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In Merchandise-Driven media it's typically pretty easy to set apart the characters whose toys are getting advertised. They're the ones that take the spotlight in any given story, save the day in the end, etc., or are otherwise just made to look cool by the narrative itself. They'll have more character development, more detail in their character model, more gadgets; everything about them screams toyetic in loud plastic-mould colors.

But not this character. This is the Ensemble Darkhorse of the toyline-driven media, that bursts into the scene like a Highly-Visible Ninja with a rocket launcher and a banner reading, "Buy all our playsets and toys" only, after rushing to the toystore mouth drooling and brow sweaty you find out, he doesn't have his own toy. Often they'll be The Ace, appearing for a brief storyline, showing up everyone else, and then never seen again—not in the story and never in the toy aisles.

Most of the time for a Merchandise-Driven franchise the toys are either (a) designed first and the show/comic makers make a story around the characters, or (b) the toy makers and show makers work together, so everyone else is likely to be a Flat Character, or even No Name Given. Often there are actual limits set to how much attention can be given to these characters; a non-toy character that's not just a Tagalong Kid being allowed to be prominent is next to unheard of.

It seems bizarre and even out-of-place—which is not to say unwelcome—when an original character does become important. They're not always recurring characters but they sometimes get more development and attention than characters that actually had toys, because there's usually Loads and Loads of Characters.

Why this happens varies, sometimes a writer that's been banging his shackles against the wall long enough manages to loosen them enough to get creative and inject a character into the story for the character's own sake. Sometimes a Monster of the Week winds up getting a little more attention than usual and starts looking Toyetic.

In a boys' show, generally the Tagalong Kid, the armies of Mooks, and in older series, the Token Girl will be need to be created for the show, and in a girls' show it's the same for the the villains in general.

This is not just any character who doesn't appear in his story's toyline. Also note that with many long-running franchises, sometimes toys will be made of these characters and marketed to collectors. The point isn't that no toy exists, but that when the media was made, the character wasn't being used to advertise one.

If a major female character from a Merchandise-Driven series ends up as a Toyless Toyline Character, it's probably because of The Smurfette Principle.

See also Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Trailer.

Examples are sorted by where the character appeared. Franchises spanning more than one media category, like Transformers and G.I. Joe have more than one entry.

Compare Canon Foreigner.

Examples of Toyless Toyline Character include:


Anime & Manga

  • Artemis (Moon got a basic-sized toy, but it did not include Artemis in any way), and Star Upper (who appeared in several different Japanese Beast Wars productions, including as a playable character in the GBC game) from Beast Wars II and Rage, Strada, D-NAVI, Kuma Kinkin, Grand Convoy, and Crow Convoy from Beast Wars Neo. BWII and Neo actually invert this, being principally made up of characters adapted from toys that had no representation in Beast Wars previously.
  • From Transformers Energon there was Padlock. Of course, he existed just long enough to get shot in the back by Shockwave, thus spurring Wing Saber to seek revenge. Debatably, there was also Wing Dagger, but he was quickly reformatted into Wing Saber, who did get a toy.
    • Though for once the human companion Kicker did get a toy (two completely different versions based on region), as did non-Transformer villain Alpha Q(uintesson).
  • In the beginning of Yes! Pretty Cure 5, Nozomi, Rin and Urara were predicted to be the biggest hits because they were the youngest characters; therefore, they were introduced first and got their toys first, and Karen and Komachi got their toys either late or not at all. However, Rin proved to be unpopular and Karen somewhat of an Ensemble Darkhorse, so they switched places. This is most prominent with the second season's merchandise; Rin and Komachi got their dolls late, they were never given trading figures, and their articulated figures can only be bought as a set from Toei's own shop.
  • This phenomenon has appeared in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and card game, as well; there are a ton of cards shown in the anime (and mangas, video games, etc) that were never made. While some of the more obvious ones (such as the infamous Seal of Orichalcos won't ever be made due to being Game Breaker cards, some of them are legitimate themes that would have been a blast to play, like the Armor cards from the DOMA arc that were sadly never developed.
    • Game breaker cards would also be useless for another reason, they would dominate against almost anything, but usually the hero beats the card through a technicality, a technique that someone in the real world could also use.
    • Another compelling reason not to make real-world version of some of those cards arises when they have card texts with conditions like "The soul of whoever loses this Duel is forfeit to the winner".
    • In recent years this has been subverted, with many of the cards from the "Duel Monsters" anime being made over a decade later. This privilege hasn't quite extended to cards only seen in the manga or video games.
  • Digimon Xros Wars posits a strange example: the series was always quite clearly Merchandise-Driven, with the main character's Combining Mecha forms clearly designed for the purposes of easily combining toys, and such toys accordingly ensued. Midway through the series came OmegaShoutmon and ZekeGreymon, two Digimon who combined into Shoutmon DX. All three Mons were obviously designed in such a way that hypothetical toys of the former two could be easily combined into a Shoutmon DX figure, yet no such toys of the characters ever materialised despite all three characters being very important.
    • Same goes for Mervamon and Gumdramon/Arresterdramon. To be fair, most Arresterdramon combinations were just quick and dirty part attachments from one Digimon to the next. 

