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DID YOU READ

The Weirdest Jaws Merchandise Ever Made

jaws-merchandise

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By Luke McKinney

Jaws starred a great white shark but promoted a far more terrifying hunger. As one of the first major motion picture merchandising pushes, it unleashed a corporate monster which could consume the entire planet and then try to sell it branded toilet paper.

The poor shark was only obeying its instincts — the merchandising industry sees the entire human race as a menu. Which is how we ended up with Scarlett Johansson wearing a catsuit on Slurpee cups. Now its appetite is undead. The 40th anniversary of Jaws has launched more doomed attempts at shark-based profit than Amity Island tourism. Which is why we’re looking over the history of hilariously bad Jaws cash-ins.

1. Shark Jaws Video Game

Horror Games

Horror Games

Atari’s unlicensed Jaws knock-off video game came out around the time of the movie and wrote the word “Shark” so small on the arcade cabinet that scientists would later use it to prove the existence of the neutrino.  It was such a blatant ripoff that Atari founded “Horror Games,” a copyright lawsuit crumple-zone company which never made anything else and existed only to take the hit if Universal Studios ever sued. You couldn’t rip someone off more obviously without scalping them to get the DNA for your cloning tanks.

This game was a master class in how to play chicken with the entire concept of intellectual property theft while using a much scarier animal. Most movie adaptations change the plot to make the player more powerful. This game didn’t do any of that. It clearly understood the ecosystem of the Jaws universe: you’re a scuba diver hunting small fish, and you have to avoid the shark because it will absolutely kill you. In this reality’s food chain, humanity was right in the middle like the filling in the shark’s sandwich.

Horror games

Horror games

In what would now be a masterful inversion of video game expectations, but at the time was just stupid, there was no way to actually defeat the shark. It was bigger than you. It could kill you. Keep away from that thing that can kill you. It was like the makers had never even played a video game before. Which, at the time, was actually true of most people cashing in on the industry. And would sadly remain true for most of the developers ever to make movie tie-in games.


2. Jaws Beach Towel

Universal/Amazon

Universal/Amazon

There’s never been clearer evidence that advertising executives are no longer human, but rather a sub-species of chameleon which infiltrated our society by copying us and now survive by copying everything else. It’s true that Jaws featured a lot of beach imagery. But it was never really pushed as a positive thing. Pretty much the entire plot was about how much a day at the beach could suddenly suck, bite, then roll its eyes while it threshed you into pork-fetti.

This cloth is made entirely of natural warning signs. A giant white shark, not to mention that the towel looks like it’s been soaked in terror urine even when it’s brand new. Possibly to save you embarrassment when you do the same thing yourself.


3. Jaws Shot Glass

Spencer's Gift

Spencer’s Gift

It’s actually impressive to find a new way of negatively associating Jaws with liquids. It’s the Soviet Russia of suck: not only is it bad when you go into the water, but now it’s bad when fluids go into you! Because Jaws is so much about alcoholism that if they hadn’t exploded the shark, the subtext would’ve pickled it.

Quint is clearly a functional alcoholic, and Brody is to wine bottles as Jaws is to bikinis: violently consuming everything they contain. He drinks like the ocean was just a distraction from his lifelong battle to destroy fermented beverages all by himself.


4. Jaws Paddle Ball

Jaws Paddle Ball

Lost Entertainment

An idea isn’t automatically bad just because it’s ridiculous and exploitative. Even when the word “idea” is giving too much credit to an advertising executive who clearly applied Jaws’ face to every single thing in the universe. But their noble sacrifice gave us this bit of bouncing madness.

The fine folks at Lost Entertainment brought the most delightfully bloodthirsty toy we’ve ever seen to our attention. The shark-shaped paddle makes no mistake about its diet, its blood-rimmed mouth a more scarily insane combination of childish entertainment and murderous frenzy than the Joker’s lipstick. The only problem with this toy can’t be blamed on the designers, but on uncooperative laws of physics, which insisted that the bouncing ball be spherical instead of a rubberized swimmer continually drawn to the shark’s hungry maw.


