The 10 most hilariously awful Kickstarter projects of all time

It’s hard to imagine one man could garner nearly $60,000 to make a bowl of potato salad. It’s even harder to imagine another earning more than $9 million to manufacturer a plastic cooler with nothing more than a blender, a speaker, and a few bells and whistles attached. And yet.

Kickstarter — the popular crowdfunding platform started by three entrepreneurs in 2009 — remains the predominant funding vessel for a melange of projects that likely won’t find the necessary backing and support through traditional means.

Related: The Coolest Cooler offers a speaker, LEDs, and even a blender.

Backers have successfully funded everything from high-quality audio players and video game consoles to precision cookers and smartphone-controlled paper airplanes. But unfortunately, there’s an entire swath of lesser-known Kickstarter gems you may not have heard of. They range from a kid-centric RPG to a charging dock that moonlights as the cornerstone Michelangelo of your living room — and though they may not all have been successfull, they certainly tried to be. Well, sort of.

Here are a few Kickstarter projects that just don’t make the grade.

Thomas the Tank Engine Themed RPG

  • Funded: No, but 39 days remain
  • Raised: £65 of £20,000 goal

Given the runaway success of open-world titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V, it was only a matter of time before some bold individual decided to tackle the underlying tension behind Reverend W. Awdry’s infamous steam engine.

London graphic designer Rick Calvins’ post-apocalyptic story, which only needs the mere equivalent of $33,000 to become a reality — is set in an undisclosed land where humans want nothing more than to enslave the train people and force them to shuttle iron back from foreign lands.

(Image © Ron Ellisvia

Funding goals include regular demos and updates — and wait for it — a chance for your face to adorn the front of  a very special train-based non-player character. Never mind that Calvin likely hasn’t sought legal rights to the children’s classic or mentioned the game’s specifics, it’s poised to be the biggest release since Elmo and Co. rocked out in Musical Monsterpiece. It has always been a coaled, coaled world out there for Thomas and his friends, but at least Calvins’ vision seeks to give you the choice of a better life.

Gravgen, gravity-powered generators

  • Funded: No, the campaign ended on Aug. 8
  • Raised: $31 of $250,000 goal

Chances are you’ve never heard of the Gravgen, creator Angel Santana’s revolutionary idea for infinite power. Once constructed, the simple device will provide enough energy to power a 32-inch LED TV on a 24-hour basis, unless turned off. We don’t really know what they look like or how they work, but Santana guarantees us the sustainable devices will one day have the potential to replace nuclear power using nothing more than the sheer momentum of the Earth’s gravity, a couple of winches, and some weights. The modest funding goal will go toward professionally constructing three prototypes of the device, which Santana will then present to the U.S. patent office for consideration and approval.

The dedicated, Gravgen website provides further details on the project, but given the excellent video pitch and the promise of an autographed photo of Santana himself, there’s no real reason to seek further clarification in the matter. “These machines, they work,” says Santana in the brief information video. “You can tell on the website how they work, and once you read how they work, you’ll understand that there’s no reason for them not to work.” Well said, sir.


  • Funded: No, the campaign ended on Jan. 26, 2013
  • Raised: $2,671 of $1,500,000 goal

In a nutshell, Lore is a game where you struggle against “Gods and Demon’s.” Punctuation issues aside, George Givens latest endeavor looked to bring difficulty and complexity back to the modern video game. Although the original Kickstarter campaign for Lore fell nearly $1.5 million shy of its $1.5-million funding goal, the second incarnation edged even closer to the funding goal with nearly double the amount of pledge money.

The game would seamlessly meld the in-depth combat of games like Dark Souls with the sheer openness of Minecraft, while adding a cast of characters and creatures who would like become a fixtures in the Lore universe (i.e. Manandtaur).