Comic books

  • Several characters from the G.I. Joe comic, most notably Kwinn the Eskimo and Dr. Venom.
    • Kwinn the Eskimo eventually did gain a figure but it was many years after the character's debut and last scenes in the comic. Ditto for Dr. Venom. But we are still waiting on Billy and on Bongo the Balloon Bear.
  • The Transformers Generation 1 comics had a few more, such as Scrounge, Blaster's unfortunate little buddy from issue #17 and Jhiaxus, a major villain from the Transformers Generation 2 comics. Emirate Xaaron, from the UK comics and the latter parts of the US Marvel issues, wasn't based on a toy, but is pretty easy to make as he is mostly a gold and orange Megatron. That said, he'd make a lousy toy - he hasn't transformed in so long he theorizes the shock from merely attempting it could kill him!
  • The Madballs comics had several, including the Badballs and Madbelle. They weren't even in the revival series.

Film - Animated

  • The villains from the Barbie movies rarely have toys made of them.
  • It looked like movie-verse!Vidia was going to be this way, until a doll came out recently. Even book-verse!Vidia gets the merchandise shaft a lot, though she does have a doll (uber-rare), some art set thing and a one-coin figure.
    • Straight examples from Disney Fairies include The Season Ministers, Bobble, Clank, and the bird of prey.
      • Terrence also recently got a doll in the toyline, which was included in a playset.
  • Transformers: The Movie:
    • Arcee, the Affirmative Action Girl, who would stay for the rest of the cartoon's run and remained one of the primary main characters (in a show with Loads and Loads of Characters) despite not having an equivalent toy.[1]
      • And now we're getting a retail Arcee toy in the Generations line.
    • The Big Bad of the film, Unicron, a giant robot that transforms into a planet-eating planet, had his toy trapped in Development Hell. And perhaps luckily so, considering how little the prototype resembled the character. Despite this, he remained a recurring villain in the next season, and his head still orbited Cybertron as a Continuity Nod. We finally get a toy when Transformers Armada makes him the final enemy and states these versions are actually one and the same, via universal singularity (We almost got one in Beast Wars Neo).
    • While a Sharkticon was made, the poor Aligatorcons were left out, and haven't resurfaced since. Double Subverted with Kranix, the last survivor of Lithone, who was made over two decades later as a Palette Swap of Armada Dead End, thus looking nothing like his animated counterpart (he turns into a moon instead of a space ship, for instance).

