Another 10 Dark Stories Behind Children's Toys

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
More cherished childhood memories right out the window! For this list, we'll be looking at even popular kids toys/products, as the companies that produced them, that have a dark chapter in their history. Our countdown includes poisonous toys, Super Soakers and of course, Tickle-Me Elmo. Did your favorite Creepy Toy Story make the list? Let us know in the comments!

Another 10 Dark Stories Behind Children's Toys

Script by Michael Wynands

More cherished childhood memories right out the window! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Another 10 Dark Stories Behind Children's Toys.

For this list, we’ll be looking at even popular kids toys/products, as the companies that produced them, that have a dark chapter in their history.

#10: Elmo Channels Chucky

There are few children’s characters more iconic than Elmo, the breakout star of Sesame Street. This furry red creature with the orange nose has had countless toys made in his likeness over the years. Many of them, like “Tickle-Me Elmo,” have become must-have items upon release. Unfortunately, a number of speaking Elmo dolls have “broken bad” after going home to an unsuspecting family. The 2007 Sing with Elmo's Greatest Hits’ toy encouraged kids to “beat up Elmo” and “rip your fur out”. It was an issue of distorted audio. In 2008, one “Elmo Knows Your Name” doll went full “Child’s Play” when it allegedly started saying “Kill James” to its two-year-old owner, James Bowman. Who would have guessed that it would be Elmo to pick up where Chucky left off?

#9: Potty-Mouthed Teletubby Dolls?

Today’s toddlers and tykes might have moved on to Paw Patrol, but between 1997 and 2001, these strange, color-coded creatures dominated preschool aged children’s television. With their impossibly smooth facial features, screens implanted in their tummies and a gibberish language all of their own, they enchanted kids and unnerved parents in equal measure. Well, as it turns out the Red teletubby, Po, was giving parents something more concrete to take issue with - at least the toy version of Po. The voice actress behind one talking Po doll had a strong accent, resulting in one of the toy’s pre-recorded lines sounding a lot like it was saying “bite my butt” and a homophobic slur. Despite clarifying what the doll was actually saying, Hasbro ultimately pulled it from shelves.

#8: The Hostile Takeover of Polly Pocket

When we think back on the toys that we grew up playing with, its with fondness and a profound sense of innocence; they’re symbols of a simpler time in your life. In reality however, toys are (and always have been) big business. So while you’re relationship your childhood playthings might be pure, chances are that behind the scenes, some not so savory things went down - as is the case with Polly Pocket. The concept was originally a DIY one crafted by a father for his daughter. It was then licensed to Bluebird Toys, who helped bring this novel toy to countless children. Mattel also got in on the distribution deal, but in the late ‘90s, Bluebird was finally bought by the former after weathering numerous hostile takeover attempts.

#7: Super-Creepy Furbys

You don’t need to have lived the heyday of Furby firsthand to know just how much of a pop culture furor it created. In the Christmas of 1998, parents literally fought one another to get one for their kids. In 1999, a staggering 14 million units were sold. The funny thing is, after putting in so much work bringing one of these furry little weirdos home, many parents had buyers regret. Unfortunately, like Po the teletubby, Furby’s speech proved surprisingly problematic; the little electronic creature was saying “hug me” but it sounded like an entirely different demand. Add to that the fact that it bore a striking resemblance to the mogwai from “Gremlins” and many parents felt distrustful of the little furball.

#6: Glo Worm's Poisonous Plastic Head

Every parent hopes to find that perfect doll or stuffed animal for their young child to bond with - a friend to keep them company through the night and provide a sense of comfort. In the early 1980s, an unlikely competitor entered the fray in the form of Hasbro Playskool’s “Glow Worm”. The sleepy looking worm had a kindly face and wore a sleeping cap and pyjamas. When squeezed, the worm’s head would gently glow with light. Unfortunately, the material the Glo Worm’s head got its distinctive malleable texture via a chemical plastic softener, phthalates, which is toxic when ingested. Thankfully, it’s head was fairly tough to chew through, but it certainly undermines the trust between parent and stuffed toy.

#5: A Legal War Over Troll Dolls

Like Polly Pocket, these dolls -instantly identifiable thanks to their wild hair, cherubic cheeks and prominent belly buttons- have a complicated backstory. These bizarre little humanoid creatures were first conceived of and created by a humble Danish man in the 1950s who carved the very first troll doll out of necessity; Christmas was coming and he couldn’t afford a gift for his daughter. He soon found himself with a fledgling business empire, but while he secured a copyright for his creation in his native Denmark, he encountered issues in the United States. Because of a loophole involving distribution in America, troll dolls passed into the public domain, robbing a creator of his dues. It would be decades before the copyright was reinstated in 1996.

#4: Employee Trampled Over a Tickle-Me Elmo

Elmo strikes again! As everyone’s favorite Sesame Street resident has learned firsthand, fame comes with a price. Not only have various Elmo dolls been caught saying troubling things, but, in the case of the aforementioned Tickle-Me Elmo doll, someone actually got hurt. Released in 1996, the toy became THE toy of the holiday season after Rosie O’Donnell plugged it on her show. Suddenly, parents were scrambling to get one, and on multiple occasions, the in-store competition turned violent. The worst such example of this occurred in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, where a 27 year old clerk was trampled by a mob of shoppers trying to get the Tickle-Me Elmo in his hands. He suffered a concussion, broken ribs, a pulled hamstring and various back, knee and jaw injuries.

#3: Super Soaker Attacks

In hot summer months, super soakers can be a great way for children to cool down and get some physical activity. There’s nothing like the threat of being hit by a stream of cold water to get a group of kids laughing, screaming and running around. The thing is, super soakers should only be used with adult supervision to make sure that they’re being played with appropriately, safely and in a way that is fun for everyone involved. Sure, it’s just water, but at high enough pressures, it can still hurt and become a tool for bullying. Worse, the contents can be switched for another liquid. There have been several cases of people filling super soakers with bleach or other chemical irritants, resulting in severe burns.

#2: The Dangers of Lego

There are few toys that have enjoyed more enduring popularity or inspired more children than Lego. Unfortunately, these little interconnecting plastic blocks enjoy such universal popularity that, sadly, they often find their way into the hands of children who don’t meet the minimum age requirement for safe play. And as little hands always do, they put those lego blocks into their mouths where they pose a serious choking hazard - especially the smaller pieces. Choking is among the leading causes of injury and death in small children, which is why it’s so important to supervise infants and toddlers at play - and respect age recommendations. Over the years, there have been a number of reported cases of children of choking on Lego blocks - some sadly fatal.

#1: The Banning of Lawn Darts

In theory, lawn darts sound like a wholesome, harmless outdoor target game for the whole family. Unfortunately, when thrown, these seemingly innocuous pieces of sporting equipment can become lethal projectiles. The metal tips, designed to pierce and stick into soft ground on contact, have proven to devastating when they make contact with a person. Countless injuries and numerous deaths resulting from lawn darts have resulted in them being banned in the United States multiple times over. First they were made illegal across the board, only for the ban to be lifted under the condition that they not be marketed as toys. Following the tragic death of child however, they were once again banned outright in 1988.
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