(grunting) (air hissing)
- Ha-ha, ha!
And welcome to another episode of Junk History,
the show where I play with a bunch of toys,
and you all watch me do it.
Today's toys (light, playful music)
are a pair of Batman Returns action cars
featured in McDonald's Happy Meals
to promote the movie Batman Returns,
released in the summer of 1992.
They kinda look like wacky racers.
Like characters from a terrible Batman-themed
Mario Kart game.
Now driving is not a continued motif in this film,
so it's unclear why they decided on this particular avenue
for their value meal prizes.
I mean, the Penguin does have a car,
but it doesn't look anything like this.
It's a big yellow duck.
That would've been a fun toy.
A big duck.
Think of all the stuff you could do with that.
There's also the Batmobile,
with rad detach-mobile action
to recreate that exciting scene in the movie
where the Batmobile explodes into a torpedo
for the most situationally dependent feature
ever installed in a major vehicle.
Also, you may have noticed
that this particular plastic edition of the Penguin
bears little resemblance to his appearance in the film.
And this is by design.
You see, Batman Returns was the sequel
to one of the biggest merchandising juggernauts of all time,
Tim Burton's Batman.
After all was said and done,
Burton's 1989 Batman film
sold half a billion dollars in merchandise,
nearly $750 million by the end of 1992,
at a time when superhero movies
were far from the industry standard they've come to be.
Before Batman, you got maybe three superhero films a decade,
and they all starred Superman.
And occasionally Dolph Lundgren.
The point is,
Batman was an unexpected gold mine
of licensed bull(beeping),
including shirts, hats,
posters, video games, breakfast cereal, and toys,
most notably a Batcave Playset,
a figure of Keaton's Batman with a grappling hook
that shot out of his dick,
and Bob the Goon,
with kicking action.
How hard of a ransom must I pay to get Bob the Goon?
He is staggeringly affordable.
Why didn't I get Bob the Goon?
Anyway, Warner Bros knew
what a money-printing t-shirt seller
they had on their hands,
so they decided to play it cool the second time around,
which is a phrase here meaning,
"They waited a little bit longer
"to assault the citizens of the world
"with purchasable Batman commercials."
According to a New York Times article published ten days
before the film's release in June of 1992,
Warner Bros didn't get the Batman Returns hype train rolling
until mid-February of that year,
which is downright Spartan
in terms of the Hollywood promotional machine.
The article quotes the President of Warner Bros as saying
they didn't want people to get tired of Batman
before the movie even came out,
which is a sentiment Warner Bros has long since abandoned
to drown in a dirty sewer,
much like the Penguin at the beginning of this film.
Now it's funny to think of
the blood-encrusted wheels of a Hollywood hype machine
rotating with anything approaching restraint,
and that's because Restraint
means something entirely different
when you're talking about a blockbuster film
with a higher merchandising budget
than most humans will earn
over the course of several lifetimes.
So here are some numbers for comparison.
The first Batman film had 19 different t-shirt licenses,
whereas Batman Returns had only 2.
there were a billion toys for Batman Returns.
There were like 12 different versions of Batman,
plus armored penguins, vehicles, (beeping)ing Robin,
Catwoman, and another plastic Penguin avatar
that conspicuously looked nothing like
the mutated sex criminal Danny DeVito portrayed in the film.
there wasn't less merchandise for Batman Returns,
it was simply more focused.
Warner and its promotional affiliates,
which this time around
included Diet Coke, McDonald's, and Choice Hotels,
spent upwards of $100 million dollars
to integrate the Caped Crusader
and his new rogues gallery of villains into their products,
which included a truly excellent Diet Coke commercial
in which Batman races across town to capture a can of soda
only to be thrown one at the last minute by Catwoman
despite the fact that it's probably warm at this point,
a Choice Hotel commercial
wherein a flying Batbriefcase of batmoney
attacks a family of four on vacation,
and a bunch of awesome bull(beeping) at McDonald's,
including cups with collector lids
and a handsome collection of plastic cars
meant to reward children
for choking down the contents of their Happy Meals
without suing their parents for emancipation.
Once again, it behooves me to point out
that the Penguin featured in this child's toy
looks like Lionel Barrymore in a Billy Ray Cyrus wig,
and not at all like the Hot Topic stock boy
that appears onscreen.
And therein lies the thread
that will bring this whole bat-shaped castle tumbling down.
Which I guess would be Wayne Manor.
Wayne Manor's not bat-shaped, is it?
that would be too much.
You're tipping your hand, Bruce.
Anyway, the reason that no child's toy
based on the continuing cinematic adventures
of Tim Burton's Batman
bore the actual visage of Danny DeVito's Penguin
is because those toy producers correctly reasoned
that maybe Danny DeVito's Penguin wasn't for kids.