Film/Live Action

  • Alice from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. She would probably have been too complex for a real toy.
    • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Mirage/Dino only has a die-cast (because Mattel holds the rights to Ferrari - said robot's alternate mode - toys)
    • He has a Cyberverse toy, sadly it is only be a repaint of Sideways from Revenge of the Fallen.
    • Brains the laptop Transformer as well. Even though he became a recurring character in the series from that point.
    • There are also the ancient Primes, as well as many Decepticon Mooks, Igor the decapitated head Decepticon, the garbage truck Decepticon, Laserbeak's "female" form (though she did get one as a Japanese convention exclusive), Canopy, Bulldog... Considering they did make a lot of toys based on various background vehicles (mainly to also serve as videogame mooks)...
  • The LEGO toyline for the Star Wars movies which began in 1999 skipped many rather important characters for several years. Scout Troopers were the first imperial soldiers with Stormtroopers first appearing in 2001 and even then in very few sets. The Star Wars Icon Yoda first appeared as a figure in 2002, Lando in 2004 and Mace Windu in 2005. Nute Gunray and Palpatine/Darth Sidious as non-Emperor, the main antagonists of the Prequels were skipped until 2009, when they only got figures in the style of the "The Clone Wars" CGI Cartoon. A Life Action version of Gunray was made however, but the ultimate evil is still left out.
    • Also weird is LEGO's selection of which clone troopers should be released as figures. From the special colored legions only rather obscure ones get chosen like the 327th Star Corps (the yellow ones from episode 3 which killed the blue alien chick on the jungle planet with half a minute screen time), the Shock Troopers (red ones which followed Palpatine around in three scenes) and the 442nd Siege Battalion (green ones which didn´t even appear in any of the movies, comics, games or books). The 212th Attack Battalion and 501st Legion are very popular by being directly under the command of Obi-Wan and Anakin, but they are chosen not to be released.

Live Action TV

  • In Power Rangers, most of the toy molds are carried over from Super Sentai, so if a character wasn't in Sentai, a toy might not exist. Also, it's reversed in the cases of some characters and concepts that were major in sentai but only slipped into a little of Power Rangers' sentai footage and got toys brought over. "So the pod people from that one episode get toys but Astronema and the Quantrons don't?" is a cry heard in more than one PR series. This applies to villains a great deal, as while all six Ranger suits must transfer over, a villain is more likely to get a total costume overhaul. And even then, many are the villains without toys on either side of the Pacific for some reason. In some cases, this is also inverted, where things the US version makes important are minor in the original. Who are your Ranger figures supposed to be fighting? (Although it should be noted that Sentai is guilty as well. Considering how important the Nejiranger/Psycho rangers were to Megaranger/Power Rangers in Space, the idea of not having figures for them is infuriating for fans.)
    • This has also happened with Zords. Sometimes it makes sense—the Mighty Mammoth from Ninja Storm/Hurricanger wasn't released because it would be pretty big. But there's really no excuse for not releasing Wild Force's Elephant Zord, Dino Thunder's Pachycephalosaurus Zord or Mystic Force's Centaurus Wolf Megazord. The former is required for a major Megazord formation, while the latter is a main villain's mech which appears in numerous episodes! And they even released the good guy recolor!
    • Rita Repulsa didn't get a proper figure for more than a decade (though a plushie was available).
      • Later on, Bandai of America started making more of their own figure lines for the series, and even then they were rather selected. Only main or "rival"-type villains got figures other than some Mooks as army builders prior to Dino Charge, and even that series skipped Poisandra and Lord Arcanon. Poisandra was available as part of a two-pack a few years later, though.


Web Original

  • At this point, at least half the cast of Bionicle are lacking toys, and that number only climbed with the toyline terminated. Which is really, really saying something. Most don't even have any sort of illustration for their appearance. Of course, this being LEGO, filling in the gaps for oneself through building is encouraged.
  • Hero Factory, its successor, is somewhat better with this with its significantly smaller cast, and most of the toyless characters are minor support staff for the protagonists who aren't all that important (though, their designs in the TV series are such that it's virtually impossible to make a decent scale model of any of them, no matter how expansive your stock of LEGO is).
  • Monster High has a few.


