Created By: Pichu-kun on April 22, 2016 Last Edited By: Pichu-kun on February 20, 2018
Troped

Screwed By The Merchandise

A series is cancelled because the tie-ins didn't sell

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No matter how popular the cartoon itself is, it can be Cut Short if the toys or other merchandise doesn't sell as expected. This is most common in Merchandise-Driven cartoons; however, action cartoons also suffer from this, and the difficulty of selling toys is a large reason why the genre has become unpopular in America in the 2010s.

Compare to Screwed by the Network, where something is canceled due to Executive Meddling. Unless executives somehow meddle with the toyline, this trope does not overlap with Screwed by the Network, although they both deal with cancellation due to factors other than the quality of the show.

Examples:

Anime & Manga

Films — Animation
  • The Disney Fairies books and films were popular, however, because the toys weren't selling up to expectations the film series was put on a permanent hiatus.

Films — Live Action
  • This trope became the downfall of the original Batman movie series. Batman Returns was full of both Nightmare Fuel and Fetish Fuel, and thus the action figures didn't sell. Warner Bros kicked out Tim Burton and brought in Joel Schumacher to make the next two movies Lighter and Softer so they could sell more action figures. While the ensuing movies (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) had decent toy sales, they were critical and commercial flops, ending that particular batch of Batman movies right then and there.

Video Games

Web Original
  • Exaggerated in Joueur du Grenier, where Fred claims in the introduction to Merchandise-Driven media that the JDG show was only intended to sell pull-string dolls. The dolls never sold at all (that they tell a racist joke with every pull of the string might have had something to do with it), but the show was kept going.
  • Both of Mattel's Cash Cow Franchises Monster High and Ever After High were canceled after diminishing toy sales and a change in the market towards smaller, cheaper toys. In their place Enchantimals was created as a replacement. This means that the crossover movie was scrapped and Ever After High's plot was not finished.

Western Animation
  • One of the reasons why Young Justice was canceled after two seasons was because that they weren't selling enough toys. A reason given was due to the large Periphery Demographic of female fans watching the show. Girls don't buy as many action figures as boys, and the male fans weren't buying enough either, so the toys ended up flopping.
  • Littlest Pet Shop toys are usually popular. However, that didn't stop Littlest Pet Shop (2012) from being canceled after four seasons due to poor toy sales.
  • Jem lasted three seasons and was popular. However, the toys weren't selling enough, so it was cut early. It had a series finale, but many plot threads were left unexplored (such as whether Rio will ever find out if Jem and Jerrica are the same person, what happened to Pizzazz's mother, Rio or Riot, etc). Despite this, it ended up a Cult Classic and over twenty years later was adapted in a film and a comic book.
  • Thunder Cats 2011 wasn't selling enough toys, and that is part of the reason why it ended after season 1 on a cliffhanger.
  • The 2002 remake of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was canceled because its toyline was not doing well. Since most shipments were full of strange variants of He-Man and Skeletor with only a couple of the other main characters, the toys became shelf warmers, and the final wave wasn't even released in its home country. The show itself was well-received, though also dealt with unpredictable time slots before its cancellation.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan was canceled after twenty episodes due to no companies wanting to make merchandise for it. Keep Circulating the Tapes is in full effect due to a home release being difficult and the fact it was rarely rerun, though it can be bought digitally. The infamous dancing scene in episode 10 prevents the series from falling into obscurity, though.
  • Pound Puppies (2010) was eventually canceled due to a lack of toy sales.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse's poor toy sales compared to the previous installments, combined with the mixed reception by long-time fans, caused it to become a Franchise Killer. The next installment was a Continuity Reboot.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series was canceled after one season, and on a cliffhanger at that, due to this. The film that had came out a few years earlier was a Box Office Bomb. It ended up souring the reputation of Green Lantern and this caused Green Lantern toy sales to plummet.
  • Challenge of the GoBots had rubbish toys and the show wasn't well-received either. The combination sank the show.
  • The Avengers: United They Stand was a case of the show getting screwed by the toys as well as the toys getting screwed by the show. The execs decided to make everyone have anime-style armour to sell matching toys and to omit the most popular Avengers. The concept failed and the show and toyline both tanked.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016) reboot failed to be the Cash Cow Franchise that the original was a little over a decade earlier. This was likely due to a combination of Girl-Show Ghetto, heavy criticism of pretty much every change by old fans, and new fans not finding the show as interesting as something like Teen Titans Go!. The toys just don't sell well. The reboot hasn't been outright canceled yet, but a few months after release it was shoved onto a Saturday-only block, then onto Boomerang, which is a death sentence for any Cartoon Network original.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • April 22, 2016
    Waddle
    I've heard that Sym Bionic Titan is a case of this, but I have no context at all.

    And are you sure for LPS? Because the entry page says that a fourth season is on its way.
  • April 22, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^ Actually, no, I am not sure. I just saw on the YMMV page that it was cancelled because of this trope. It's listed under Too Good To Last. Maybe someone forgot to edit the main page?
  • April 22, 2016
    Waddle
    ^ Yeah, just checked it and it is indeed cancelled but after actually four seasons. It is weird to me that it is because of the sales, they are my little sister's favorite toys, and she has like two hundred of them!

    Also, I'm not sure about this but isn't Avatar The Last Airbender a weird subversion? I have heard that they planned a three seasons storyline, but would have been cancelled anyway due to poor toy sales (they even did a Take That to it, explained in Scary Impractical Armor). But if not they could have continued the show with one-season long arc which eventually became the comic books. Again: NOT SURE ABOUT ALL THAT.
  • April 22, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^ 'Never heard of that. I always heard the Series Bible had four literal seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
  • May 29, 2016
    Jokubas
    I hope I got all this right.

