Sunday, July 30, 2017

GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986) and Merchandising

A big part of movies and television is merchandising.  It can be another point of income for a property, netting extra money for the people who created the idea.  The more money, the better, and in the case of a hopeful franchise, a better chance at getting a sequel made.  That’s why toy stores are filled with different figures from different movies and television shows.  That’s why superheroes get new costumes in every movie.  It’s all so that merchandise can be sold.

This week’s movie was a big piece of merchandising, based on a toy from the 1980s.  In fact, it was so dependent on the merchandising that the movie was made to sell the toys rather than the toys being a result of the movie.  GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords was a movie made to bring a new line of GoBots figures to market.  It was the introduction of the Rock Lord characters who would get their own figures as the movie was released.

The Rock Lords technically weren’t GoBots.  They were from another location and were human/animal/rock hybrids in the same sort of way that GoBots were human/robot/vehicle hybrids.  They transformed like GoBots.  They had evolved from humanoid races like GoBots.  They had a good faction fighting against a bad faction like GoBots.  The difference was that they were rock based instead of machine based.  That didn’t matter when it came to the toys though.  They were still the fun, transforming toys for children who didn’t get Transformers.

The story was that the Guardian GoBots travelled to the land of the Rock Lords to help the good guys, led by Boulder (Michael Nouri).  The Renegade GoBots decided to help the bad guys, led by Magmar (Telly Savalas), in an attempt to get the most powerful device in the universe.  It was pretty boring.  The demographic was kids, though, with the target audience being the ones who would beg their parents for the toys.

There have been other movie making decisions that have been rumoured to be about toys throughout the years.  That’s because of the extra money that merchandising can bring in.  If a movie can manage to make a lot of money from merchandising, even if the movie itself didn’t make a lot of money in theaters or on home video, it could still be worth it to make a sequel.  It could be worth it to add new characters or change the looks of old characters if that means that there will be more toys to sell.  Extra income is always a good thing when it comes to Hollywood.

Take, for example, the Star Wars movies.  George Lucas didn’t get paid much for directing the first film.  What he did get was merchandising rights and that paid off when the movie became a massive hit.  It was the first time that toys were a major source of income for a movie.  Every kid wanted the toys.  When I was a kid in the 1990s, I knew kids who had those original toys.  Other rumours surrounding the Star Wars movies and the toys were that George Lucas wouldn’t let Han Solo be killed in The Empire Strikes Back because he was one of the best-selling toy characters, and that the Ewoks were created for Return of the Jedi because they were child-friendly looking characters that would make good toys.

Another movie franchise that seems to have survived, at least partially, on the toys associated with it is Cars.  The Pixar produced animated franchise follows a bunch of talking cars in their talking car world.  Like Star Wars, I don’t want to take away from the theatrical success of the movies.  Each movie made back their budgets and then some.  They weren’t as critically well received as other Pixar movies, but they made money during their theatrical runs.  Yet the idea of toys always comes up when discussing Cars.

Many children like nothing more than to play with toy cars, much like many adults who like nothing more than to show off their real cars.  Having a movie with characters who are cars plays right into this love of vehicles.  Then to have toys come out that are based on the characters that the children have fallen in love with only makes the children want them as much or more than their Hot Wheels and Matchbox counterparts.  The toy cars from Disney sold like hotcakes.  Mater and Lightning McQueen were on lunchboxes, in toy boxes, and on bedsheets.  It was the Star Wars marketing train all over again.

Let’s bring all of this back to the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  There’s one movie that was written about a while back that managed to capture the whole idea of a movie depending on toy sales to make a good chunk of money.  Batman & Robin was the fourth film in that franchise and spent a lot of time ensuring that there would be a large line of toys for children to buy.  As Chris O’Donnell said in the sixth part of the Shadows of the Bat documentary, the fourth movie felt like a toy commercial.  There were new costumes, new cars, and new villains.  Everything had been put into the movie to get merchandising money.  Joel Schumacher, in the same documentary, mentioned that the movie had to be more kid friendly and toyetic, meaning that it was being directed at children so that the studio could sell toys.  That was the aim of the movie.  The studio wanted to make money off of the movie, but they wanted to make more money off of merchandising.

Batman & Robin, Cars, Star Wars, and GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords were all movies in which the merchandising was as important as the movies themselves.  In the case of Batman & Robin and GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, the merchandising may have been even more important.  It helped shape the story and the characters to the point that without it, the movies would have been completely different. 

Merchandising is an important part of film, especially in the modern landscape where T-shirts, Pop Vinyls, and posters are important to both adults and children.  Movies rely on merchandising to bring in extra income, which can help to fund other movies, or help to make filmmakers succeed in Hollywood.  People are able to have their own piece of a movie, or share their fandom of a property.  That’s what merchandising can do.  That’s why it’s important.
Also important are these notes:

  • Batman & Robin was mentioned in this post.
  • Star Wars was mentioned.  I covered a Star Wars knockoff called Starcrash.
  • Cars was mentioned.  A Car’s Life was a Cars knockoff watched in the early days of the Sunday “Bad” Movies.
  • Transformers was another movie mentioned in this post.  I watched the knockoff Transmorphers franchise.
  • GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords featured the voice of Frank Welker, who has also done work in Anaconda, Mortal Kombat, and Hudson Hawk.
  • Roddy McDowall was in GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords.  He was in a movie called Shakma a few years later.
  • Marilyn Lightstone returned to the Sunday “Bad” Movies with GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords after being featured in Iron Eagle IV.
  • Michael Nouri played Boulder in GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords.  He had a role in Captain America.
  • Finally, GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords saw the return of Michael Bell to the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  He was in The Stupids.
  • Have you seen GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords?  Are there any other movies you can think of where merchandising was super important?  Discuss anything you want related to this post in the comments.
  • I am always keeping an eye and an ear open for suggestions about what to watch for the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  The comments are a good place to let me know of any movies I should check out.  My Twitter is another good place to find me.
  • Sometimes, I like to post stuff to my snapchat story.  Those things could be clips from the bad movies I watch.  They could be updates about what I’m watching in the theater.  They could be other things.  If you want to see that, add me.  jurassicgriffin.
  • Next week, I’ll be checking out a movie called Squanderers (also known as Money to Burn), which I’ve been meaning to see for a while.  It was in my schedule way back before I hit 100 weeks, but I couldn’t find a way to see it.  Now I have one.  Check in here next Sunday (night because I work during the day that week) to find out what I thought about it.

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