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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How McDonald's Got Tim Burton Fired From Batman - Junk History (Batman Returns, Happy Meals Toys)

Difficulty: 0

(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.

(toy firing)

Oh, schwoo!

Nobody move!

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.

So basically,

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.

(inhales deeply)

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.

In particular,

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!

Batman Forever

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)

The Description of How McDonald's Got Tim Burton Fired From Batman - Junk History (Batman Returns, Happy Meals Toys)