Oh, Superman: The 10 worst toys of 2016

Slimeballs, elephant pillows and Doomhammers are just a few of the dangers lurking in gift boxes this holiday season.

Depending on your perspective, dangerous toys are something to avoid — or something to collect.

Each year, consumer watchdog group World Against Toys Causing Harm issues its nominees for the worst toys released over the last 12 months, spotlighting plushies, playsets, action figures and more accompanied by inconsistent and inadequate child safety warnings, cautions and age recommendations. “Since January 2015, there have been at least 19 toys with recognized safety defects recalled in the United States,” WATCH said in a statement last month. “These recalls involved over 800,000 units of toys — 500,000 this year alone — and prove the inadequacy of existing standards.”

But for filmmaker John Waters, the annual WATCH list isn’t a warning: It’s a siren call. Waters (the auteur behind trash classics like “Pink Flamingos,” “Polyester” and “Hairspray”) waits with bated breath for each WATCH list to hit newswires, so that he can scoop up all the toys before they’re removed from shelves.

“Over the years, my collection has grown,” Waters writes in his book “Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters.” “There’s ‘My Puppy Puddles’ (‘You can make him drink water, wet in his tray and kiss you’). ‘Baby Cry and Dry,’ about whom the watchdog group warned ‘Take her out of the box and she smells, the odor won’t go away,’ and ‘Baby Cry for You’ (‘The tears don’t just drop out, they whoosh out in a three-foot stream’). Of course, I still covet the winner of the first annual prize (before my collection began) — a guillotine for dolls. ‘Take that, Barbie.’ ‘Off with your head, Betsy Wetsy!’”

This holiday season brings 10 more toys that WATCH urges consumers to eschew. Or in other words … here’s John Waters’ Christmas wish list.

Flying Heroes Superman Launcher

Manufacturer or Distributor: The Bridge Direct

Available from: Toys 'R' Us, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, eBay

Hazard: Potential for eye and facial injuries


Superman is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive — which presents huge problems when he’s hurtling directly toward your eyeball.

“This flying, winged superhero figurine is sold with a launcher for children as young as four years old, who are encouraged to ‘[g]rip it!’ and ‘[r]ip it!’” WATCH warns. “The instructions caution that the Superman character should only be launched ‘at arm’s length and pointing up and away from your face.’”

What WATCH doesn’t tell you is that losing an eye to the Superman launcher is still less traumatic than losing three hours of your life watching the extended director’s cut of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” (Jason Ankeny)

Slimeball Slinger

Manufacturer or Distributor:  Diggin Active, Inc.

Available from: Toys 'R' Us, Amazon

Hazard: Potential for eye injuries


There’s a reason Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards aren’t hosted in your living room — who knows what chemicals it takes to get those green slime stains out?

But that’s not WATCH’s concern here. The Slimeball Slinger is unfortunately nowhere near as messy as Nickelodeon’s infamous slime attacks: In fact, much to my disappointment, there is no actual “slime” involved whatsoever, just soft, squishy and sticky "slimeballs." But WATCH warns customers that those green slimeballs can be hurled over 30 feet from a slingshot-like launcher. Even if your kid doesn't possess the strength of the Hulk (another green menace), there's still serious concern for eye injuries. (Corinne Ruff)

Baby Magic Play and Feed Baby

Manufacturer or Distributor: New Adventures LLC

Available from: Toys 'R' Us, Amazon, Sears

Hazard: Potential for ingestion injuries


The Baby Magic doll — which, by the way, looks absolutely nothing like the newborn Earvin Johnson — plays “peekaboo.” It comes with a baby bottle, high chair, blanket, food dish and an “interactive spoon”… and the latter is where the problem lies, according to WATCH. “The slender, rigid plastic spoon is approximately 2 ¾” long, with the potential to be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway,” the group cautions.

Talk about missed opportunities: Such a spoon would have been unbelievably popular at Studio 54 back in the day. (JA)

Kids Time Baby Children’s Elephant Pillow

Manufacturer or Distributor: Kids Time US; Appease Toys

Available from: Amazon

Hazard: Potential for suffocation


Let’s just come out and address the dangerously cute elephant in the room — despite every baby shower you’ve ever been to, babies aren’t supposed to play with pillows, especially not alone.

While it might not have spiky edges or small pieces that can be choked on, Kids Time Baby Children’s Elephant Pillow is in fact so cuddly that unsupervised infants could suffocate on its pillowy limbs. “Infant pillow[s] … intended or promoted for use by children under one year of age" have been banned by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, WATCH points out.

Next baby shower, you might be better off buying something the little one something a little safer. Maybe a book? (CR)

Peppy Pups

Manufacturer or Distributor: TPF Toys, Ltd.

