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Cheap Toy Roundup 2004

Each year, the human population increases. This invariably means an increase in the number of children who need toys to distract them from the crushing inevitability of a sad adulthood. But money only stretches so far, particularly in today's economy. The answer: Cheap toys, like those found in The Onion A.V. Club's annual roundup of marked-down playthings. Give them to any kid, and delight is guaranteed! (Note: This guarantee is in no way legally enforceable.)

Statler & Waldorf Muppet Mayhem Dolls
($9.99, from $12.99)

Remember the lovable curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf, who sat in the balcony and heckled during The Muppet Show? They're back, sort of. Their new look incorporates "cutting edge contemporary style," which is a nice way of saying that they look like pimps. In his checkered suit, fly athletic shoes, and gold chain, Waldorf looks like a wannabe, but Statler's midnight-blue velour suit and huge, shiny bling-bling initial jewelry clearly says "Now, pimpin' ain't easy, but it's necessary, so I'm chasing bitches like Tom chased Jerry." Both dolls have their hands open and ready in the pimp-slap position. Poor Miss Piggy.

Hilary Duff Rock Star
($12.99, from $17.99)

Shakira Doll
($9.99, from $29.99)

Curl & Style Ashley Olsen Doll
($7.99, from $17.99)

Disturbing doll doppelgängers of disposable pop stars are a Cheap Toy Roundup perennial. But the deeply unnerving Hilary Duff doll–which comes with a tacky gold hat, heart-shaped guitar, and much, much more–may mark the first time that the toy alter ego of a teenybopper fave actually qualifies as less plastic than the real-life person on which it's modeled. Meanwhile, Shakira's doll comes complete with a toy guitar that plays the same maddening burst of "Whenever, Wherever" every time its button is pushed. "Fashions Inspired By My Video!" reads the box, which means that Shakira sports not one but two outfits pairing tight pants with skimpy shirts, enabling the doll to run the gamut from kind-of-trashy to mildly skanky. Last, and certainly least, Ashley Olsen's Curl & Style hairstyling doll is perfect for hair-obsessed little girls and sexually ambiguous young boys. The doll comes complete with numerous hair-care accessories and a wan smile which suggests that while she's creepy, disturbingly thin, and vaguely simian, Ashley Olsen is the stable one who steers clear of rehab, at least for the time being.

Religious Thermometer Craft Kit

Far too many Christmas gifts neglect the real reason for the season: The temperature. Not Deer Park Products Religious Thermometer Craft Kit, a triptych of Christ, colorful foam, and glue. (Glue not included.) Children who follow the semi-coherent instructions will be rewarded by a scene of pleasantly rubbery multiculturalism, a little holiday platitude ("Jesus loves you!"), and a gentle reminder of the need to bundle up when Jesus says it's below freezing. It's also the only holiday gift choice that includes instructions as delightful as "Glue the Jesus figure to the center of the blue foam base and then glue the children to Jesus as shown."

Magical Light
($2.99, from $5.99)

The "magical light" consists of a lumpy, chrome-colored wand topped with a globe containing a ring covered in tiny lights. When activated by a button on the side, the ring spins and lights up, while shrill sound-effects mimic either a space battle or a car alarm, or possibly someone trying to steal a car during a space battle. When the "magic" starts, the ribbed wand vibrates pleasantly, making it a present possibly suited for older girls rather than younger ones, though the colorful box does insist that the product is "Design for the children. Best quality for your selection. Welcome to choose our product." Bonus instructions on the back: "Forbidden small parts leaded into the mouth, so as to lead to stifle. Not play under 3 years children, so as to eat it." And even those who aren't under 3 years children should be warned that "Finger do not insert moving parts gap to so as to lead to danger." Sound advice indeed, though not terribly magical.

Wonder Woman Crazy Foam
($3.99, from $6.99)

This tin of bath foam is painted to look like Wonder Woman's body, though its cylindrical shape doesn't do justice to her usual curves. But the rubber Wonder Woman head on top is far more disturbing. With her fixed come-hither stare and the foam-dispensing tube protruding from her open mouth, she looks like a blow-up sex doll. When kids wedge their grubby fingers into the hole in the back of her head and activate the dispenser, white froth erupts from her face, making her look like a rabid blow-up sex doll. Not for the faint of heart or the pure of soul.

