The dirty dozen toys that terrified parents and kids: From 'inappropriate' Trolls to cussin' Elmo

Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·6-min read

Here’s a toy story that’s definitely not for kids. Last week, Hasbro pulled a line of Trolls World Tour dolls from shelves after a Change.org petition raised concerns about their appropriateness.

That puts the “Giggle and Sing Poppy Doll” in a select group of supposedly G-rated playthings that were disturbing enough to be Rated R... as in recalled.

Here’s Yahoo Entertainment’s round-up of the dirty dozen toys that left kids and adults traumatised.

Trolls World Tour Giggle and Sing Poppy doll

Jessica McManis didn’t giggle when she discovered that the sensor activating Hasbro’s Poppy doll was located in an entirely inappropriate place. Instead, she started a petition on Change.org that has attracted nearly 300,000 signatures and compelled the toy company to remove the doll from stores altogether.

“What will this toy make our innocent, impressionable children think?” she wrote in her petition. “That it’s fun when someone touches your private area? That pedophilia and child molestation are ok? It’s not ok! It’s not fun!”

In a statement provided to The Providence Journal, Hasbro spokeswoman Julia Duffy confirmed the company was recalling the item, sayinf: “This feature was designed to react when the doll was seated, but we recognise the placement of the sensor may be perceived as inappropriate.

“This was not intentional and we are happy to provide consumers with a replacement Poppy doll of similar value through our consumer care team.”

Elmo Knows Your Name

Fisher-Price’s talking Elmo doll made headlines in 2008 when a Florida mother claimed the adorable fuzzball was spitting out Chucky-esque death threats against her two-year-old son. Local news footage sure made it sound like the Elmo — which parents could program to utter 100 personalized phrases — was saying “Kill James.” Fisher-Price ultimately offered to replace the mother’s toy, but that’s a case where you definitely don’t want Elmo to know your name.

Happy Meals Minions

Talk about despicable. In 2015, McDonald’s included a Minion toy in every Happy Meal box as a tie-in with the animated blockbuster featuring the breakout stars of the Despicable Me franchise. Like their big-screen counterparts, these bright yellow toys spoke in their own unique language... except for one particular phrase. Parents became convinced that a caveman Minion blurted out “What the f***” and took to YouTube to post the evidence.

For its part, McDonald’s insisted kids’ Happy Meal fries weren’t accompanied by a side of F-bombs. “The allegation that this toy is saying any offensive phrase is not true,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman said in a statement provided to CNBC. “We apologise for any confusion or offence to those who may have interpreted the sounds for anything other than gibberish.”

Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Vibrating Broomstick

Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Vibrating Broomstick (Photo: The Morning News)
Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Vibrating Broomstick (The Morning News)

Expecto recall-io! Mattel reportedly had high hopes for its vibrating version of Harry Potter’s signature Quidditch broomstick. But Amazon comments by parent reviewers quickly revealed a different story. The toy company quickly pulled the Nimbus from circulation, although we’re betting that those pranksters Fred and George Weasley have a supply at their Diagon Alley shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.

E.T. Finger Light

No explanation required for why this E.T. toy didn’t linger in stores for very long. But if you need a visual aid for when it’s time to have “the talk” with your teens, it’ll be right here.

“Happy Family” Pregnant Midge

Pregnant Midge (Photo: Amazon)
Pregnant Midge (Amazon)

Barbie’s pregnant pal Midge found her “happy family” life turned upside down when consumers soundly rejected the idea of a doll whose plastic tummy could be removed to reveal a plastic baby inside. "It's a bad idea. It promotes teenage pregnancy. What would an 8-year-old or 12-year-old get out of that doll baby?" a parent told CBS News in 2002.

Walmart pulled the toy from its stores, and Mattel created another version that didn’t come up with a baby bump.

Talking Freddy Kreuger Doll

Matchbox Toys inadvertently lit a bonfire of controversy when it produced a nightmarish talking version of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s famous boogeyman Freddy Kreuger in the late ‘80s. The American Family Association led a boycott of the company, accusing it of warping young minds with a toy based on a serial killer of teenagers.

“This doll is the product of a sick mind. The fact that a major toy manufacturer would promote this doll is tragic,” AFA executive director Rev. Donald E. Wildmon said at the time. Matchbox ultimately bowed to the pressure and banished Freddy to the graveyard of nightmare-inducing toys.

Teletubbies Talking Po

The appeal of the Teletubbies has always been lost in translation for grown-ups, but this 1998 toy took that too far. When adults pressed the soft tummy of Talking Po, aka the red Teletubby, they swore they heard it utter “Fatty, fatty” and “Bite my butt”. CBS News was on the case and contacted the manufacturer directly, which blamed the mix-up on a mishearing of Cantonese.

“The head of the company... says the voice is a Cantonese woman saying ‘faster, faster’ and 'slower, slower,’” correspondent David Diaz reported. Future versions of “Potty Mouth Po” reportedly corrected the questionable audio.

Rad Repeatin’ Tarzan

The King of the Jungle’s hand is getting quite the workout in this long-lost artefact from Disney’s 1999 animated hit. The rapid repeatin’ motion, combined with Tarzan’s mighty roar, seems to imply only one thing, but Mattel swore that all of us just had dirty minds.

“I think this is where adults look at things through a different set of eyes,” spokeswoman Sara Rosales reportedly told the Las Vegas Sun in 1999. “Kids have a much more innocent concept.”

That said, the company did seem to recognise the toy wouldn’t do a lot of repeat business. First they changed the packaging to ensure Tarzan’s hand wouldn’t drop below his waist, and then they got rid of the doll altogether.

Nestle Rafiki & Kiara

Here’s another reason to forget the 1998 direct-to-video Lion King sequel The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. Nestle manufactured toys to accompany the movie’s UK release and this particular plastic replica of Rafiki hoisting up Simba’s daughter Kiara is all kinds of unfortunate.

Shape Shifters Punisher

Shape Shifters Punisher (Photo: Zimbio)
Shape Shifters Punisher (Zimbio)

A toy based on Marvel’s trigger-happy vigilante is bordering on an R-rating anyway, but this Shape Shifters edition of The Punisher is full-on X-rated. In full “Pistol Power” mode, Frank Castle looks like one of the guns he carries around, but in this in-between state he’s a David Cronenberg nightmare come to plastic life.

Hannah Montana Singing Doll

It’s the best of both... words. In 2009, a Florida mother took a wrecking ball to Miley Cyrus’s squeaky-clean Hannah Montana persona, suggesting a singing doll based on the character was inviting her daughter to eat some “f****** pie” instead of “pumpkin pie.”

“There’s no question, none at all, it’s plainly clear,” she told a local news station. “How could they put this on the shelf?” The toy stayed in stores, but the batteries came out of her daughter’s doll.