Givens compares himself to Columbus in the Risks and Challenges portion of the Kickstarter page, and while he may not be an infamous Genoese explorer with a large-brimmed hat and a mean case of gout, we can’t help but applaud his oh-so-generous funding goals and his keen interest in showcasing the entire creation process via a dedicated YouTube channel. Now we can only pray for a third opportunity to fund Lore.

Twerk Island a Real Contest Movie

  • Funded: No, the campaign ended on June 29
  • Raised: €30 of €1,000,000 goal

Envision this: While attending a fashion premiere at Russia’s Fraules Dance Center, a famous woman invites choreographer Elena “Fraules” Yatkina and six of her best dancers to attend her hotel opening on Huvafen Fushi and participate in the world championship of twerking. The invitation also comes with a chance to win money, a two-week stay at the resort, and the opportunity to be showcased in music video.

Netherlands-based production company Lasaya International hoped to bring the grandiose vision to the big screen with its Kickstarter campaign, promising an invitation to the premiere and a copy of the DVD upon release for as little as $135. Its efforts proved futile.

It’s tough to say what went wrong considering the film was going to feature an undisclosed all-star cast and airplay on MTV, but at least one backer had faith in the film until the end. Creator Jacob Lasaya was even kind enough to offer international shipping on the DVD for the low, low price of $100. It appears Miley Cyrus wasn’t the only one looking to capitalize on the latest dancing trend.

Little Eatz, the Treat you BOTH Can Eat

  • Funded: No, campaign ended on April 9, 2012
  • Raised: $251 of $5,000 goal

Let’s face it, we’ve all longed for sustenance we could share with man’s best friend. But Friskies never hit the spot — nor did any of those bland blends from Natural Balance for that matter. For a moment it looked as though Little Eatz was going to bridge the gap between the dinner table and the dog bowl with one fell swoop. As clearly evident from their Kickstarter video, Melissa Little and her husband traded teenagers for dogs, only to quickly find out their pug liked grapes and chocolates as much as they did.

The couple hoped their unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign would allow them to purchase preprinted stand-up pouches for their quality treats, thus allowing them to keep using the kind of premium ingredients larger manufacturers often skimp out on (or so the Kickstarter goes). Fortunately, though they only managed to land $250 through Kickstarter with promise of “paw”-written notes and puppy playdates, Little Eatz still seems to be up and running in the Louisville area. Who doesn’t like healthy, all-natural, vegan goodies you can pick up at Whole Foods?

Related: Neil Young’s Pono Player exceeds its Kickstarter goal.

Drink a Red Bull in every state post video on YouTube

  • Funded: No, campaign ended on July 21
  • Raised: $1 of $2,500 goal

It’s a bold claim, but there probably hasn’t been a modern explorer with Charles Ellingson’s sense of adventure since Lewis and Clark set out across the United States in the early 1800s. Driven by the burning desire to drink a Red Bull in every state in the continental United States, Ellingson promised to mention every backer who pledged $1 or more to his KickStarter campaign in a video after drinking the coveted beverage. Hell, for a mere $25, he even offered to to place a sticker with the backer’s name on it directly on the can before consuming the caffeine-laced liquid.

The project was unsuccessful, something that may have actually been good for Ellingson considering a can of Red Bull costs more than twice as much as the minimal pledge.


Nonetheless, his Kickstarter page presented viewers with an inspiring story and a detailed map of the United States peppered with a slew of 8.4-ounce cans of Red Bull. “I am doing this because I love Red Bull and love social experiments,” claimed Ellingson at the time. “This will be fun if I am able to to it.” Too bad he wasn’t.

Impressive Impressions

  • Funded: No. Campaign ended on July 10
  • Raised: $7 AUD of $50 AUD goal

It’s surprising well-known impressionists like Frank Caliendo and Jimmy Fallon didn’t grow up in Perth, Australia, given the budding talent that’s come to light via a recent Kickstarter project.