Available from: Toys 'R' Us, Amazon

Hazard: Potential for strangulation injuries


With a fluffy white tail and a snuggly coat, Peppy Pup will be easy to love and cuddle, just like a real puppy,” proclaims Peppy Pups’ Amazon product description. But don’t let those Margaret Keane eyes, floppy brown ears and fire-engine red tongue fool you: Peppy Pup is trouble. Unlike a real puppy, it comes equipped with a pull cord measuring approximately 31 inches, far exceeding industry safety standards limiting strings on playpen and crib toys to less than 12 inches. Bad dog! (JA)

Banzai Bump N’ Bounce Body Bumpers

Manufacturer or Distributor: ToyQuest

Available from: Wal-Mart, Amazon, eBay, Sears

Hazard: Potential for impact injuries


Think of the “game of bumping and bopping” as bumper cars without the cars. These Bump N’ Bounce Body Bumpers, essentially small inflatable suits, allow children to clobber each other with minimal damage.

But not so fast, WATCH says. This product really should recommend kids wear kneepads and even a helmet. “This product does not provide protection. Impact hazard may present; protective equipment (for head, elbows, knees, hands, etc.) should be worn (not included),” WATCH explains.

Perhaps ToyQuest should consider a redesign resembling Jake Gyllenhaal's enclosed and sterilized bubble boy dome. (CR)

Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700 Blaster

Manufacturer or Distributor: Hasbro

Available from: Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, Kmart

Hazard: Potential for eye injuries


Give a kid a toy gun and you're just asking to get hit. At least one Amazon user named "One Star" can attest to that: “Dangerous toy. I returned it,” the user writes in his (you guessed it) one star product review.

The Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700 Blaster allows users to "unleash high-impact rounds at a velocity of up to 100 fps" and WATCH says that is not safe: “The manufacturer of this ‘blaster’ with an ‘easy-load magazine’ encourages ‘precision battling’ during ‘intense head-to-head competition.’”

The biggest problem? The product doesn't include the face protection depicted in some of its marketing. And if there’s one relevant lesson to take away from a boy who wished for a toy gun for Christmas, it’s that eye protection is imperative. Because needless to say, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” (CR)


The Good Dinosaur Galloping Butch

Manufacturer or Distributor: Tomy

Available from: Toys 'R' Us, Amazon, Wal-Mart

Hazard: Potential for puncture wound injuries


“The Good Dinosaur” will go down in animation history as Pixar’s first box office bomb, but the damage it did to the studio’s sterling reputation is nothing compared to the damage the Galloping Butch toy can do to your kid. 

“This ‘rugged Tyrannosaurus Rex’ is a popular children’s movie character marketed as a ‘Rustler’s worst nightmare.’ Operation of the dinosaur by children as young as three-years-old in order to evoke ‘galloping action and sounds’ requires the push of a button on the toy’s rigid, pointed tail, which may be held close to a child’s torso or face,” WATCH explains. “There exists a potential for significant puncture wound injuries during encouraged playtime activity.”

And keep in mind, this is a good dinosaur … You don’t even want to know what kind of havoc the bad dinosaur toys are capable of wreaking. (JA)

Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddles Family

Manufacturer or Distributor: Jazwares, LLC

Available from: Target, Amazon.com

Hazard: Potential for choking injuries


Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddles Family is a troupe of plastic pigs that can be dressed up to roll around in the mud. And what kid doesn’t love playing in the mud? Well, WATCH says toddlers ages 2 and younger may be more likely to shove the small pieces up their nose or down their throat than in the soil.

“Incredibly, despite the ‘choking hazard’ warning and ‘3+’ age recommendation on the packaging of some toys, other packages of what appear to be the same toys are sold for oral-age children as young as ‘2+’ with no warnings about toy-related hazards," WATCH explains. For the record, Walmart.com includes a choking hazard warning for children 3 and under. (CR)

Warcraft Doomhammer

Manufacturer or Distributor: Jakks Pacific

Available from: Toys 'R' Us, Amazon

Hazard: Potential for blunt impact injuries


Kids can “[f]eel the power of the horde!” with the “legendary Doomhammer,” inspired by a weapon featured in this summer’s film adaptation of the “Warcraft” videogame series. “The manufacturer offers no warnings regarding potential impact injuries associated with foreseeable use of the heavy, rigid plastic battle hammer,” WATCH intones.

And we all know what happens when you give a hammer to a toddler in thrall to pop culture violence:

Don’t let it happen to your family this holiday season. (JA)

This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.

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Filed Under: Marketing Holidays
Top image credit: Getty Images