Baby Butterflies By Anne Geddes
($6.99, from $9.99)

Nothing embodies the phrase "nauseatingly cute" quite like the photography of Anne Geddes, who has amassed a fortune by fetishizing the innocence of childhood with photographs in which babies are dressed up like pumpkins, insects, and various other non-baby entities. The Baby Butterfly doll features one such infant dressed in a disturbing green butterfly costume right out of The Silence Of The Lambs. Are the baby's eyes closed because it's immersed in peaceful slumber, or because it's currently romping around in the big nursery in the sky? Only the doll's loving owner knows for sure.

McDonald's Play Food Set
($9.99, from $12.99)

Encased in a giant plastic model of a Big Mac, the McDonald's Play Food Set affords ambitious young children the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of kiddie hero Morgan Spurlock and make their own version of the blockbuster doc Super Size Me. So will pretending to eat nothing but plastic food for an entire month render the aspiring Spurlocks fat, depressed, and lethargic, just like their hero? Will it also lead to success at Sundance, arthouse acclaim, and a thriving career? It's up to li'l documentarians to find out. Miniature plastic film camera not included.

WWE Gear Gone Bad: Septic Sludge, Medical Mess
($1.99, from $7.99)

Other messes in World Wrestling Entertainment's delightful "septic sludge" series include "mud match" (a wheelbarrow and shovel) and "clean-up crew" (a bucket and mop), but none match "medical mess," which comes with a bedpan and stretcher, presumably for a wrestling doll's use. The sludge itself comes frighteningly double-bagged and with an array of instructions on both its use ("WARNING! DO NOT EAT!") and clean-up, which involves separate methods for de-soiling carpet, fabric, and hair. Sadly, the irresistible sell-line "Smells like medicine!" turns out to be less disgusting than it sounds.

Hulk Playing Cards
($3.99, from $5.99)

Hulk Boxing Keychain
($2.99, from $5.99)

Ah, the many faces of the Incredible Hulk. As pictured on this 3D "collector tin" of playing cards (and on the cards within), he's a snarling, open-mouthed embodiment of fury. But the Spider-Man & Friends Hulk Keychain depicts him as a beaming, beneficent, childlike figure, albeit one with fists far larger than his head, and buttons on his back to make them spring out and hit things. Clearly, punching people make Hulk smile, while card games send Hulk into towering rage. Just try and cheat Hulk at cribbage! Hulk dare you!

World Kids: France, China, and United States
($1 each)

In an effort to help spread diversity and understanding among cultures, the Target corporation is selling World Kids, which prove just how similar we all are: All the Kids have the same body and face, and they're only distinguished by different eye colors and outfits. Oh, and the flag of each Kid's respective country is on the packaging. Marvel at how alike girls from the United States and China are: They're separated only by a pair of red, white, and blue pants!

Craft Set
($1.00, from $2.99)

This eerily economical set comes with three tubes of glue (two liquid, one solid), three tape dispensers in varying sizes, five tape refills, and a pair of small, soft plastic "scissors" that likely couldn't cut shaving cream. Everything, including the tape, is vivid pink, and most of the items are emblazoned with "Pretty Coco," a giant-headed, mouthless, dress-wearing kitten whose soulful, empty eyes seem to say, "No, really, I'm not just a bargain-basement-priced version of Hello Kitty." But should Pretty Coco really be encouraging small children to stick random household items together and cut them apart? Bad kitty!

Aqua Goo
($1.99, from $2.99)

This deodorant-dispenser-shaped container proudly claims that it's full of "Goo From the Bottom of the Ocean with A Whale Inside!" That's not a particularly appealing claim, but then, it's not particularly appealing goo: The stuff is clammy, sticky, and has the approximate texture of Jell-O, but it gives off a disturbing chemical smell and is prone to coming apart in wet chunks. Pity the tiny plastic whale that gets caught in this stuff at the bottom of the ocean. Also, pity anyone who buys it: A warning on the back admits that it "may stick to and/or stain certain fabrics, carpets and wood surfaces." In other words, children should only play with Aqua Goo at the bottom of the ocean, where it won't damage anything.

Wolverine Talking Bobblehead
($5.99, from $12.99)

When the button on Bobblehead Wolverine's plastic base is pressed, his eyes light up and he says things like "One claw at a time!" and "Hey, bub, I'm not finished with you yet!" in a strained, nasal voice. Unlike the Wolverine from the comics, he only has claws on one hand; the other appears to be tightly clutching his Spandex-clad crotch, which might explain his hideous, pained grimace, swollen head, and hoarse voice. Thankfully, Bobblehead Wolverine comes with a Certificate Of Authenticity, so fans know this is an actual licensed piece of ugly, badly made disposable garbage instead of a copyright-violating piece of ugly, badly made disposable garbage.