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Official Article

Last Action Hero Movie Merchandise


In 1991, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the ultimate action star, riding high off the mega-blockbuster that was Terminator 2: Judgement Day and the massive media blitz of toys, video games and Slurpee Cups that accompanied it. Perhaps it was this ego boost that led the former Mr. Olympia and California's future Governor to participate in the self-referential meta movie event known as Last Action Hero.


In case you missed it in 1993, Last Action Hero followed the adventures of a boy named Danny Madigan who is magically transported into the cinematic world of his action hero idol, Jack Slater, the main character of a fictional movie franchise starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is a character in the film played by the actual actor). Much fun is poked at goofy action movie tropes that Arnold and screenwriter Shane Black made famous in the 80's until the fictional hero and villain are transported to the real world for a final showdown.


This year marks the 25th anniversary of Last Action Hero and I want to do my part to celebrate this hilariously meta movie I have enjoyed since seeing it in theaters opening weekend. So come with me as I take a look back at my favorite pieces of merchandise produced for what at the time was a box office failure due to being released within one week of the legendary blockbuster Jurassic Park.

Video Games


Last Action Hero was released on not 1, not 2, but 3 Nintendo platforms simultaneously, in addition to 2 by SEGA and even the Commodore Amiga, which is insane. So how is the gameplay you ask? Well, thanks to a request by Arnold Schwarzenegger to remove any guns from the game, pretty tame. That's right, the man famous for blowing people away in Commando, Predator and The Terminator did not want the 8 or 16 bit versions of himself to be seen by kids as a trigger happy lunatic and so the game consists of punching bad guys and not much else. This was as Jack Slater is fond of saying a, "Big Mistake".

Action Figures by Mattel


These are the items I remember most from the the time of the film's release. I think Mattel was hoping to have the same success as the T2: Judgement Day line by Kenner, but where that property had awesome killer robots, LAH had regular people in everyday clothes. Aside from the kid, Danny, there were 4 different Jack Slater figures, as well as an oversized version that spoke electronic phrases. 


I have to admit that the Jack Slater as Hamlet figure it pretty awesome in that "Poor Yorick's" skull launches like a missile out of the hero's hand, but I think the overall satirical vibe of the movie is what prevented kids from taking the action figure playtime seriously. As melodramatic as it may have been, the battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra was played straight on that show. Kids don't get parody humor, so I think there was less to appreciate here.


The coolest villain was The Ripper with his giant axe, but even he looked pretty generic in his plastic form, not even coming packaged with his iconic yellow raincoat. Mattel did produce vehicles for the line like the big bad, Benedict's Evil Eye Roadster (whose weapons did not appear in the film) and Slater's convertible, which was just a classic car model with some plastic accessories that fit in the trunk. 

Pinball Machine


Pretty much every pinball machine based on an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is rad and Last Action Hero was no exception. The game was not only loaded with graphics of the movie's characters, but had actual game features pulled from the story. You could shoot targets that resembled Benedict's wild glass eyes and even have your ball travel on a construction crane, just like Slater did before he fell into the La Brea tar pits after escaping Leo The Fart's funeral. It probably didn't fill up with quarters back in the day, but it sure deserved them.

Board Game(s)?


Some of the more random items of merchandise included a "3-D board game" that actually looks pretty cool with that little pop-up movie theater in the middle and magical movie ticket stubs. The back of the board game box also references a card game being produced by Mattel which I can't find any trace of online (though I'm sure NLogan can).

Books


Last Action Hero had many printed works as well. There was a generic "Activity Book" with puzzles and mazes, which can currently be had on Amazon for less than a dollar. Additionally there was a behind the scenes "Official Moviebook" that I really want to read now for the inside scoop on production as the studio wanted to present it. I have recently ordered the movie novelization as well, which will hopefully contain some fascinating deleted scenes. Wackiest of all was the audio storybook narrated by Austin O'Brien who played Danny in the film. That's like Chunk narrating The Goonies storybook in the 80's, which you can listen to here.

Rocket Ship/Balloon


OK, this is not merchandise available at retail but how can I omit the fact that Last Action Hero went to outer space. You see as a promotion for the film, the studio actually paid to have the movie logo painted on the side of NASA rocket being launched into space. Columbia Pictures Chairman Mark Canton said "Last Action Hero" is about "stepping into different worlds," and as such is a "perfect" theme for a rocket launch. Uhh..if you say so, Mark.


