Hasbro is under fire for creating a line of toys designed for young children tied to a PG-13 film.
Hasbro, which owns the exclusive license for toys for the film “Transformers,” has created a new line of toys and games based around the movie, which premiered today.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is charging that the film’s violence and sexual humor and language are not appropriate for children. The Transformers toys are being marketed to kids as young as two, the group said.
“These days we have to think of toys as intrinsic to marketing campaigns,” said Susan Linn, a psychologist who is the co-founder of the advocacy group. “We have a movie that the industry itself deems as inappropriate for children under age of 13.”
Hasbro first introduced the “Transformers” toy line in 1984.
Hasbro, however, pushed the charge aside. While it agrees the movie contains some “mature content,” the company said “we encourage parents to be the ultimate decision-makers when choosing entertainment for their kids.”
“For more than two decades, young children of varying ages—depending on the particular item’s age coding—have enjoyed the chance to play with their favorite Transformers characters by changing them from vehicle to robot and back again,” Hasbro said in a statement. “While parents need to decide if a PG-13 movie is appropriate for their children, all of our Transformers toys—both movie-related and those that are part of our non-movie line—are fun and very appropriate for kids based on the age code marked clearly on packaging.”
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has taken its complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. It sent a letter to the federal agency last week.
In it, the group is asking the FTC to:
- Expand its investigation of marketing violent entertainment to include targeting PG-13 movies to younger children.
- Launch an investigation of the marketing of “Transformers” to preschoolers through toys, food promotions and television ads.
- Work with the media and toy industries to develop a set of ratings for toys and the media they are based on, and to establish enforceable guidelines for the PG-13 movie marketing.
Officials at the FTC could not be reached for comment.
Linn said the marketing “highlights the inadequacies and hypocrisies of the rating system and self regulation.”
“We are not interested in censoring the movie or censoring the toy,” Linn said. ‘We think parents deserve honest information in order to make informed decisions.”
In “Transformers,” alien races the Autobots and the Decepticons have waged a war, and the battle comes to Earth. An Earthling named Sam Witwicky may be mankind’s last hope for survival.
It’s not the first time The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has complained about movie marketing. The group in April blasted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for using DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek as spokescharacter for it’s healthy lifestyles and childhood obesity campaign. It initiated a letter-writing campaign asking consumers to urge the organization to “fire Shrek” and project children from commercial exploitation.
“Transformers” has attracted a number of promotional partners including several food brands.
Burger King, too, has launched a movie-themed promotion offering “Transformers” toys with the purchase of a kids meal targeting kids three and up. Another company, Kraft Foods has “Transformers”-themed images on its Lunchables targeting elementary and preschool school kids.