2012. But it was a critical flop that stands at just 34 per cent on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, and remains the prime example of a toy company cashing in on a brand.