On the occasion of the immiment theatrical release of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it's impossible to ignore the fact that movie studios are continuing to search for beloved toy properties that may be well-suited as blockbuster franchises with worldwide appeal. In recent months, we've been threatened with the prospect of movies based on Monopoly, Candy Land, Ouija, Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Major Matt Mason, among others.
Of course, for every Transformers and G.I. Joe movie that makes it to the finish line, there are dozens of concepts that are left behind in the search for the perfect toy -- one that lends itself most readily to situations in which things blow up every ten minutes. Thus, straight from my fevered imagination (and inspired by Scott Weinberg's Cinematical Seven: Bad Ideas for Board Game Movies), here are seven 'toy into movie' concepts that were abandoned or outright rejected as completely unworkable ... for now.
1. Crayola Crayons
After the success of Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, Tim Burton was all set to direct another children's fantasy, this time an epic tale of the birth, life, and death of a box of Crayola Crayons in their ultimately futile struggle to gain respectability as independent artists. (See unrelated original photograph by David Neff above, which hints at how the death scene might have looked.) Representing a rainbow of colors, the Crayons would also have imparted important anti-racist messages to its young audience. Given the opportunity to make a Batman for a new generation, however, Burton chose the mad world of Bruce Wayne and the Joker over Salmon, and the soothing comforts of crayons. Later, elements of the script were recycled and used in Edward Scissorhands.
2. Lincoln Logs
It is well-known that Steven Spielberg has spoken of his interest in making a bio-pic about the tall, bearded, gentle scholar who presided over our divided nation during the Civil War. It is less known that Spielberg was secretly developing a project in which modern-day buildings made out of Lincoln Logs would suddenly arise in revolt in suburban communities, terrifying their residents, until a small group of fatherless children fought back. (A proposed scene from the latter sequence was later reenacted, as seen in the video above.) The project was shelved when Spielberg became involved with the suspiciously similar-sounding Transformers.
3. Cardboard Box
One of just 41 inductees in the National Toy Hall of Fame, Cardboard Box had the financial advantage of being a public domain product, thus saving millions on licensing fees and potentially opening up the possibility of product placement by any number of "big box" retail stores. Reportedly, studio executives were divided between those few who saw the bottom line potential and those who had never played with a cardboard box as a child.
Some were also concerned that cardboard boxes are too closely associated in the public's mind with housing for the homeless, while still others cited the disappointing financial returns of Martian Child, featuring a a young boy who lived in a cardboard box for the first part of the film (see clip above). The project remains in development hell.
4. Rock 'Em Sock' Em Robots
Perhaps the most commercially-viable of all the projects listed, the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots project appears to be stuck at an impasse, as no screenwriter yet has been able to conjure up a satisfactory solution for the "You knocked my block off!" conundrum.
Should sadistic child "controllers" enable fisticuffs between adults in the boxing ring? Should Red Rocker and Blue Bomber simply continue fighting each other in a series of increasingly violent matches? If so, what dramatic conflict could be introduced that would justify so many fights? And how can somebody's block be knocked off while retaining the all-important PG-13 rating? The debate rages on.
While some feel that The Blob (both the original with Steve McQueen and the remake) exhausted the market for movies based on modeling compound, Hasbro executives remain convinced that Play-Doh could break out big, given its Transformers-like ability to be transformed into everything from snakes to spaghetti (see video above). Lacking iconic Play-Doh characters, screenwriters have been stymied at coming up with a convincing backstory that would explain how the modeling compound could withstand explosions or hurl fireballs.
6. Barrel O' Monkeys
Pitched as "Bourne in the Jungle," this Toy Story spin-off / thriller would have followed a circus act made up of monkeys who must steal a rare South African diamond and transport it to Morocco in time to foil an international plot to discredit the President of the United States. The monkeys must link arms across an entire continent in an exciting race against the clock, while dealing with angry politicians, curious tourists, and hungry predators.
Discussions with director Paul Greengrass broke down over suggestions that he cast Matt Damon as the lead monkey, with Danny DeVito to play an important supporting role. The untimely death of Charlton Heston squandered one idea for a hilarious cameo. Tracy Morgan has reportedly expressed interest in reviving the project if the producers agree to setting the story in America's colonial past so he can play President Thomas Jefferson.
Hailed for its instantly
annoying memorable theme song and catchy, equal-opportunity refrain "it's fun for a girl or a boy," the metallic and flexible Slinky would seem a natural fit for today's enlightened world of coeducational opportunities in the world of armed combat. But, in a script that was circulated in the late 80s, Slinky would have been a perpetually-grinning villain with a human head and slinky body in a series of horror pictures modeled after Chucky in Child's Play.
Rumor has it that Disney and/or Pixar are considering refashioning that old Slinky script. In the updated version, the Slinky character would be the new owner of the Slinky Dog (the friendly daschund in the Toy Story movies) and renamed Slinky Obama, the result of a mixed human/toy marriage and a candidate for political office in a large Midwestern city.
Also considered and rejected: Etch-A-Sketch, Zip the Chimp, Beany Copter, Easy Bake Oven, Creepy Crawlers, and Mouse Trap.
Further suggestions from readers highly encouraged! But, please, no comments that "you guys aren't as funny as you think you are" -- we know, we know.