They also went so far as to commission a giant Jack Slater balloon that was floated around New York City to promote the film. Since the original World Trade Center bombings took place just as they were about to launch the promotion, the marketing team decided to replace the bundle of dynamite in his hand with a police badge. Maybe if the film had been a hit we would still be seeing this giant inflatable Schwarzenegger floating along each year in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Trading Cards


Now here's something that's hard to get wrong, trading cards. I was actually thrilled to pick up several packs of these at an antique store last year. They feature the the 8 cards and a sticker gimmick with the promise of randomly inserted holofoil cards (which I didn't end up with). You can also assemble the movie poster by combining the sticker card backs, which is a fun Topps feature that goes back to the Garbage Pail Kids days. The packaging itself actually contains a mystery I've been trying to solve for a year (yes, this article has been in development that long). 


You'll notice here that the packaging back is promoting a Last Action Hero comic book series by Topps Comics with 3 special trading cards inserted per issue. There's just one problem, the book was never published. I can't find any evidence of it anywhere after searching online for months. I even contacted the former editor-in-chief of Topps Comics who isn't even in the comics industry anymore, but got no response. I WANT THIS BOOK, but it looks like after the movie tanked, they decided not to move forward with it. Oh well, if I want the continuing adventures of Danny Madigan, I'll have to imagine an expanded universe tale for my SequelQuest podcast.


So there you have it, 25 year old evidence of a marketing push for a movie experience that maybe just wasn't translatable to games and toys. That being said, the movie is still tons of fun and if you've never seen it, I recommend you seek it out for all the fun that an animated cat detective and Bridgette Wilson in daisy duke's can deliver. Plus there is an amazing scene in a video rental store you won't want to miss.


So tell me, do you have memories of Last Action Hero or it's tie-in merchandise? Are you as big of a Jack Slater fan as little Danny Madigan? Do you have a copy of that elusive comic book? Let me know in the comments below.

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Aug 13, 2018 at 03:52 AM

@vkimo Yeah, it's hard to grasp all the tropes being satirized as a kid, it just seems like a fun fantasy adventure.

UPDATE #2: I finally got my interview completed with the gentleman who worked for Topps in the 90s and worked on the never released LAH comic book insert trading cards. It's a doozy, so stay tuned.

vkimo Posted on Aug 13, 2018 at 12:07 AM

I watched this with my brother a few years ago. This movie is definitely better appreciated as an adult.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Jul 22, 2018 at 09:34 PM

@jkatz I know, right? So bizarre.

@NLogan Thanks, buddy. I knew I could count on you.

jkatz Posted on Jul 22, 2018 at 07:04 PM

The "Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hamlet" action figure is something I never knew existed...but I kinda want one now!

NLogan Posted on Jul 22, 2018 at 07:02 PM

I must admit I was in the Jurassic Park theater seats multiple times in 1993. I did see Last Action Hero but as much as a Arnold Schwarzenegger fan that I am, I can barely remember it. I don't remember seeing any merchandise at all. The trading card game is lost to the flop of the film in the box office. A trademark was filed on Dec 14 1992 and abandoned and dead by Feb 25 1994. There was also a filing for toys Apr 19 1993"toys; namely, action figures, polyvinylchloride ("PVC") figures, toy vehicles including remote and radio controlled vehicles, playsets scaled to action figure size, dolls, including talking and fashion dolls, plush toys, board and card games, non-board games, inflatables, ride-ons, excluding bicycles, video game machines and hand-held electronic games, toy weapons, dress-up play items and play sets, activity toys and bath toys, excluding bath products, coin-operated game machines and video game software for computer game-playing cartridge systems, CD-ROM platforms and PC platforms, including floppy and CD-ROM formats and hand-held electronic games" while some of that happened the majority never materialized.

The unpublished comic book covers are available online by Jerome K. Moore. I am interested to see what you found out and am anticipating the sequel article follow up.



Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 22, 2018 at 04:21 AM

Whoa! Very cool. Can't wait to read the story behind that.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Jul 21, 2018 at 07:06 PM

UPDATE: After submitting this article I miraculously solved the mystery of the Last Action Hero comic book and special trading cards. The story is a doozy and my next article will be a behind the scenes interview with the man who worked for Topps on the project. So excited to share it with you!

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