5. Matchbox Jaws Bus

Matchbox/Amazon

Matchbox/Amazon

Most blatant cash-ins paste the official logo on unrelated products and call it a day. Matchbox made the effort to take even more piss. They pasted the movie onto entirely unrelated products. Unless there really was a meta-bus of extremely poorly advised tourists arriving to Amity Island in the background of the first movie.

If you’re making a vehicle for Jaws and you end up with a bus you’ve screwed up in ways even a shark couldn’t manage. You’ve screwed up past physics, because you’ve built a vehicle for entirely the wrong state of matter. Jaws = water based travel. This bus suggests that the shark is going to stalk a group of seniors on their way to Atlantic City.


6. Cool Story, Chief Brody T-Shirt

Universal/Amazon

Universal/Amazon

Many of Jaws‘ merchandising mistakes are old, but the Internet unleashed the worst combination of sharks and technology. I’d rather meet one with a laser beam on its frikkin’ head, because that would imply somebody made a genuine effort. And it would still be a less painfully dated reference.

“Cool Story, Chief Brody” proves that no one involved in this shirt even said the words out loud. Because if you must combine Jaws and one of the most obnoxious memes ever spawned, at least “Cool Story Brody” would fit the original rhythm. The dude- culture prosody (brosody?) isn’t smashed by the insertion of the word “chief” into a four syllable sentence.


7. Jaws Movie Jigsaw

Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley

This jigsaw puzzle’s decision to stick to the poster is pretty intelligent. Sure, the iconic simplicity of the shot becomes an endless iteration of boredom as you sieve through hundreds of pure white and blue tiles, but it’s still a better idea than looking at a movie still.

But it’s still six square feet of mostly identical jigsaw pieces. They’ve chosen the only assembly pattern in existence where blowing it up to poster size doesn’t help. Maybe if the great white was hunting Waldo, but here it’s less an entertaining puzzle than an attempt to sell Zen meditation in five hundred pieces. When a jigsaw box has to advertise “fully interlocking pieces,” that’s how they admit “We know you think we’re total idiots for doing this, but there’s at least one aspect of making a jigsaw we didn’t screw up.”


8. Jaws Plushy with Sound

Universal/Amazon

Universal/Amazon

A cuddly toy playing the most recognizable score in pop-cultural history. The only problem is that the toy is too small to contain an entire tuba. But it’s still brilliant. The instant a child works out this toy can eat My Little Ponies will be the first instant of infinitely regurgitated entertainment. And giving this to an unattended child is the best meta-movie use of cinematic themes in real life. When you hear the encroaching alternating notes, you know that something dangerous and hungry is approaching. And they’re holding a cool cuddly shark.


9. The Game of Jaws

Many kids of the ’70s probably remember this officially licensed game from Ideal Toys. And they also probably have the mental and physical scars to prove it.

Basically a variation on Operation where the toy literally bites you, the object of The Game of Jaws was to remove various items (a gun, an anchor, a glove that we can only assume contains a bloody hand) from the plastic shark’s mouth before its jaws snapped shut. And that’s about it. The formula was so effective, Ideal recycled it for several games including the incredibly creepy Sharky’s Dinner, the box art for which suggests that sharks have suddenly acquired the ability to breathe on land and enjoy a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant.

Board Game Geek

Board Game Geek

And in a bit of meta merchandising, Ideal also recycled the idea for a game based on the Jaws knock-off Alligator.


10. Inflatable Jaws

Jaws Collector

Jaws Collector

While this item is little more than a harmless inflatable Jaws pool toy, the box art suggests that the young maniac pictured is commanding his shark buddy to devour his little sister. Float this baby in the ocean and watch how fast the lifeguard clears the beach.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

ecoli-computer

IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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IFC_FOD_TV_long_haired_businessmen_table

Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

via GIPHY

The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

via GIPHY

They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

via GIPHY

Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

via GIPHY

Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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