The 5 Most Baffling Marketing Crossovers Ever Attempted

When I was a kid, I didn't bat an eye when future trivia questions MC Hammer and Macaulay Culkin appeared in their own Saturday morning cartoons, or when blood-soaked sci-fi terror-violence fests like Total Recall and Darkman got turned into side-scrolling Mario-style Nintendo games. Cross-marketing is such a part of children's lives (because childhood is essentially one long commercial) that I don't think we're capable of realizing how insane it is until we reach adulthood, at which point we buy the same ridiculous crap all over again in the form of ironic T-shirts. Here are five of the most baffling attempts to branch successful properties out into other forms of media that they were never intended for.

#5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells Rock CD and Accompanying Live Stage Show

Mirage Studios

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, out to gallantly disprove the early '90s notion that they could do no wrong, hit the stage dressed like entertainers at Ziggy Stardust's birthday party to delight children in 40 cities across the country by eerily flapping their puppet mouths along to prerecorded music, just like New Kids on the Block. Both groups even have a member named Donnie.

Mirage Studios/Viacom via YouTube
That analogy was so perfect, it just high-fived itself with a rhinestone fingerless glove.

For Coming Out of Their Shells, the Turtles became glam rock Springsteen impersonators wearing studded leather bondage straps and rictus grins to engage in a tense music battle with the Shredder, because the production meeting that resulted in this show apparently involved taking all of the acid in the universe and throwing Ninja Turtle action figures at a Bon Jovi poster like darts.

Mirage Studios/Viacom
It was a game we all lost.

For those of us who weren't lucky enough to witness this nightmare live, they made a VHS of the show to preserve the dazzling experience for all time. Seeing the four turtles perform onstage is like watching a dead barbershop quartet lip-sync their way through an audition on The Voice with shock-induced muscle spasms. The Shredder insists he hates music, yet delivers a choreographed rap song that he clearly spent several hours putting together, which isn't something a proud non-student of musical theory would do. He also heckles the crowd like an insult comic while wearing a helmet with the face cut out of it for no conceivable reason.

Mirage Studios/Viacom via YouTube
"Eh, who gives a shit, am I right?"

Coming Out of Their Shells takes a firm hold of the idea that children love sing-alongs, bright colors, and the stupidest bullshit on the face of the planet and carries it screaming off into the hills without bothering to stop and think about why kids liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the first place. The Turtles are goofy comic superheroes who beat the hell out of robot ninjas. The closest thing they come to doing anything musical is passing out jaw fractures to a pair of learning disabled 1980s street punks named Bebop and Rocksteady. Why would kids suddenly be more interested if the Turtles dropped all of their stabbing and bludgeoning instruments of karate justice and picked up pastel-colored instruments of future VH1 career retrospection? Also, it's not possible to play a guitar, a saxophone, or a keyboard with only three fingers. It just isn't.

Mirage Studios/Viacom via YouTube
In fairness, that is but one of the many factual errors occurring in this picture.

#4. The Simpsons Sing the Blues -- The Simpsons Sing a Bunch of Blues Songs and Make Two Rap Videos Starring Bart Simpson

Twentieth Century Fox/Gracie Films/Geffen Records via YouTube

The Simpsons Sing the Blues (an album old enough to have been released on tape, vinyl, and CD simultaneously) came out in 1990, when Fox was in the midst of a crusade to put the Simpsons' jaundiced faces on absolutely everything they could with the unflinching determination of Erin Brockovich. Much like with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, music was not in any way a regular feature of The Simpsons, nor could it be assumed that the relatively youthful demographic the show was appealing to would be interested in hearing a bunch of gratingly overcharacterized cartoon voices do karaoke versions of old blues songs. Evidently they thought the Venn diagram of Simpsons viewers and 1940s blues musicians was just one big circle.

Twentieth Century Fox/Gracie Films/Geffen Records
One big circle made of dollar signs.

It was also back when The Simpsons was focused almost entirely on Bart, and despite the fact that the album title specifically indicates the singing of blues songs, the only two music videos released to promote the album were of Bart Simpson rapping about dancing and getting in trouble. Admittedly, these are two things that anyone can relate to, but Bart doesn't do anything that can be referred to as singing, and "Do the Bartman" is unlikely to ever be considered a classic blues standard. Considering the two Bart songs were the driving force behind The Simpsons Sing the Blues going multiplatinum, I'm baffled as to why they didn't just make the whole thing a rap album. The record came out in 1990, so that conversation almost certainly took place. It's not like the end of the Reagan era was the scene of a major blues revival. It's as if the producers made their decision based entirely on a psychic hotline consultation, and even then I'm pretty sure they misheard the psychic.

Twentieth Century Fox/Gracie Films/Geffen Records via YouTube
For example, describing this shot over the phone would probably result in at least one visit from the FBI.

Also, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were featured performers on the second Bart Simpson rap video. Let that soak in for a moment -- Will Smith contributed barely noticeable background vocals in a song for The Simpsons. The world was a different place in 1990.

#3. Mortal Kombat: The Live Tour Turns Mortal Kombat into a Pro Wrestling Aerobics Class

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/David Fishof Presents via YouTube

Sometime in 1995, after three years of doggedly insisting that Mortal Kombat was not intended for children, the game's producers decided to develop its razor-thin plotline into a touring stage production to coincide with the release of a goofball fantasy action movie, a cartoon series, and a line of G.I. Joe action figures, three things that are almost exclusively intended for children.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/David Fishof Presents via YouTube
Clearly this is meant for a mature audience sipping cocktails in their evening wear.

Mortal Kombat: The Live Tour involved a theatrical laser light show documenting the titanic struggle of a bunch of fitness instructors doing karate poses to mid-'90s techno music in order to save the world from an evil piece of jewelry. Children in the audience were encouraged to shout commands at characters onstage that in some cases bore as much resemblance to their video game counterparts as a hastily constructed police sketch compiled from highly questionable testimony.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/David Fishof Presents via YouTube
Pictured: the same character, apparently.

The most amazing moments of the tour undoubtedly occurred when the cast members appeared, in character, on local news broadcasts to promote it. In this genre-defining piece of unintentional comedy, Shang Tsung lays down some moon man babble phonics about how the show isn't about violence (which is utterly what Mortal Kombat is about), but is actually about teaching positive lessons to children, a lesson he and his noble compatriots somehow convey by beating each other up in Halloween costumes. Shang Tsung delivers this speech while glaring fixedly at the news anchor as if he is trying to undo the man's Windsor knot with his mind fingers.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/David Fishof Presents via YouTube
"I dare you to say this show is about violence. I fucking dare you."

What makes this even more hilarious is that they've clearly elected Shang Tsung to speak for them, presumably because he is the most articulate member of the group. This can only mean that every other member of the Mortal Kombat squad must've bitten their tongues off in a motorcycle accident on the way to a remedial reading class. They just stand rigid and motionless in the background like they're waiting to hear their names called out in a draft lottery. The whole thing is a Smurf and a Disney princess away from the Ice Capades, and it is being held in celebration of a game about joyously murdering your opponent in the most creatively humiliating way possible.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/David Fishof Presents via YouTube
To be fair, these guys seem to have mastered creative humiliation.

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Tom Reimann

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