The Oscar-nominated film The Mitchells vs the Machines is full of pop culture references. However, one particular cursed toy from the ’90s almost didn’t make the cut. In an interview with JOE, director and co-writer Michael Rianda shared how due to licensing concerns, the giant Furby we see in the animated movie was almost replaced with another popular toy – a Tickle me Elmo
In Mitchells vs the Machines, we saw a giant Furby wreak havoc against a loveable family trying to survive the technological apocalypse – perpetuating the popular and hilarious myth that the fuzzy toys are actually evil creations. On paper, a giant aggressive Furby was a slam dunk comedic moment. However, in practicality, the depiction of the beaked toy brought up concerns about how the company behind it, Hasbro, would react. These concerns forced the team to develop a plan B and pitch the idea of a villainous take on a certain Sesame Street character instead.
“We couldn’t get a hold of Hasbro, so then we had to change it,” Rianda explained. “We called it Tickle-Me Melmo, and it was basically a Tickle-Me Elmo with an eye-patch and a metal arm, and it was like Mad Max, and it was like ‘Come, brothers!'”
Luckily, Furby didn’t lose its position in the film to Elmo as the rest of the crew working on the family movie weren’t on board with the change. ” When we showed it to the artists and the studio, they rioted,” Rianda continued. “They were like ‘, Where are the Furbys? What is happening?’ So we doubled-down, and I talked to some people I knew.”
“And then the Hasbro people were really nice! They were like, ‘Yeah, cool!’. I was saying that we love Furbys and that it would be free advertising. And they eventually were down, and I was so happy about it, because it is the craziest thing.”
While a giant Elmo would have been a sight to see, an evil Furby was the right call at the end of the day and gave us one of the funniest moments in the entire comedy movie, period. You can now watch The Mitchells vs the Machines through streaming services Prime Video and Netflix.