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June 27, 2022

Oort Cloud Oddities: Movie Merchandise

By Alexandra Queen

Sometimes I get to thinking that someone is a little out of touch. It's either me, or the people who develop merchandise to go along with popular movies and television shows.

It started over breakfast. (It always starts over breakfast.) My husband, John, and I were drinking coffee and watching our two-year-old running non-stop laps around the island in the kitchen. She was wearing a shirt bespotted in the manner of a Dalmatian, a gift from some friends. The shirt was merchandise from a certain Disney movie that Lillian has been watching incessantly in recent weeks. She loves it. I, on the other hand, am not so sure.

"What were they thinking?" I said, watching her run her fiftieth lap around the kitchen.

"What?" John usually likes a few cups of coffee under his belt before he tries to make sense of our conversations.

"The people at Disney who licensed that shirt."

John stared at the shirt as it made lap number fifty-nine around the kitchen. "They were probably thinking that it would make them a lot of money. Why?"

"Have you ever seen the movie?"

"I think."

"Remember what the plot was?"

"Isn't that the one where the girl has no short term memory, so she doesn't remember her dog from one day to the next?"

I stared at him for a second. "You're thinking of 50 First Dates. Drink some more coffee."

"Okay, so what's your point?"

"My point is, the whole plot of 101 Dalmatians was that Cruella de Ville stole the puppies."

"So?"

"To make them into clothing."

"And?"

I pointed at the shirt making its ninety-ninth lap around the kitchen. "So doesn't clothing with Dalmatian puppy spots on it strike you as being a little gruesome? Like something you'd wear if the puppies weren't saved?"

John shook his head and went back to his coffee, muttering something under his breath that sounded like, "liberal".

Faux Dalmatian-hide clothing isn't the only instance where I wondered if the marketing squads actually took note of a movie's plot. When the Lord of the Rings came out, I was standing in line to check out at a bookstore when I noticed a counter display selling merchandise from the film. It was a rack consisting entirely of gold rings. Never mind that the entire point of the trilogy was the destruction of the One Ring and the resulting wake of destruction and ruined lives surrounding the attempt. Someone somewhere said, "There's a 'ring' in the title. We should sell rings."

I had a vivid image of Frodo the hobbit, exhausted but weakly triumphant, staggering down from the molten remains of Mordor, stopping in the bookstore (perhaps to use the restroom or take advantage of the coffee shop) and coming across that counter display. Like the puppy shirt, there's just a faint sense of cruelty about it.

"Well, I just don't get merchandise these days," I sighed to John as our daughter reversed directions and started running laps the other way.

"I really don't think the shirt is a big deal, love," he said, kindness in our household being directly proportional to the amount of coffee consumed.

"Well, the shirt isn't, but I really have to wonder what they were thinking with the Wiggles tarot deck."

"The what?"

The Wiggles, for those of you without small children, are a group of four men from Australia. They sing, they dance, they are modern day Pied Pipers. "The Wiggles tarot deck. You know, the deck of cards with the images of Greg, Anthony, Jeff and Murray replacing the Hierophant, the Knave, the Fool and the other symbols of the tarot deck. I just don't think that's appropriate for preschoolers."

John blinked a bit and took another long pull of coffee. "Sweetheart. Those cards are a memory game. You flip them over two at a time to find pairs. It develops spatial memory and attention focus."

It was my turn to be surprised. "What?"

"Honey, you just find the matching cards. That's all."

"Oh." I looked at Lillian, pushing sixty laps counterclockwise and just now starting to break a sweat. "So Captain Feathersword isn't the Death card?"

"No, dear," John replied faintly.

"Oh. Lillian will be relieved to hear that. We were under the impression one of her stuffed bears was a goner."

Cradling his coffee cup, John looked from me to Lillian and then back to me again. "I think it's time we switched to unsweetened breakfast cereal."

He might have a point.

Comments and merchandising ideas to alexandraqueen1@hotmail.com.

This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-09-11
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