Screwed by the Merchandise
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.
Anime & Manga
Films — Animation
- Nurse Angel Ririka SOS was doing rather well with the ratings, however, it had too large of a Periphery Demographic. The actual toys weren't selling enough with little girls and thus they wrapped the plot up early. The show was intended to become even grimmer. The actual ending is not exactly light though, as Ririka commits a Heroic Sacrifice (though ends up surviving).
- Ojamajo Doremi was a smash hit in Japan and many other countries, but the success did not translate to the United States, where the show got low ratings and the toys barely sold. The second wave of toys (which leaked Oyajide and Onpu's dub names) were cancelled and 4Kids Entertainment took the show off air, broadcasting the rest of the series via streaming from their website.
Films — Live Action
- 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.
- This trope became the downfall of the original Batman movie series. Batman Returns was full of horrific and sexual content, 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.
- Disney Infinity was an Action-Adventure sandbox toys-to-life game series that ran from 2013 to 2016, inspired by the Toy Box Mode from the Toy Story 3 Licensed Game. On May 10th, 2016, Disney announced that due to low sales, Infinity would cease production the following month, as it was costing too much money to keep the series and figures rolling, also canceling many of its future plans. As part of the end of the franchise, Disney Interactive Studios had its publishing unit shut down, relegating it to a licensing unit for Disney's properties, and developer Avalanche Software closed (although the developer reopened under Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment ownership in January 2017). To make matters worse, the "Save Disney Infinity" campaign was apparently unsuccessful.
- Skylanders was one of the biggest video game Cash Cow Franchises for years and kickstarted the "toys-to-life" genre. After several years of amazing sales, the bubble finally burst with the sixth installment, Skylanders: Imaginators. It didn't sell nearly as expected and thus the franchise was put on hiatus.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The BOTS Master was intended to be a Merchandise-Driven series, but thanks to the toys based off of the show not selling well, it only lasted 40 episodes before getting cancelled.