Robocop. It’s a property that has gone a lot of places over the course of nearly 30 years. The story of a police officer that was nearly killed and turned into an experimental mix of human and robot has had more than one version of the story told since it’s 1987 creation.
But this one is one of the most bizarre.
The original Robocop movie was almost a parody of 1980’s action movies with plenty of shock and gore to originally earn the movie an X rating, supposedly 11 times over. The movie had to be boiled down and a number of things cut out to give it an R rating that there is stuff not even shown on the later DVD “complete” version of the flick. Scenes of murder, mutilation, and blood.
So who thought this was a good idea to make a cartoon out of it and market it to children?
Not only did this happen, it happened twice. The first attempt was a short-lived series Robocop: The Animated series in 1988. It only had 12 episodes but featured the robotic law enforcement officer battle hackers, criminals, and gang violence. He also ends up facing the one behind the incident that nearly killed him and leads to him becoming Robocop in the first place. Needless to say, this was a far cry from the source material. The murder and death, along with much if the cultural humor and the point of Robocop in the first place were removed. And who thought this was a good idea? Marvel.
Yup the producers behind this idea were Marvel Comics. Before the movies and the live action superhero shows to grab very nerds attention, there was this attempt at selling an adult rated property to kids!
And there were the toys. Oh lord the toys.
Robocop and the Ultra Police was not directly connected to the animated series or the movies (again, for obvious reasons) but came out right around the time. It featured the title Robocop and Anne Lewis, the main good guys from the original movie, but also super outfitted officers to join them. Birdman Barnes, Wheels Wilson, and Ace Jackson. They also came with a bike, a car, and even a helicopter to run around in. I admit I had the car. There were also figures for them to arrest and shoot at with several of the Vandals street gang as well as the big ED-260 robot to oppose them.
But honestly, the one thing I remember from these figures were the cap firing attachments and how they didn’t always seem to work as intended.
One of the big fads in toys at the times were “caps”. Small little incendiaries that would make a “bang!” and even create a little smoke. Nothing explosive, but something that added some sound and smoke to the play experience. Various versions of these had been in toys going back to the 60’s but in the late 80’s they were in vogue once again. He-man had it, The cartoon series Cops featured them, and so did these figures. They came with small rolls of paper with small black power marks on them that you fed into the mechanism in the figures back and pulled the trigger, much like a gun, the get your flash and bang. All was well and good until it misfired and set on fire.
As happened to me.
Seriously, little 7 year old me was playing with the Robocop toy outside (I wasn’t allowed to fire the caps in the house) and I pulled the trigger. I’m not sure if it sparked or what happened, but I looked down and my Robocop figure turned into a lighter and was on fire. I quickly blew the flame out and thankfully it never got bigger. Needless to say after having a toy light itself aflame as it is in your hand is something a kid remembers. The caps were tossed aside and never used again (by my choice, not my parents). I didn’t have much use for them after that experience. The Robocop and the Ultra Police line didn’t really take off either, only lasting a few more months if that. Probably for the best.
So not only was it not a good idea not to peddle a line based on an adult rated and violent movie toward children, but the toys themselves could be worse! While the cartoon and the toys didn’t last very long, it didn’t stop another cartoon being made 10 years later!