The Top 5 Toymakers Causing Controversy This Season

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Most every year the holiday shopping season brings us stories of tasteless toys and companies in hot water over a misguided marketing campaign or a costly product flub. This year is proving to be far from an exception. And while the old saying about their being “no such thing as bad publicity” might hold true for celebrities or books or a fashion designer, it’s less applicable when it comes to toys ostensibly designed for children. Or when the products in question touch on extremely sensitive topics (see #4) or risk alienating a loyal fan base.

5 The Fallout Over a “Fallout” Hoax

There are few people on earth more dedicated to a product than hardcore gamers (that’s a person who really loves video games, FYI), and this is a community that does not take well to their beloved games being made light of. So when it was revealed in recent days that a website and content hinting at a new edition of the massively popular “Fallout” game series was a hoax, gamers were up in arms, enraged at being misled. Now Bethesda games, the company behind “Fallout,” has both disavowed the misinformation as a sham perpetrated by people unaffiliated with the company and also announced that indeed a fourth installment of the franchise is in development.

4 Django Unchained Action Figures

There are a few collectible figurines that we hope aren’t on your holiday shopping list the season, specifically the “action figures” created of characters from the Quentin Tarantino film “Django Unchained.” The Weinstein Company pulled the figurines off the market earlier this year after an uproar caused by the fact that, based off a Hollywood movie or not, these were still little slave dolls. In an ironic twist, the removal of the collectibles from the market has tripled the price of some of the figurines, while sending apparent value of others up into the hundreds of dollars.

3 Playmobil in Hot Water Over Heist

Perhaps the world has become too sensitive and politically correct… or perhaps the design team over at Playmobil recently released one of their more myopic and obtuse offerings ever. The company is under fire for selling a lay set in which a charming little bank robber sticks up a cute little bank. And yes, this is an armed robbery. We understand that much of the intent of child’s play is to teach kids right from wrong, but using a little toy man armed with a pistol to rob other little toys of their money and jewels seems like a step across the line.

2 The Infant iPad Seat

Fisher-Price is being assailed for a recent product release, and rightly so. The company offered up an infant seat with a built-in slot to hold an iPad mere inches from a baby’s face. The message is clear: let the technology do the babysitting for you. The message from pediatricians and researchers worldwide has also been clear for years: screen time is terrible for the development process of young children. Being exposed to televisions, computers and tablets too early can affect everything from motor skills to the emotional and social development of a child, and now a company ostensibly dedicated to children has created a product putting a screen right in their little faces.

1 GoldieBlox and the Beastly Law Suit

GoldieBlox is an innovative company that creates toys designed to get young girls interested in math, science and engineering, fields dominated by men and to which girls seem almost dissuaded from exploring from an early age based on a lack of female-oriented building and design toys. Unfortunately, for a company with such wonderful intentions, when you use intellectual property to which you have no rights, you get in trouble. That’s precisely what has happened to GoldieBlox after they released a commercial featuring a parody of the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls.” The group has sued the company on multiple counts of trademark infringement, publicity violations and more. And regardless of how you feel about a fine company and a classic music act, that’s precisely what should have happened.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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