This week, McDonalds announced they will be releasing toys based off of Cartoon Network’s hit series “Adventure Time.” For the few that don’t know, “Adventure Time” focuses on Finn the Human and Jake the Dog as they travel around The Land of Ooo being heroes. Some of the main characters are Princess Bubblegum of the Candy Kingdom, the villainous Ice King, Finn’s game system BMO and Marceline the Vampire Queen.
Chock full great storytelling, “Adventure Time” has some of the best written characters I’ve seen in an animated program. I think it’s one of the best animated shows out right now. I also love that “Adventure Time” resonates so well with not only young viewers, but also with teens, and adult men and women. The toys made in the show’s image are amoungst the most popular 3 year old boys toys in America.
So, imagine my disappointment when they announced which figures would be part of the set.
The sets will be broken up into male and female toys. The male set will be the aforementioned “Adventure Time” set of two Finn figures, two Jake figures, Ice King and BMO. I’m disappointed to see that none of the female cast is represented in the toy line since they play a large part in the overall narrative. The set marketed towards girls will be Paul Frank Monkey-themed.
This isn’t the first time that McDonalds and Cartoon Network’s parent company, Time Warner, has done this.
In 2011, McDonalds released toys for the DC Comics animated series, “Young Justice.” The set featured eight characters: Robin, Batman, Kid Flash, Captain Cold, Aqualad, Black Manta, Superboy and Superman. Prominent female characters Artemis, Ms. Martian and Zatanna were excluded from the set. I know that it’s DC and they’ve got to have Batman and Superman in everything that they do, but seriously: Black Manta? I mean I’m a fan of Captain Cold, but it’s silly that these two were selected over the main heroines of the show.
This kind of behavior shouldn’t come to a surprise, though.
Writer/Producer Paul Dini recently was on Kevin Smith’s Batman podcast, “Fatman on Batman” and discussed Dini’s vast work on Warner Brother’s animated line. When talking about marketing, Dini said this:
DINI: “They’re all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”
SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”
DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys.”
When I work at my local comic store and see kids come in, I see them checking out everything and I feel like the days of gender-specific brands are blurring together. Lots of women and girls read comics, watch “Adventure Time” and play video games, while at the same time I’ve seen “My Little Pony” become a huge brand for boys and men.
If girls like dolls, that’s great. If you’re a boy and love “Transformers,” that also great. But the idea that kids have to be into something that isn’t necessarily marketed towards them based on the color of the box or its content is…silly.
According to animation director Yoo Jae-myung, when “Avatar: The Legend of Korra” started in 2012, Nickelodeon was initially reluctant to approve the series. They even suspended production because, unlike in most American animated shows, the protagonist was a woman and “girls will watch shows about boys, but boys won’t watch shows about girls.” The creators eventually got executives to change their mind and Bryan Konietzko, Korra’s Executive producer, said that in test screenings boys said that Korra being a girl didn’t matter to them: “They just said she was awesome.”
It sometimes feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy with companies not taking a chance. Which is disappointing, because there are plenty of boys and girls being denied the awesomeness of playing with female heroine toys, simply because marketing companies want to play it safe.