There was very little monster-related merchandise marketed toward children
prior to the 1960's. Horror movies were not supposed to be for children,
though of course children and teenagers probably comprised most of the audience
for such films. Nevertheless, the concept of "monster toys" was socially
The Universal cycle of classic horror movies ended in 1948 with Abbott &
Costello Meet Frankenstein. For several years, the classic monsters receded
from the public consciousness. Then in the mid-1950's, Universal re-released
many of its old monster movies as double bills for Saturday matinees. Children
reportedly lined up enthusiastically to see the original Frankenstein, Dracula,
In the late-1950's, Universal syndicated a package of its classic monster
movies to local television stations across the country. Television "Horror
Hosts" such as Vampira helped make these films a weekly viewing habit for
millions of young people. Monsters became a hip part of the youth culture.
Warren Publishing responded to this growing movement by introducing Famous
Monsters of Filmland in 1958. The brainchild of editor Forrest J. Ackerman,
Famous Monsters magazine popularized horror and science fiction movies,
making them seem more fun than scary. Though obviously aimed at children,
the pun-filled magazine was originally conceived as a Playboy-style
journal for the monster crowd. The first cover of Famous Monsters
featured a man in a rubber Frankenstein mask, wearing a Hugh Hefner-esque
jacket, standing close beside a playful young woman.
This may seem incongruous today, but it made perfect sense in 1958.
Playboy magazine had become the standard bearer of "hipness" in the
late 1950's. Monsters were also "in," so naturally they would be marketed
in conjunction with whatever else was en vogue. This is the reason The
Munsters used surf music for its opening theme, why the hot rod auto
fad became connected with grotesque "Daddy Roth" monster characatures, and
the reason The Monster Mash became a hit party anthem. Monsters were a ubiquitous
part of late 50's and 60's pop culture. Their cross-over appeal made them
darlings of the beat, surf, hot rod and "playboy" crowds - not to mention
The popularity of Famous Monsters paved the way for the introduction
of monster toys. Aurora Plastics Corp. took the first step in 1961 by producing
the first monster model kit - Frankenstein. It was a risky and controversial
move, but it payed off. The incredible success of the Aurora monster models
opened the gates for a tidal wave of monster merchandise that flooded the
60's. Monsters remained popular throughout the decade, the first
great "Monster Craze." Fans who grew up during that era are often called
1960's Clinton Plastics Frankenstein Halloween Bucket
Most surviving examples have missing or broken vinyl carrying straps. Color
variations are known to exist.
Aurora Classic Monster
Aurora had been producing figure kits since 1955. Their catalog included
"Guys and Gals of All Nations," soldiers, knights, cowboys, and historical
characters. In 1960, Aurora conducted a market survey that revealed their
young customers wanted models of classic monsters. Marketing Director Bill
Silverstein loved the idea, but the rest of Aurora's management had misgivings.
They consulted a number of child psychologists to find out whether children
would suffer psychological damage as a result of exposure to the proposed
monster kits. Only after the psychologists assured them that building the
kits would help children deal with their fears did Aurora's management give
Silverstein the go-ahead to produce the contraversial model kits. The first,
Frankenstein, appeared in 1961. It was an instant success. Aurora's plant
ran 24 hours a day to meet the incredible demand. Aurora followed with twelve
more monster kits over the next five years. These were: Dracula, Wolf Man,
Mummy, Creature, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Godzilla,
King Kong, Mr. Hyde, Salem Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, and Forgotten Prisoner.
The Aurora classic monster models are probably the most important and influential
monster products ever made. Aurora re-issued the models with glow-in-the-dark
parts in 1969, then again in 1972. They have since been re-issued by Monogram
in 1983, 1991, and 1994. Polar Lights/Playing Mantis released them
again during the late 1990s, this time in reproductions of the original 60s
boxes. (For the full history of Aurora models, read "The Aurora History
& Price Guide" by Bill Bruegman, published in 1992 by Cap'n Penny
Louis Marx Co. was a major manufacturer of battery-operated tin toys in the
1960's. They produced attacking robots, leaping tigers, snapping alligators,
and countless other mechanical creatures, including several remote-controlled
monsters. The Marx monsters stand out as some of the most handsome and impressive
battery-operated toys ever made. Some were mostly tin, such as the 12-inch
remote-control Frankenstein. Others were plastic, such as the two-foot tall
Great Garloo. And some were plush over mechanical skeletons, like the Yeti
and Mighty Kong. Besides walking, they performed other amazing feats.
Frankenstein and Garloo could stoop over and pick up objects. Kong could
beat his chest. The Spooky Tree whistled and rolled his eyes. And the agitated
Yeti would raise his arms and let out the loudest, most blood-curdling SHRIEK
that human ears can endure. Marx also produced smaller, wind-up versions
of many of their larger battery-operated toys. All these toys were packaged
in large, colorful boxes that are almost as fun to examine as the toys
themselves. Marx robots achieved a level of quality and complexity that probably
could not be duplicated in today's toy market. Kids of the 60's were indeed
lucky to have access to such fabulous treasures.
1960s/70s Rubber Frankenstein Doll
A 17-inch novelty figure made of latex-covered foam, with glued-on
hair, fabric clothes and resin boots. Produced in Japan, this rare doll is
said to have been distributed stateside as a carnival prize. A similar witch
reportedly exists. Photo courtesy of the Famous Monster of Minneapolis.
