5 Characters from Kids' Movies That Were Cynically Commercial

Kids movies; they’re not just for kids! (Although, if you’re going to them in theaters, bring a kid with you. Otherwise, people look at you weird.) Anyway, kids movies are just like adult movies (and often aren’t that far off from being adult films content-wise) in that they are cynical creations of the marketplace, created solely to make money, and then keep making money through licensing deals. And while I realize this is an overly cynical take, I’m not entirely wrong; a lot of children’s movies have a particular type of character — often an animal, or an alien, or a walking talking lamp, or some crap — they was clearly designed to sell toys. Even if you hate Beauty and the Beast, you probably still think Chip is cute enough to justify buying an officially licensed Chip cup. With that in mind, here are some characters form kids movies that exist to sell toys first and foremost.

Penguins, Madagascar

Look, for what are supposed to be a group of, I guess, covert ops animals, these penguins are sure adorable. One of them stores stuff in his gullet! It’s quite a feat to make an egregiously marketable character in a movie like Madagascar, which seemingly was built form the ground up to be “marketable”, but these cute-ass penguins take the cake.

Minions, Despicable Me

I hate Minions. They are stupid. I mean, what even ARE they, beyond just… well, Minions? I was honestly blown away that they ended up being such a home run merchandising move; they look so damned generic, like a big pill (a pill similar to the one I would take to end my life, as opposed to sit through a Minions movie.) They even talk gibberish, for god’s sake. THAT’S THE CUTEST LANGUAGE!

Mater, Cars 2

Cars was the turning points for a lot of people when it comes to Pixar’s former untouchable status. It and Cars 2 were the beginning of some unnecessary sequels and low quality efforts. A big part of the reason people hated Cars 2? It was essentially Mater’s story. Yes, the ol’ redneck tow-truck that was incredibly grating was now getting into spy adventures, or something. Because a movie filled with big eyed, adorable cars just wasn’t cute enough already. It needed the inclusion of this dork.

Mac, Mac & Me

Maybe the most blatant product placement in Hollywood history, Mac & Me was seemingly created to be a commercial for various products, primarily McDonald’s. What’s truly great about it, though, is that unlike the other entrants on this list, this was an enormous failure — kids HATED Mac, maybe it was because he was some sort of phallic ET rip-off. The movie bombed spectacularly, and is probably best known now as the movie Paul Rudd plays every time he’s on Conan, in lieu of an actual clip from the movie he is supposed to be promoting.

Olaf, Frozen

Look, I stand by this, DON’T @ ME! Just because a character is clearly created to sell toys, doesn’t mean it can’t still be a totally fun character. That’s how the dog form Up almost ended up on here, too. And Olaf is good, and funny, but he’s also kind of out of place. I know Frozen is a child’s movie about magic ice powers, but the core emotions of the whole thing are incredibility grounded in reality (which is probably why it resonated with so many people). And then suddenly there’s this super goofy living snowman, running around and doing pratfalls and stuff. Once again, he is absolutely funny! But he still feels like something that got added to the movie as a safety net; even if the movie was bad or didn’t connect with audiences, they still could’ve had Olaf around to sell just infinite merchandise.

Can you think of any kids movie characters that really smack of just being there to sell toys? I eat that stuff up, so please let me know on Twitter @Smosh.

Will Weldon
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