How Happy Meals Killed Tim Burton's Batman

McDonalds Batman

McDonald's had screwed up, because they were marketing the wrong movie to their family demographic and that was going to reflect badly on them. Later, Tim Burton would openly talk about how the relationship soured.

"I think I upset McDonald's. [They asked] ‘What’s that black stuff coming out of the Penguin’s mouth. We can’t sell Happy Meals with that!’"

Given how disjointed the image portrayed by the McDonald's marketing and the actual movie was, it's no surprise that there was an angry backlash from parents, with one writing:

Violence-loving adults may enjoy this film. But why on Earth is McDonald’s pushing this exploitative movie through the sales of its so-called ‘Happy Meals?’ Has McDonald’s no conscience?

Even further, Christian-based organization Dove Foundation demanded to know why McDonald's was continuing to market violence. The fast food giants may have been upset, but they continued the relationship for the entire length of the contract. They'd spent all that money, why wouldn't they?

To try and appease some of the angry, Warner Bros claimed they were tying into Batman: The Animated Series more overtly and claimed they were consciously "careful not to provide actual toys from the movie.” There was definitely an attempt to lean on the upcoming animation in Batman Returns marketing. Romanelli told the LA Times that

But there are differences this time, Warners licensing guy Dan Romanelli said that the Fox network show was essentially designed to keep the characters in front of a young audience so that "retailers will be able to feel comfortable that they will get support." In other words, Warner Bros knew that Batman Returns wasn't right for toys or their marketing partners, so they used an entirely different Batman product to parlay any detrimental effect.

McDonald's were too far gone though.

That does explain why the toys bear little resemblance to anything in the film (though the Batmobile is obviously identical), but it doesn't account for the heavy use of clips or McDonald's conscious decision to tie the restaurant experience to the movie. That was their mistake and they weren't the only family friendly partners who saw a lack of opportunity in Batman Returns characters. It's just that others may have been a little smarter than tying so closely.

The marketing worry was such a problem that key toy partners Kenner simply released figures in 1992 under the Dark Knight Collection that were nothing like anything that appeared in Batman Returns.

Kenner Batman 1992

Mysteriously, these figures then became the early additions to the Batman Returns toy line, despite looking absolutely nothing like the characters in the movie. In the absence of marketable toy opportunities from Burton's own lines, Kenner simply added their own existing line to the Batman Returns label.

Batman Returns Toys

They even included Robin, who had been included in early drafts of the movie and a raft of vehicles drawn from another source other than Batman Returns. Looking at the toys now, you get a picture of them tying into a movie that simply didn't exist...

Batman Returns Vehicle Toys

When you're having to allow marketing partners to market your film by NOT marketing your film, there's a problem.



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