    The 2002 remake of He Man And The Masters Of The Universe was canceled because its toyline was not doing well. Since most shipments were full of strange variants of He-Man and Skeletor with only a couple of the other main characters, the toys became shelf warmers, and the final wave wasn't even released in its home country. The show itself was well-received, though also dealt with unpredictable time slots before its cancellation.
  • May 30, 2016
    BearyScary
    Would this trope fit best under YMMV?
  • May 30, 2016
    gallium
    Trivia?
  • May 30, 2016
    Arivne
    Definitely Trivia, as this occurs out of universe.

    It isn't YMMV as there's no question of opinion or judgment involved.
  • May 30, 2016
    flamemario12
    • Use shows instead
    • You spell cartoonz instead of cartoons.
    • Technically speaking, action genre cartoon isn't dead. It's just that most action genre cartoons nowadays focus more on comedy. (compare to most 00s action genre cartoons)
  • July 8, 2016
    Chabal2
    Exaggerated in Joueur Du Grenier, where Fred claims in the introduction to the Merchandise Driven media special that the JDG show was only created to sell pull-string dolls. The dolls never sold at all (that they tell a racist joke with every pull of the string might have had something to do with it), but the show was kept anyway.

  • May 1, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Does Steven Universe count as an aversion to the example? As I had watched a You Tube video that, while the show had little to no official merchandise, the show is still ongoing.
  • May 1, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    ^ I don't know how it works but some shows generate enough on views alone. The mobile game probably makes them a fair amount, and I see a lot of non-toy merchandise in stores.
  • May 1, 2017
    IniuriaTalis
    I think it would only count as an aversion if it were originally meant to sell toys, but didn't and lived on the show's merits. Just a cartoon without a toyline isn't related.
  • May 1, 2017
    hszmv1
    • The Original Transformers would definitely be an aversion. The Cartoon lasted three seasons and one truncated fourth season in the United States. The Toy Line, has sold continuously since it was introduced along side the cartoon in 1984. In fact, nearly a decade later, it's first resurgence (packaged Generation II) used nothing more than touched up reruns to both repaints and newer toys.
  • May 12, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    I don't know if I could think of some shows that can survive (and thrive) without selling toys. I mean, nowadays, a show could be sustained with tie-in apps and other merchandise.
  • May 12, 2017
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    I'm not sure whether or not this example counts, but here's a Video Games example I have:

    Video Games
  • May 12, 2017
    DustSnitch
    This is related to Screwed By The Network, where something is cancelled due to Executive Meddling. Unless executives somehow meddle with the toyline, this trope does not overlap with Screwed By The Network, although they both deal with cancellation due to factors other than the quality of the show.
  • May 15, 2017
    Exxolon
    According to [1], Young Justice got clobbered by this trope - the show skewed too female demographically (boys buy more toys) and as they hadn't done most of the female characters toys the boys who did watch didn't buy enough of the toys and the girls didn't pick up any of the slack as the female toys weren't available.

    Go Bots had rubbish toys and the show wasn't much good either. The combination sank the show.

    The Avengers United They Stand was a case of the show getting screwed by the toys as well as the toys getting screwed by the show. The execs decided to make everyone have anime-style armour to sell matching toys and to omit the most popular Avengers. The concept failed and the show and toyline both tanked.
  • May 15, 2017
    sarysa
    Might want to change the Green Lantern TAS entry. (and maybe split it from Young Justice) It was actually cancelled because the related film's toy line didn't sell well. (source)
  • June 21, 2017
    hszmv1
    • City Of Heroes was cancelled because it had poor sales in Asian Markets compared to other MM Os, mostly due to the Superhero Genre not having a big impact in such markets. Prior to the cancellation, it was largely seen as the number two MMO to World Of Warcraft and creatively was far superior, with one of the best character creators in the business, a very fleshed out back story, and more content than the playerbase could handle (it was entirely possible to go from one to fifty on story content alone, and still miss some big story lines), not to mention an end game that was actually something other than grinding (and allowed for even more customization to boot. In most MM Os, it was often thought that once you hit cap, it was grinding for gear. In City of Heroes, level cap was "starting the good stuff").
  • June 22, 2017
    Skylite
    Steven Universe is an inversion rather than an aversion, IMO. The little bit of merch there is sells very well, and the fans are vociferously asking for more all the time. The soundtrack just got released and was the number one download on iTunes for over a week.

  • September 22, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    ^ I don't know the exacts, but some series can thrive with little to no merchandise.
  • September 22, 2017
    AmourMitts
    Maybe Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is an example of this.
  • September 22, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    I think Screwed By The Merchandise would have a broader sense to some shows.
  • November 21, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bump.
  • January 24, 2018
    alnair20aug93
    @Pichu-kun may I have your permission to launch this? It looks launchable.
  • January 30, 2018
    TorpidDrake
    • This trope became the downfall of the original Batman movie series. Batman Returns was full of both Nightmare Fuel and Fetish Fuel, and thus the action figures didn't sell. Warner Bros kicked out Tim Burton and brought in Joel Schumacher to make the next two movies Lighter And Softer so they could sell more action figures. While the ensuing movies (Batman Forever and Batman And Robin) had decent toy sales, they were critical and commercial flops, ending that particular batch of Batman movies right then and there.
  • January 30, 2018
    Larkmarn
    ... how is City Of Heroes an example? "Video game getting cancelled because of poor sales of said video game" isn't this work.
  • February 19, 2018
    alnair20aug93
    Bump.
  • February 20, 2018
    Pichu-kun
    Launching soon.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ezpnla0q9f6n7yq15hjfpyfo