The Curious Case Of Product No One Asked For

Posted by Chris on 05/18 at 12:46 PM Category: Hasbro

At the time of this article, brick and mortar pegs are occupied by Titanium metal Star Wars figures. I purposely did not say "action" figures because they are largely inert. It's an odd product for which exactly zero customers asked. We take quick look a the curious history of Hasbro Star Wars products no one ever asked for.

You know, for kids!
Hula Hoop
Norville Barnes shows off his precise hula hoop engineering diagram
Look, we get it. The toy industry is one that has a long history of innovation. A lot of times the market doesn't know what it wants until it sees it. No one ever asked for a Transformer, Gobot, Furby, Cabbage Patch doll or 3.75" action figure. No one ever asked for a hula hoop before Norville Barnes famously demonstrated his prototype in the Hudsucker Industries board room and declared, "You know, for kids!"

Yet all of these products revolutionized the industry. Toys share more in common with the entertainment industry than with other consumer goods. Experimentation and creativity are expected. Heck, no one asked for Star Wars Unleashed figures and that line turned out fairly well after an initial slow start (which is frequently forgotten).

We also know that resources are finite. Hasbro simply can't divert resources from a factory that is producing guaranteed sellers, like new media action figures, toward other products. So other facilities, which are probably not tooled for action figure production, and other materials need to be tapped instead. So the oft heard exasperation of "why did they make product x when they could have just re-released some army builders" isn't valid. It's not one or the other. It's the other or nothing. Unfortunately over the course of this roller coaster ride, nothing might have been the better option. Lets take a trip and revisit some of those spectacular "misses". Click on the thumbnails for bigger versions.

Star Wars Customs
I've got nothing
It's not a tumor Choppers! The Star Wars Customs line (not Choppers) might be the most bizarre offering in this category. Hasbro was likely trying capitalize on the popularity of the Discovery Channel's "American Chopper" show in 2006 when they released these Star Wars motorcycle mashups. They were also likely trying to tap into the nostalgia for Ideal Toys' Evil Knievel's Stunt Cycle which is a bonafide hall of fame toy.

It didn't work. It never made any sense. These two concepts never intersect. It would be like mashing up steam engines and Star Trek starships (why do I think steampunk Star Trek is a thing as I write this?). They say tragedy plus time equals comedy. I don't think 11 years is enough time for Star Wars Customs to develop an ironic kitchy appeal, but they undoubtedly will. The supply of these isn't great, so if you are ever going to want them, you'd better head to Ebay nowEbay. Why do I kinda want these now? Maybe 11 years is enough time.

Chocolate Mpire
I don't know whatever zeitgeist lead to the "Chocolate Mpire" Star Wars and M&M mashup. Was there some animated show on a quadruple digit cable channel that I didn't know about? I eat M&Ms. You can't eat these. Well you can, but they are a bear to pass. Mashups have limited application. There needs to be some form of logical connection as a basis. It seems the only thing linking M&Ms to Star Wars characters is a Chris Griffin "Yay! I know those things!" exclamation. It's so odd that, once again, ironic appreciation could develop over time. Checking Ebay shows a modest supplyEbay.

I'm not really sure how Chocolate Mpire fared at retail. Despite being one of the oddest products in recent memory, it was also one of the most easily overlooked. I can't say that I recall a glut of Star Wars M&M figures gathering dust in stores, so maybe this item doesn't belong on this list. Perhaps the production run was intentionally limited. Regardless, they are so dang weird I couldn't bring myself to omit them. Say, you know what would be great? Some Star Wars bacon figures. But make them out of real bacon.

Star Wars Command
...and give you the chance to see some real disappointed kids
A few years ago, we all had our Christmas Story "Ovaltine" moment when the leaked product listing for a Star Destroyer turned out to be for the new Command line. I have no idea what was going on here. Is Hasbro trying to revive archaic play patterns? Are Star Wars jacks on tap? The sets included vehicles and crude miniatures which bore minimal resemblance to the characters themselves. The intended purpose was to recreate key Star Wars battles and this line pejoratively became known as "Star Wars army men".

I assume Hasbro was trying to ride the coattails of Squinkies or Squiblies or Goof Balls or whatever collectible miniature line one of their competitors was striking gold with. This might be Hasbro's biggest Star Wars miss to date. Without exaggeration, I don't think my local Wal-Mart sold a single one. These are so bland that, unlike Customs, I can't even foresee them developing an ironic following.

Star Wars Angry Birds
And angry customers
Saving the best (or worst) for last. This one goes beyond a product no one asked for. It's a product that angered customers with its mere presence. If there was a Fans' Choice poll to keep a product from being made, Star Wars Angry Birds would have won in a landslide. Do you remember Angry Birds? It was that game you played on the toilet. It experienced a meteoric rise in popularity. And by the laws of pop-culture, the new hot thing must be crossed over with the evergreen thing. Thus the Star Wars Angry Birds video game was born (right as that meteoric rise was starting its downturn).

In Hasbro's defense, at least this product is not an arbitrary mashup like Chocolate Mpire. Rovio made the video game. It's a real thing, But it is Hasbro's fault for thinking that a video game could translate into an actual game. You can't play Hasbro's version while pooping. The product would wind up dominating the clearance aisle. I'm fairly certain my "never say die" Wal-Mart still has a few of these.

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