One of the running gags throughout the film Spaceballs (1987) is a meta-commentary that the primary purpose of the film is to promote the sale of film-related merchandise. In fact, several of the characters are visibly seen using the film's own putative merch, prominently labeled "Spaceballs: The [Product]".

Despite these jokes, I can't recall ever having seen any actual Spaceballs merchandise at shops or conventions. Was any official film merchandise ever actually sold, even if it did not look exactly the way it did in the actual film?


2 Answers 2


In a 2012 interview, Mel Brooks said that he wasn't allowed to sell Spaceballs merchandise because of an agreement with George Lucas and "Star Wars":

AVC: That’s a real thing now, by the way. People sell headphones that look like the Princess Leia buns.

MB: Incredible. I wasn’t allowed to do any merchandising. Even though my character said, “Merchandising, merchandising, the thing that really makes money.” I wasn’t allowed to do that. My deal with Star Wars was “no action figures.” Because mine were like, Dark Helmet. Rick Moranis was in this giant helmet head. No merchandising. I said okay.

As far as I understand it, the deal basically was "we don't sue the heck out of you for using our intellectual property (parody or not), if you don't compete with us on the toy shelves". Additionally, George Lucas' company was hired to do the post production of the movie:

AVC: Was that because George Lucas had sold merchandise, and the studios were apprehensive about a similar deal?

MB: Oh, absolutely. Fox and Lucas were making a fortune, and this really, you know, was stealing. [Laughs.] I stole a lot, and I satirize it, but the script was different. And [George Lucas] loves it. He loves the film. I was very wise. You know what I did not to have any real trouble? I called Lucas and I said, “I want you guys up in San Francisco—at the ranch or whatever—to do all the post-production of the movie. And he said, “Oh, great, great.” So, there may have been five million bucks in post-production on that, and special effects, etc., that Lucas handled. So, it was wise, you know? I was playing ball with the people who could have said no. [Laughs.] He wouldn’t have sued me anyway. He’s not that kind of guy. He wrote me a lovely note saying me how much he loved the picture. He said it’s dangerous comedy. He said, “I was afraid I would bust something from laughing.” Which is a lovely note.

Today, you can find some Spaceballs merchandise on the respective platforms, like shirts and mugs and stickers and so on. But I have my doubts about the legality of those products. Probably, neither George Lucas / Disney nor Mel Brooks authorized those ;)

EDIT from December 2021: Mel Brooks gave a bit more detail on Lucas' reasoning in a book excerpt on Literary Hub this month

Speaking of action figures… the same way I called Alfred Hitchcock to get his blessings on High Anxiety, I sent the Spaceballs script to Star Wars creator George Lucas. If not to get his blessing, then certainly to give him a heads-up on what I was doing vis-à-vis Star Wars. He was kind enough to read it and respond.

He said he had seen Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein and was a big fan. He enjoyed the script, and only had one real caveat for me: no action figures. He explained that if I made toys of my Spaceballs characters they would look a lot like Star Wars action figures. And that would be a no-no for his lawyers and his studio’s business affairs department. So he gave his blessing to make my funny satiric takeoff of Star Wars as long as I promised that we would not sell any action figures.

So basically, because the Spaceballs characters were (by definition) knock-offs of characters from Star Wars and other franchises, Spaceballs action figures would almost necessarily be knock-offs of Star Wars action figures. And that was the big no-no.

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    if you don't compete with us on the toy shelves - This seems like total vindication of the "merchandising" joke: it is what Lucasfilm actually cared about more. :P (To be fair, the ways in which movies compete with each other are different from the way toys / novelty items compete with each other. You might only want one star wars related mug, but seeing Spaceballs isn't going to make you less likely to re-watch a Star Wars movie, or see a new one.) Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 9:58
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    I was gifted "Spaceballs, the face mask" by my brother this past month. I can guarantee you it was not official merchandise though. Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 18:23
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    Spaceballs: The Acceptance Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 1:36
  • As I understood it, the agreement not to actually merchandise the film is exactly why there's a running joke about spaceballs merchandise. I had heard (though I can't substantiate it) that the little dolls/action-figures Dark Helmet plays with in one scene are actually prototype action-figures they made prior to that agreement, not just props for the scene. Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 10:56
  • Washpost 1987 article confirms the Brooks-Lucas deal; the rest of the article is hilarious look-back. Howard the Duck winning best trailer? If only that could translate into being a successful movie. washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1987/06/12/license-to-sell/… Commented Dec 28, 2021 at 13:57

I do remember having a set of 'Spaceballs - The Postcard', one for each lead character (Lone Star, Barf, Dark Helmet, Princess Vespa). They were advertising material from my local cinema just before it's release in 1987! Must have been official.

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    This is a nice find! Do you have/know of any evidence beyond anecdotal that these existed, and if so were official and not just something the cinema made. If so could you edit your answer to clarify further?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 15:22
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    I presume Andy's talking about lobby cards? There's a set for sale here, and another set with several matching on eBay that are described as being from Yugoslavia, so presumably legit as I've found two examples from two completely different countries. Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 16:29
  • And I've just spotted on the English set it says two are missing (which are present in the other set), so presumably there must have been an official set of eight. Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 16:38

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