Friday, November 26, 2010

Home Alone merchandise flashback...

It's sort of become a tradition for my friends and I to watch Home Alone on Thanksgiving evening, or at least have it playing in the background at our yearly get together. Tonight we upheld our tradition. After watching the film again I started thinking of the Super Nintendo video game based on the first film which I got for Christmas the year it came out. Then I thought about all the stuff that came out during the release of the second movie which led me to the brilliant conclusion that I should write about all those goodies on tonight's Nostalgia Factory post.

As a moderately budgeted family comedy Home Alone was not expected to be the gigantic financial success it went on to become. So when 20th Century Fox made preparations for the film's release they didn't have anything to draw in major tie in and merchandising partners to produce items for the film's release. Once the film opened to big numbers at the box office the story changed and THQ quickly drew up a deal with the studio to produce toys and games based on the hit movie.

These days THQ only focuses on Video Games but back then the company would produce board games, dolls and many other items. After all THQ stands for Toy Headquarters. The offerings from THQ included the video game for multiple platforms which for a quickly put together movie tie in game was not terrible. I spent many long hours playing the SNES version back in the day. Also available from THQ was a Screaming Kevin figure. The figure was about 9 inches tall and would play back an electronically recorded scream. The face looked just like Kevin's from the film's classic after shave scene.

THQ also put out a 17 inch doll with a really impressive likeness to Macaulay Culkin. The doll would play back multiple lines from the film once someone would pull the chord on the back. The outfit and the head sculpt were really good on this doll. It was like staring at a mini Kevin McAllister. The face was just adorable and to this day I think it's one of the best likenesses ever captured on a toy doll. Remember this is way before the days of Tonner's collectible dolls and this was merely a play item not a high end collector's piece. I really love how the doll had the Home Alone logo on the left sweater sleeve, just to make sure if someone didn't recognize the character they studio could still get a plug for the film.

THQ also came out with a pretty lame board game. It's very difficult to capture the kinetic fun and all the gags from the movie on a plain old dice and board game like this one. If they really wanted to make a board game in the spirit of the film they should have come up with something along the lines of Mouse Trap -- a game where you have multiple pieces which allow you to build booby traps right on the game board. This game was a major missed opportunity.

Also after the film's release multiple companies produced t-shirts, posters, pins and other items utilizing imagery from the film's promotional campaign.

For Home Alone 2 things were much different as Fox now had a sequel to one of the highest grossing comedies of all time on their hands. Multiple companies lined up to try and get the rights to produce all kinds of merchandise for the film. THQ was again selected for the games based on the film and Tiger toys came in to produce a series of electronic gadgets and games as part of a line of products centered around an item which would actually end up as a key prop on the film. Like most major movies the film also got a novelization courtesy of Scholastic books.

THQ produced a follow up video game for the SNES and various other consoles as well as a much improved board game, this new electronic version utilized voices and pre-recorded dialogue to help move the game along. It was a better concept than the original almost generic board game, but still not able to capture the fun and the spirit of the films. It seems like such an easy idea to create a booby trap focused board game to tie into the films, but on two occasions THQ missed their mark on this.

Tiger Toys, best known for their line of handheld electronic games, produced their typical black and white, squiggly line, static background electronic handheld game for Home Alone 2 but they also created the key prop for the film and an item many believed would go on to become the most coveted piece in every kid's wish list: The Talk Boy.

In Home Alone 2 we see Kevin utilizing the Talk Boy to pull off a couple of fast ones on the adults. When I first saw the movie I thought it was one of the coolest things ever. It just looked amazing. Unfortunately after closer inspection you'd realize it was nothing more than a Walkman with the ability to record and slow your voice. I wonder how many kids did go on to blackmail their sisters after recording them with the Talk Boy while they fooled around with their boyfriends.

Tiger promoted the item heavily. The commercial would play multiple times during all the afternoon kid shows as well as on Saturday morning. I'm pretty sure the Talk Boy was also featured on that year's Toys R Us big toy book. Not only did Tiger make a big hoopla about the item being used in the film they had so much faith in the product they made multiple versions of it including a pink one for girls aptly named Talk Girl.

Tiger also applied the same concept to a series of pens as part of their Talkboy F/X line. After the movie had come and gone and kids everywhere had forgotten about Kevin's handy talk boy, Tiger kept trying to squeeze some juice out of this line by producing the Talk Boy in multiple colors and adding more items to their Talkboy F/X line. Even though there was no Talkboy pen in the movie they marketed it as a Home Alone 2 item. Later releases in the Talk Boy line such as the Talk Boy Shock Rocker, dropped the Home Alone logo from the packaging completely since Kevin never used a shock rocker version of the Talk Boy to record his own gangsta rap tunes in the film.

The Home Alone 17 inch Kevin doll was re-released with different clothes now sporting Kevin's backpack and his New York threads.

THQ wasn't satisfied with just their electronic board game so they put out yet another almost generic standard board and dice game just as atrocious as the one from the first movie.

Raisin Bran had some games inspired by the film on the back of select boxes of cereal too.
I found it odd that none of my friends remembered any of these items whenever we'd talk about Home Alone. The first two films have gone on to become modern Christmas classics and are loved by people of all ages. You'd have to be a real Grinch not to love these movies. So if there's a major Home Alone fan on your gift list this year you might wanna track down some of these vintage items on Ebay. Happy Hunting.


Super-Duper ToyBox said...

i (laughs) had NO IDEA!
great post :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this awesome post! I just added a link to it in an article I wrote about Home Alone. Here is the link to the article:

Crazy that it came out twenty years ago eh?

Nostalgic Gangsta said...

Thanks for the mention on your blog.
Glad to see your 20th anniversary post. I can't believe it's been so long! What a great film!

StoryLandVideos said...

I think you're forgetting that they made a Mouse Trap style game for Home Alone 2.


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