When the talented duo known as Impressive Impressions needed a few dollars to develop their characters and bankroll their special effects, they turned to the Internet for proper funding. Though a measly $50 guaranteed “SMOKIN'” new impressions of famous celebrities and characters, the stretch goals would have allowed the dynamic duo to reenact iconic monologues from the likes of Gandalf the Grey and Danny Archer, as well as produce a series of episodes to be shipped on DVD to every network within the entire continent of Australia.

We may not have known anything about Peter and Dave other than what the two showcased in their brief introduction video, but they surely weren’t afraid to tackle complex and controversial issues with an unparalleled use of symbolism and social commentary. Did you ever wonder what an  interaction between Jar Jar Binks and Hilary Clinton would sound like? Well, unfortunately, we’ll never find out as the project was never funded.

the cybermatrix 100 tu01

  • Funded: Yes, campaign ended on Aug. 2
  • Raised: $504 of $500 goal

Anything that comes with a quantum turbine engine that utilizes four marble-shaped motherboards for governing purposes is a hard sell. However, creator Schaun Bishop lined the Kickstarter page for the cybermatrix 100 tu01 with a melange of detailed images and candid introduction video that only furthers his main objective to build the revolutionary device on his own time. He didn’t beat around the bush with lucrative incentives or backer packages, but merely offered a heartfelt thank you in exchange for a pledge of $10 or more.

The Kickstarter insightful page tells us a fair amount regarding the console — for instance, it possesses the ability to create games, films, and music in cyberspace — while outlining other device components such as the intercooler, galaxy attachment port, and the NAND logic gate. It’s not so much what it can do, but more so what it can’t. And don’t fret, the Risks and Challenges are “nothing special.”

The Piano is the Champagne

  • Funded: Yes, campaign ended on June 29, 2012
  • Raised: $2,975 of $2,300 goal

As artist Rainger Pinney aptly points out in his Kickstarter introduction, some ideas are so big and so strange that they need to come to fruition and cross the boundary from the imagination into reality — like dropping a decrepit, baby grand piano 60 feet onto a delicate glass tower constructed of 385 champagne glasses as part of an art show at the Gowanus Ballroom in Brooklyn.

That’s precisely what Pinney and his accomplice Jonah Emerson-Bell intended to do with the $2,975 raised through their Kickstarter campaign. The funds were to go toward purchasing polycarbonate and plywood to protect the spectators and equipment, along with the cost of renting lights, cameras, and microphones to record the Wiley Coyote-esque escapade.

Though a mere $10 pledge was to earn you a signed piece of a champagne glass — one likely razor sharp as a result of the beautiful and grandiose piano impact — others pledge rewards included a high-definition triptych and limited edition DVD of the event. To be honest, though, can you really put a price on a piece of art history? We think not.

PAUL – The Sexiest Smartphone Charger on the Planet

  • Funded: No, campaign ended on July 22
  • Raised: $2,160 of $8,000 goal

Forget Grove’s line of bamboo-constructed charging docks or any similar products we’ve previously covered here at Digital Trends. New Mexican artist Justin Crowe makes what might be, quite possibly, the most exquisite smartphone charger on the face of the Earth. Standing 34-inches tall and made of a lightweight foam, PAUL is a sarcastic piece made in direct response to popular trends in mobile and social technologies. Though the project only garnered a quarter of its funding goal, the first incarnation of PAUL was showcased at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in California and was selected as a finalist in the DATA (Design Art and Technology Awards) competition in Pittsburgh, Penn.

The iconic figure offered compatibility with a slew of smartphones, from the Apple iPhone to Samsung’s Galaxy line, while boasting both attractive form and functionality in the work place or at home. Crowe promised mystery gifts and thank yous for the bottom-tier prizes, but a pledge of $400 earned you your very own PAUL. You may not have licked your smartphone from top to bottom like the woman in the accompanying Kickstarter video, but you’d also be hardpressed not gawk at PAUL’s chiseled abs and luscious crotch cradle.

You simply can’t put a price on fine art.

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