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Screwed by the Merchandise

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"Don't those cartoon characters make you wanna buy those products? I sure hope so, or else I'll be off air."

No matter how popular the work 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.


Unisex Series, Gendered Merchandise often leads to works being cancelled. The merchandise producers are trying to aim for one demographic, but they end up attracting "too many" of another demographic. Instead of aiming the merchandise at the other gender, they cancel the entire franchise.

In general, this is the reason why many modern kids' anime series, especially Magical Girl and Idol Genre series (like the Pretty Series, Aikatsu!, Inazuma Eleven, etc.) won't make it outside of Asia (or Asia & Europe in some cases). The anime series and merchandising line go hand-in-hand, making it way too expensive and risky for most anime licensors like Crunchyroll and Funimation. It's easier for licensors to focus on series, often older-aimed series, that aren't heavily tied to merchandise.

Despite what the first paragraph stated, it doesn't mean the entire merchandise line was unpopular with the public. Indeed, there have been cases that certain toys were flying off the shelves, while the rest of the line was left unsold. There could be irony abound if the producers made too many toy on what they thought would be popular, but only barely the minimum for toys that would actually be in high demand. Basically had the producers had better foresight on what elements of the cartoon would be popular in toy form, they could have hit their sales targets.


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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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 anime's 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).
    • The same thing happened with Magical Princess Minky Momo 12 years earlier. While the show had great ratings, not many people were buying the merchandise, which lead to the infamous scene where, Momo gets hit by a truck carrying toys (which famously didn't stick since she was reborn as a human child). Though this was subverted by the fact that despite this, the show ran for 18 more episodes and eventually spawned an OVA in 1991, a sequel series (on another network) in 1991 note  and a movie which ended the franchise in 1994.
  • 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) was cancelled and 4Kids Entertainment took the show off air, broadcasting the rest of the series via streaming from their website.
  • The 4Kids dub of Tokyo Mew Mew, titled Mew Mew Power, was cancelled and the second half remained undubbed despite good ratings because they were not able to get a merchandise deal for the show.
  • The Tamagotchi anime franchise got cancelled due to the poor sales and reception note  of the Tamagotchi 4U, the device made to tie in with GO-GO Tamagotchi!.

    Film — 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.

    Film — Live Action 

    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 (such as Blind Bag Collectables). 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. As of 2019, both lines are discontinued.

    Western Animation 
  • The reason why Young Justice was initially canceled after two seasons was because it wasn’t moving enough merchandise. This mainly came from the large Periphery Demographic of the audience. As a serialized, action show with some heavy DC mythology, it wasn't watched by kids. It was watched by teens and adult comic fans. The merchandise didn't consist of things older people buy like phone cases or t-shirts, it was action figures/ toys aimed at 8-12-year-old boys (the audience was also more female skewing than anticipated). Quite simply kids weren't watching the show to know to buy the toys and the people who watched the show didn't buy toys.
  • 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. It was later replaced with another cartoon.
  • 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.
  • Despite great ratings, the 1994-1995 Mega Man cartoon was cancelled after two seasons partially because Bandai cut several toy lines due to poor sales and were putting merchandising pressure on Capcom.
  • 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 (and increasingly poor ratings).
  • According to Word of God, this was one of the factors that lead to the cancellation of Courage the Cowardly Dog. It was thought that boys would be discouraged from wanting toys of a pink dog.
  • 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 a toy line that suffered from competition from The Transformers and the show had poor reviews at the time. 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 armor to sell matching toys, while the most popular Avengers were omitted for legal reasons. 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.
  • Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors was created to be merchandise-driven from the start, and never finished due to poor toy sales.
  • The Animated Adaptation of Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars got done in by a shipping and distribution error during the Christmas season, where not enough of the popular Bucky figures were made available. Combined with the Invisible Advertising of the series, a second season was never greenlighted.
  • One of the reasons Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat was cancelled was probably this as the merchandise was near-impossible to find outside of the home media releases (the plushies sold in the States were made by the obscure Panache Place leading to limited distribution). And to boot, some of the merchandise was pretty odd and not exactly kid-aimed (a tea set made by Reutter Porcelain and party supplies to name two).
  • According to Mitch Watson, Beware the Batman would have lasted at least another season if it had gotten a proper toyline. Mattel contacted him and Glen Murakami about meeting up and exchanging ideas for toys. However, Mattel quickly changed its mind and wanted to focus on its own Batman line. With no funding, the show was not renewed. Only a collector's figure, a Happy Meal promotion, and a Deathstroke bust (which came out five years after the show's ending) are the closest to toys it has gotten.


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