Western Animation

  • Sparks, Big Lob and Pythona in G.I. Joe. Sparks appeared in a couple of episodes during the first season as a communication officer for the Joes before retiring from duty, while Big Lob and Pythona were exclusive to G.I. Joe: The Movie.
    • Sparks and Big Lob were eventually made into collector's club exclusive figures in 2007 and 2010 respectively. We're still waiting for Pythona.
  • Neither Sqeaky Cleen nor any of the female characters (Mainframe, Nightshade, Ms. Demeanor and Mirage) from COPS were action figures to start with. And we do mean "start with"; like Transformers and G.I. Joe, the toys came first.
  • The Peculiar Purple Pieman Of Porcupine Peak from Strawberry Shortcake in the second generation line; though he seems not to fit, being a villain, back in the 1980s, he was represented. First-generation characters that appeared in the animated specials but not the toyline include T.N. Honey (Big Apple City) and four of the Berrykins (Meets the Berrykins introduces ten of them, but only six became toys).
    • Despite showing up in the first special in 1980, Plum Puddin' didn't get a toy until 1984, by which time he had become a she (According to Hasbro, this is because dolls of Huckleberry Pie didn't sell very well).
  • The 80's Masters of the Universe cartoon had a few characters who were introduced apparently to promote new action figures, but said figures never materialised - Strongarm and Lizardman for instance. The Sorceress and King Randor didn't receive action figures until the final wave despite being major characters in the cartoon.
    • And there were some obviously not introduced to promote new figures, and did not get any, such as Queen Marlena. Count Marzo didn't receive a toy until the Masters of the Universe Classic line despite appearing in both the original series and the 2002 reboot. Evilseed has it even worse, having shown up in the original and the 2002 reboot but still not having a toy. 2002 was pretty bad at this, though; Clawful, one of Skeletor's main henchmen, never got a toy in that line, either.
  • The original Transformers Generation 1 cartoon had a bunch of characters who'd fit the bill:
    • "The Search For Alpha Trion" was a second season episode that introduced Optimus Prime's mentor, Alpha Trion, and girlfriend, Elita One, both recurring characters without toys. Also worth mention from this episode are Firestar, Moonracer and Chromia, all three named fembots that take the spotlight for at least part of the episode.
      • Alpha Trion, Elita-One, Chromia and Moonracer actually ended up getting exclusive botcon toys eventually (though Moonracer and Chromia have to share).
      • And Chromia's gotten an actual retail toy!
        • Eventually the last three got them too.
    • Fan favorite Nightbird, a female ninja robot introduced in "Enter the Nightbird." Though she's never seen again after this episode she's not likely to be forgotten any time soon. She did get a Japan-only toy eventually.
    • Devcon, from "The Gambler" is also pretty popular. Eventually he got a convention exclusive toy.
    • Deceptitran, the primary antagonist in "Sea Change".
    • "Forever Is a Long Time Coming" gave us Beta.
    • Carly, Daniel, and Sparkplug, of course, as well as Spike's younger self.
      • Spike's eventual toy was the head of the head of Fortress Maximus. A Daniel miniature was released around 2002 as part of a collectible figure line.
  • Beast Wars:
    • Transmutate didn't get a toy until the 10th Anniversary line, when you had to combine bonus parts packaged with other toys.
    • Tigerhawk was forced to be Killed Off for Real after two episodes because they weren't sure they were making the toy (as in, weren't sure they weren't, either... and eventually did.)
    • Blackarachnia was one of the first exceptions to the 'no girls' rule, but her toy was Tarantulas's painted purple. (Guess what color Blackarachnia isn't? At all? [2])
      • It was a long road for Transformers for the first female toy character to come along. First, again, in 1986 there was Arcee, who was a main character in the movie and season three, and would have been in season four. No toy of her was ever made. In 1996 there's Beast Wars, and we get Airazor - whose toy was made first. The decision to make her a "her" came later. She gets an upgraded, obviously-female toy, the first Transformers toy intended as female from the start, but the character never takes on that form in the show. And again, Blackarachnia's original form effectively doesn't get one at all. Finally, in 1999, Blackarachnia gets an upgrade, and that form has a toy. That's 13 years between the first female main character and the first instance of a female character having a toy in her likeness intentionally.