He's a corpse-skinned demon
who constantly talks about f(beeping)ing,
and whose master plan
is to kidnap all the first born children of Gotham City,
drive them into the sewer in a Child Catcher caboose,
and drown them.
He is the exact character prophesized
by every after-school special
about not talking to strangers, plus he's hideous.
Nobody wants to be the company that makes that toy.
That's a bad toy.
Once Batman Returns was released,
it didn't take long for every parent in the country
to figure that out too.
After months of being assaulted
by Batman Returns merchandise
aimed squarely at their children, restraint,
moviegoers were more than a little surprised
to see Batman face off against a juggalo pastry chef
who bites a man's nose off
and graphically demands to have sex
with every woman he sees.
- Just the pussy I've been lookin' for.
- Also, the film opens with two stuffy-ass richsters
having a deformed baby
in what appears to be a 19th century homebirth,
locking that child in a series of black cages
cruelly designed to look like bassinets,
and then throwing that child into the river.
Danny Elfman's triumphant Batman theme begins playing
while we watch a screaming imprisoned infant
float through a sewer.
Those are the first two minutes of the movie
Kenner and McDonald's spent the last few months
making sure every kid in America couldn't wait to see.
Because nothing puts butts in seats
like socially pressured infanticide.
Now keep in mind this was the summer of 1992,
so Facebook and Twitter didn't exist as platforms
on which this unpleasantly surprised parents
could vent their frustrations.
They took to letter writing campaigns,
directed at both Warner Bros and McDonald's,
accusing them of selling a violent horror movie to children.
McDonald's initially tried
to distance themselves from the controversy,
insisting that they were merely using
their lucrative Happy Meal platform
to promote the idea of Batman to children
rather than urging them to see a specific film,
but everyone immediately realized this was bull(beeping).
Warner Bros themselves
also tried to dodge the bullet of parental anger,
insisting that they hadn't provided McDonald's
with any images from the film to use in making their toys.
They said that with a straight face!
So in response to the understandable backlash,
both Warner Bros and McDonald's,
who had sought each other out as lucrative partners
for a multi-million dollar Batman sequel,
immediately tried to sell each other out.
The end result was a whole lotta parents
not buying their kids Happy Meals or Batman tickets,
and Warner Bros not matching McDonald's ad spend
with studio money.
When the dust settled,
Warner Bros wound up
alienating all their merchandising partners
from the Batman brand, chief among them McDonald's,
who has a lot of money to throw around
and a level of influence
over the child moviegoers of America
that can only be described as,
(nasal inhalation) disturbing.
That's like walking in to Vito Corleone's study
on the day of his daughter's wedding
to ask him for a favor
and then slapping the Godfather full on the face,
and pushing the cake into the pool
so he doesn't get to have any.
He was a, he liked to eat.
And wedding cake
is the most expensive kind of cake you can eat.
When the time came for Warner Bros
to decide what to do with their sure-thing Batman franchise
that was suddenly in danger,
they politely asked Tim Burton to (beeping) off,
in a meeting that he has described
countless times in interviews,
behind the scenes featurettes,
the book Burton on Burton,
and really to anyone who will listen.
Burton has called out his version of the Penguin,
which is the sight gag version of torture porn,
as having been a particular point of contention
among the film's producers and advertising partners.
Basically, in order to lure merchandising licensees,
particularly McDonald's, back to the table,
Warner Bros decided to take Batman
in a more family friendly all-ages direction,
which began with showing Burton the door.
He went on to make Ed Wood,
a movie that is the exact opposite
of a big-budget Batman sequel
in just about every conceivable way,
so if you're a fan of that flawless piece of cinema,
you can thank these little plastic fast food treasure cars
for ushering it into existence.
Warner Bros brought in Joel Schumacher,
who in retrospect was an odd choice of director
to steer their Batman movies
back into the kid-friendly realm
as his youth-oriented resume at this point
consisted of films like The Client, St. Elmo's Fire,
and The Lost Boys, none of which provoked a single toy.
McDonald's refused to pony up a dime
until they were shown a script,
which was hammered out over a series of revisions until,
among other things,
it included maximum toy potential
in the form of several vehicles and outfit changes
for the main characters,
and a winking piece of self-fellation
perfectly molded to be used in hamburger commercials.
- Can I persuade you to take a sandwich with you sir?
- I'll get drive-thru.
- McDonald's was pleased, and commissioned a series
of tie-in Batman Forever movie glasses
that sold out in two days!
Before the movie was even released!
went on to gross nearly $200 million dollars in the US,
and earned McDonald's just so much money.
That's the face of compromise.
Not this fugitive birthday clown.
That's a show.
Warm up the time stream, I'm gonna back for Bob.
(upbeat, funky music)