Was This The Lamest Mass-Produced Toy Ever?



Are you having a fucking giraffe?

Rocks have numerous valuable uses: paperweights, keeping the doors open in the back garden during the summer, bludgeoning people to death and so on.  One thing they’re perhaps not quite so good for is being a child’s toy (unless you’re in North Korea, a country so dirt-poor and ass-backwards that a rock is probably the equivalent of an Xbox 360 in terms of overall entertainment value). Rocks as children’s toys sound like something you’d read about in The Onion. No-one would seriously consider such a concept as a viable means of making money would they? Would they?! They would. And they did. And the end result was the most spectacularly dismal toy line of all time; ROCK LORDS. Check out this gnarly hard-rocking (pun intended) commercial from the 80s just so you know we’re not making the whole thing up;

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOOyLBpr3PQ’]

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Rock Lords (“Powerful Living Rocks!”) were created by Tonka in 1986, when the Transformers were still a fresh global phenomenon and everyone was scrambling for a piece of the highly lucrative robots-turning-into stuff pie (such was the fervour at the time that I’m sure there were robots that turned into actual pies). The toy line was a spin-off of The Gobots, a fairly naff Transformers wannabe that was the Lambrini to Optimus Prime and co’s Champagne. Despite the commercial onslaught of a multi-tier toy line and animated series, The Gobots never really set the world on fire, but they were a dynamic masterpiece compared to Rock Lords, which raised the bar for colossal shitness in the world of toys/children’s entertainment. Robot Chicken agrees with me;

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–ostRhMox8′]

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Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that Rock Lords were some sort of post-modern satire on the commodification of childhood. But they really weren’t. A ton of board meetings must have been held to get this travesty off the ground, to the extext that the brains behind it were able to concoct an actual narrative framework for the universe that the Lords occupied. Just like the Transformers, there was goodies versus baddies, with short character bios for each, which are hilarious as they appear to be charged with some serious homoerotic tension. Tungsten, leader of the good guys, was “brave and wise with an awesome physique” while his arch-nemesis Magmar is described thusly: “His domineering personality and physical strength make him a fearful presence to all but the most brave.” Crumbs. Can’t these burly dudes just hug it out? Tonka even managed to get a feature-length animated movie out of the whole sorry shitpile. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the whole thing is currently up on YouTube, but for now we’ll just present you with the trailer. Needless to say, it’s not exactly The Lion King;

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD-A6RtDpag’]

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For reasons which absolutely nobody could have possibly seen coming, the Rock Lords were not a success and the line was quietly phased out after the post-movie cartoon show was cancelled (with only three seasons of rocktastic action under its belt). But dry those eyes, as their place in the panthenon of toydom did not go unnoticed. Anyone who saw Toy Story 3 will have spotted the character Chunk, who was clearly an affectionate tribute to his rocky forebears;


If Rock Lords were the sort of thing made in a backwater factory in China and sold at your local flea market alongside those weird rip-offs of Spiderman and Robocop then that would be one thing, but this was a big deal at the time with a major marketing push behind it. People got up in the morning, had their coffee and went to work thinking that robots that turned into rocks – not jets, not dinosaurs, not cars, but actual bastard ROCKS – would be something that kids would want to buy. Children everywhere voted with their cash, and the rest is history.

And lastly, as a palate-cleanser of sorts, here’s an awesome mash-up of Daft Punk’s ‘Robot Rock’ and Transformers, the robots-turning-into stuff that you actually gave a shit about. Autobots, ROLL OUT;

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCElWmA_2tY’]



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