    • The Vok, the mysterious aliens that were the focus of one of the main story arcs. Of course, as floating glowing skull thingies, there's not much about them that demands one.
    • The Beast Wars version of Ravage had a toy, but it was never released in America. All we get is a black redeco of Cheetor that does not bear even a tiny passing resemblence to Ravage. (Worse, part of Ravage's new design is actually based on Cheetor's second form The American Ravage toy is based on his third form.)
      • It's worse than that; Hasbro was planning on bringing the Japanese Ravage toy (the one based on Cheetor's second Transmetal form) to the states as part of the new 10th anniversary line for the series, but it fell through because they lost the mold. As a final kick to the balls, however, this was after they used it to make a Botcon-exclusive Transmetals Tigatron figure. At least one of the Ravages we did get wound up being its own character in the comic books...
      • The Japanese also got another Ravage based on Cheetor's first form, that was available through Hasbro's early online collector store. However, the Tripredacus Council played this straight in Japan, with the molds used as Japanese-original Maximal characters in Beast Wars II, and their show depictions already not resembling the toys.
    • In general, though, Beast Wars inverted this; the vast majority of the toys lacked any representation on the show. Besides Ravage, Depth Charge, and the Transmutate, the only non-main characters with toys to appear on the show are the Tripredacus Council, who looked nothing like their toys in their sole appearance. (though the three of them played it completely straight in Japan, where their toys were given Maximal redecos in Beast Wars II)
      • That was because they couldn't get the models finished before the episodes they appeared in were released; as a result, they were allowed to keep the characters' collective names, but were barred from using their individual names when referring to them. Also, in a bit of What Could Have Been, the toy-only character Wolfang could've been represented in the cartoon in Tigatron's place, but Lazy Animator syndrome kicked in. CGI models ain't cheap (which is why BW had such a small cast and high body count.) so Tigatron, who is largely based on Cheetor, was given the role originally written for Wolfang.
  • Beast Machines:
    • Megatron's form at the end of the series. Like Ravage, Slipstream, and Emirate Xaaron, it would have been very easy to make one - it was based on Optimal Optimus, meaning that toy would only have needed a recolor and a new head. There is currently a smaller Optimal Optimus toy (from the Titanium Series) without a beast mode - even better for a Megatron makeover, as Megatron had gone anti-organic in Beast Machines and would have left out the beast mode.
    • Botanica is one of very few characters who was created without the intention for a toy to be made.
    • Diagnostic Drone.
  • The Transformers Animated version of Omega Supreme - very male, very Badass, very important, very large, with plenty of screentime, hasn't gotten a toy despite much fan begging. Especially astonishing given the Tigerhawk situation: The toy company has infinitely more control than the writers with every incarnation of TF, and saying "Screw the arc you had planned, vaporize your important character because we're only pretty sure we're making a toy" is in fact not the worst thing they've inflicted on a series or comic. A toyless character being allowed as much screentime as Omega got (for non-social reasons) is perhaps unprecedented.
    • Mixmaster and Scrapper, Dirt Boss too. The three were even cut out of the Japanese dub for this reason.
    • Ramjet and Slipstream - who would only have required further recolors of Starscream, being clones of him. Inverted with Dirge, however: he is actually the only toy-exclusive character to be based on this series, and therefore the only character not to be mentioned in the Allspark Almanac.
    • Sari, as well, despite being a Transformer. Ramjet got his own (Japan-only) toy eventually, but no such luck for Slipstream—probably because it would require a slightly different mold. Thrust also plays this straight.
