Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hey, Dune

I found this in a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago-- it's a storybook adaptation of the 1984 Dune movie. For kids.

Even after all these years I'm still amazed at the lengths Universal Studios went to in a flailing attempt to market this movie to children. The movie premiered one year after Return Of The Jedi and the Star Wars marketing juggernaut was still going strong. I assume Universal wanted to get in on some of that sweet merchandising action as well.

Unfortunately the only big budget sci-fi property they had at the time was Dune. So against all reason, common sense and better judgment they did their damnedest to sell a very adult story to children.

There's very little in the Dune novel that would appeal to a child, and even less in David Lynch's weird for weird's sake movie adaptation. There's the sandworms I guess, and... well, that's about it. I can't imagine any child under 14 getting much out of it. For comparison, it would be like DC Comics made a Watchmen storybook for kids. It's a dark and complicated tale about ecology wrapped up in political drama. It's full of assassination, intrigue and Machiavellian plots. Just the type of story kids like to see at the movies!

Some of the other highlights of Dune merchandise:

I can still remember walking into a (sadly now defunct) Hills department store a few months before the movie came out and seeing Dune action figures on the shelf. I was familiar with the book and I couldn't believe someone was actually making toys. Take a good look at the top of the action figure package: it actually says "Ages 4 and up." Yes, what 4 year old wouldn't love playing with a figure of Stilgar, the Fremen who wears a suit that recycles his urine for drinking purposes, and rides on top of a giant phallic sand worm?

There was also a Dune coloring book, full of bizarre images from the movie, including several pages of murdered bodies for kids to color(!). There were several activity books as well, featuring connect-the-dots pages and even recipes!

At least the activity book spared us from this image of Sting and his winged speedo on the cover:


  1. Another childlike spin on Dune:

  2. @Hawkes: Funny, but that's a parody book. The stuff from 1984 was all too real.

    @Ellie Warren: There was a whole range of action figures back in the day. Paul, the Baron, Feyd (Sting's character) and more. They also had a sandworm and a few of the vehicles. I kind of wish I'd bought them back then, just for the kitsch factor.

  3. So in 1984, I was 9 years old. I don't remember hearing about the movie at the time. I am not sure when, but probably soon after that my 2 year older brother and myself got the Dune Storybook (I still have it somewhere). I think I was a pretty normal kid and something about the book appealed to me.

    I remember the story was somewhat confusing, but it sure looked cool (rebels in tough looking outfits fighting with weird weapons and riding big monsters). To me, the story became like a puzzle to figure out. The Movie was shrouded in mystery.

    I don't remember when I got around to seeing the movie, but I also ended up reading the series of books too. So, maybe the marketing did work in some way. :)

  4. @hewler:

    Maybe they were onto something after all? It still seems kind of weird to market it to kids though-- there's some pretty dark and intense stuff in the movie. Specifically the Baron and his gross skin disease, the Harkonnen heart plugs, the Gom Jabbar test and so on.

    I guess it's no weirder than when Kenner made an action figure based on the R rated ALIEN movie in 1979: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKSv85mJEmY


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