Swearing “Minions,” and other toy rollout disasters

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The long and profitable history of merchandising logged a new, strange chapter recently: A McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, created to help promote the new Universal Studios family film “Minions” is evidently prone to dropping F-bombs.

Concerned parents in Florida and Ohio initially reported the would-be glitch, and a video with audio of the toy’s apparent potty mouth went viral, raising hackles and nearly breaking the internet on the eve of the movie’s weekend release in theaters.

McDonald’s is defending itself, claiming that the toy speaks a fictional language that is not meant to be intelligible as English. It remains to be seen whether Minionese is more colorful than we thought or the parents are only experiencing mondegreens, and nobody is getting sued yet (though the court of public opinion is, as always, rendering judgement as we speak).

But if recent events have produced some headaches among the marketers at McDonald’s, they can take solace in the fact that regrettable toy rollouts happen with frequency, and they’ll get through it. Here are four from the recent past:

Blue Babies

When it comes to toys that teach kids bad words, the Minions are in good company. During the holiday season of 2011, Toys R Us rolled out a doll that some claimed could be heard saying “OK, crazy b**ch,” enraging parents and putting pressure on the company to pull the doll off store shelves. The company dug in, claiming the product from You & Me Interactive’s “Play and Giggle” line was merely talking “baby babble,” and that they would never sell the doll if they thought it involved profanity of any kind. Perhaps predictably, the dolls went on to be hot items, selling on Amazon.com at inflated prices ranging from $79.99 to $99.99

And that’s not the only Toys ‘R’ Us doll with a potty mouth; the My Little Baby Born Nappy Time, also sold at the popular toy store chain, recently taught a 2-year-old British girl the f-word, according to her shocked parents.

Barbie’s Bad Day

Even toy manufacturers with decades of experience get into trouble; in 2014, a mother from Caernarfon, North Wales tried to return a Barbie doll that sounded very much like she was saying (well, singing, actually) the phrase “What the f—k!” Mattel, who owns the iconic brand, insisted the doll from the Talkin’ Barbie line was just blurting out one of its “catchphrases.” In this case, the words in question were intended to be “off the hook!” Given how many catchphrases they’ve listened to over the years, we imagine some parents might actually prefer the more profane version.

Naughty Ninja Turtle

In December of 2014, another rollout ran into trouble with the b-word when an Indiana family claimed they heard the word coming out of a toy Leonardo, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which they bought at Target. The family claimed their son started saying the word after hearing it come from the toy. “He said, ‘well, ninja turtles say it why can’t I?” according to his father. Happily for both Target and Nickelodeon, who own the rights to the franchise, public opinion went their way and most bought the argument that the toy was only saying “this is gonna be epic.”

Goodbye Hello Kitty

Actually, for McDonald’s, a profane Minion is nothing compared to some of the other issues they’ve had with Happy Meal toys. The chain voluntarily recalled over 2 million Hello Kitty whistles, distributed with its Happy Meals last November to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, citing a choking hazard. The fast-food giant recalled just the red whistle, which was part of the Hello Kitty Birthday Lollipop Toy, after getting reports that two children choked, one of whom needed medical attention. They urged parents to bring the whistle into a McDonald’s and exchange it for a yogurt tube or a bag of apple slices.

While 2.3 million toys is a lot to recall, it’s peanuts compared to the 10 million recalled in 1982 when McDonald’s discovered its Playmobil toys did not meet safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. (Fortunately, no choking instances were reported over the Playmobil toy.)

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Avvo.

Photo via Paisan Homhuan/Shutterstock

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