    • Most of Rodimus's squad. Some were planned to have toys, but they were cancelled and not even released in Japan.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise, being a Monster of the Week series, leaves out a good chunk of the Decepticon crooks, with many of them at least being available as non-transforming blind-bag figurines.
  • Centurions has a few examples of this trope. Crystal Kane, the team's Mission Control, was never an action figure; neither were Team Pets Shadow the dog and Lucy the orangutan, or Killer Robots Groundborg and Seaborg.
  • In the Littlest Pet Shop TV series, Chet was the only one of the major characters who wasn't made as a toy.
  • In its last two seasons, the Ninja Turtles faced fiction-only Big Bad Lord Dregg. Carter, the Turtles' equally toyless Sixth Ranger human ally, was introduced around the same time.
    • Earlier, a number of reccuring antagonists never got figures.
  • Many characters and vehicles from The Real Ghostbusters, such as the Ecto-Ichi.
  • Mira Nova, Commander Nebula, and over 3 quarters of the villains in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
  • The Smurfette Principle strikes again: Neither of the female knights from Visionaries began as action figures. They weren't even planned to be adapted to the toy line's (canceled) second year.
    • Also from Visionaries: Merklynn, the powerful wizard who sent the knights on their quests, wasn't powerful enough to become a figure. At least Hasbro planned to include a holographic image of him in the unproduced Iron Mountain playset, but he was not planned to be a posable figure.
  • My Little Pony occasionally dipped into this trope for background characters during the G1 and G3 eras. Then they fully embraced it for the G4 adaptation, My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. The only characters who appear (or will appear) in both the show and the toyline are the Mane Six, Spike, Princess Celestia, Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon, Princess Cadance, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Big Macintosh, Granny Smith, Applejack's Uncle Mosely Orange, Apple family members Golden Delicious, Crimson Gala and Peachy Sweet, Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor's mom Twilight Velvet, Zecora, Cheerilee, Gilda the Griffon, Trixie Lulamoon, one of the Wonderbolts (who may be Breezie or Surprise), Sapphire Shores, Winona, and a selection of background characters (a very small selection, compared to the huge number of background characters that the show has).
    • It gets even stranger when you realize that there are over 50 characters who have toys but don't appear in the show (mostly Palette Swaps of toy characters who do appear in the show).
    • This even extends to accessories, like the 12 dresses introduced in an episode all about dresses, 6 of which make cameo appearances in other episodes and are featured again in the first Season Finale. You won't find those dresses on store shelves.
    • Naturally, the show's large Periphery Demographic fandom, frustrated by the lack of official toys from Hasbro, have started making them themselves. A good plushie version can go for over a hundred dollars on eBay.
    • This is slowly being remedied in 2012 onwards as some of the supporting and background ponies are getting toys and one of the toyline ponies (Blossomforth) finally made the jump to the show.
  • The main-trio of Star Wars the Clone Wars got their costumes a Mid-Season Upgrade but so far only Anakin got his released as a LEGO figure with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka waiting until at least 2013. So far the Phase II style Clone Troopers are also absent and a figure based on Darth Maul isn´t planned either.
  • The Madballs direct to video specials had Freakaella, who was never a real Madball. She wasn't even added in the revival.


Other

  • Never Made Toys is a website that based on this phenomena. It's primarily based on the 80's cartoons.

Notes

  1. There were in fact several times they started to make one but it never got past the drawing board. There was a convention-exclusive Beast Machines version as well. Interestingly, Transformers Animated Arcee was made to look exactly like G1 Arcee (except for a little dark red in places to balance the hot pink) and had a toy announced. There was much rejoicing... until it almost went the way of the other G1 Arcee designs.
  2. She's actually yellow and black. Transformers Animated Blackarachnia is purple, but of course has her own toy.
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