Colgate Palmolive Monster
During the 1960s, Colgate Palmolive sold liquid buble bath in plastic containers
shaped like popular cartoon characters. Colgate called the product a "Soaky,"
as indicated on the bottom of each 11-ounce container. In 1963 the company
produced a line of four licensed Universal monster characters - Frankenstein,
Wolf Man, Mummy and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Today, these Soakies
are usually found empty, missing the cardboard box around their base and
a tag that extended from their neck.
Anchor Hocking Monster Drinking Glasses
These licensed Universal Monsters collector glasses were reportedly give-away
premiums at gas stations circa 1963.
The famous candy dispenser company produced a set of three Universal Monsters
PEZ in the mid-60's. Frankenstein seems to be the hardest to find today.
Creature was re-issued as an unlicensed version called "Fishman." The two
versions are identical, save for the color of the plastic head. The licensed
version is green, while the Fishman is black. The dispensers were sold in
clear plastic bags. Those in vending machines were packaged in plain white
boxes that had the monster's name on the side.
Multiple Products Monster
Multiple Products produced solid plastic monster figurines in two sizes.
The larger and more interesting were the 5-inch tall "Pop-Top Unbreakable
Horrors," produced in 1964. The gimmick with these toys was that their heads
could be detached - "popped out of their sockets" - and interchanged with
other figures in the set. The eight monsters were sold two to a package,
which consisted of a bag stapled to a backer and header card. A rare
variation contains all eight monsters on one blister card. Multiple also
made 2 1/2-inch versions of the Pop-Tops. Called "Unbreakable Weird Monsters,"
these differed from their big brothers in that their heads did not detach.
All eight characters were sold together on one blister card. The Multiple
Products monsters are known for their skinny, emaciated appearance. The plastic
has become brittle with age, particularly the ones left in the packages.
Most packaged Pop-Tops are found with broken fingers and limbs rattling around
in the bag.
1960's AJ Renzi Monster Mobile plastic toy
The front wheels are probably replacements taken from another Renzi toy.
Most surviving examples have front wheels identical to the rear pair. Known
variations include black wheels and different colored monster passengers.
The Palmer monsters were another important set of monster figurines released
in 1964. These 3-inch toys are notable for their charmingly crude style and
the inclusion of some esoteric characters. The set included eight monsters:
Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong,
Gorgo, 7th Voyage of Sinbad Cyclops, and It (the Terror from Beyond Space).
They were sold as a complete set on a single bubble card. A tiny Fay Wray
came with the Kong, but this is always missing from loose specimens.
Don Post Studios Monster
Don Post Studios is the premiere manufacturer of commercially-produced
latex rubber masks. The California-based company produced its first Frankenstein
mask in 1948, but it is Don Post's 1960s masks that are best-known today.
In 1963 the company launched a series of licensed whole-head masks based
on the Universal Studios classic monsters. The masks sold for about $34,
a fortune in the 1960s. Many a lad stared longingly at the these masks advertised
in the black and white pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.
Rare was the child who actually convinced his parents to shell out the bucks
necessary to let him turn his face into Frankenstein. A 1966 "Monster Calendar"
featured big color photos of the most popular Don Post Universal Monsters
masks. The novelty calendar was published by Prestige Publications and
distributed by Pico Novelty Co. of Los Angeles. Don Post revised and reissued
the masks several times during the 1960s and 70s. The masks made a triumphant
return in 1998 when Don Post issued limited edition recreations. The photos
below were taken from the 1966 calendar.
Ideal produced the Mini-Monsters in 1965. Little is known about these baby
dolls, which are usually found loose and incomplete. Collectors in later
years referred to them as "Baby Munsters," but the toys have nothing to do
with the classic Munsters TV show. The 8-inch dolls are named Vampy, Dracky,
Franky and Wolfy. Each has a clothing tag marked "Mini-Monster, Japan." The
photos below are from the collection of Eduardo Baez.
In addition to battery-operated and wind-up toys, Louis Marx also manufactured
a wide variety of solid plastic figurines. Marx produced figurines of dinosaurs,
animals, soldiers, cowboys, Weird-Ohs, and every other pop-culture character
imaginable. The classic monsters were no exception. Marx issued a set of
six licensed Universal Monsters circa 1969. The set included Frankenstein,
Wolfman, Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, and
Hunchback of Notre Dame. The set was sold both loose, and together in a plastic
bag with a printed logo that read "Cinema Creatures!" The monster figurines
have been re-issued many times over the years, most recently as a
glow-in-the-dark set by Uncle Milton in 1991. The pictures below are of a
1990 re-issue molded in tan plastic. But the original 60's versions were
molded in blue and orange plastic. Other colors have also been reported.
Monster Bobbin' Heads - Frankenstein, Phantom and Wolf Man (1962)
Photos courtesy of Famous Monsters of Minneapolis.
The Kooky Spookys seem to be an almost forgotten toy line. Produced by Hasbro
in 1968, they were a set of vinyl finger puppets with plastic accessories.
The funny little family of ghosts were sold in vivid boxes with haunted house
artwork. They marked a change of pace for Hasbro, which was better known
for its articulated boys action figure, GI Joe.
A set of imaginative "giant bug" toys. Though manufactured in the 60's, their
B-movie style owed more to the 50's. Three large boxed playsets included
one giant bug, a military vehicle and a squad of brave plastic soldiers.
Several smaller bugs were sold seperately, as were additional vehicles, soldiers
and a helmet that kids could wear. The "leader" bug was named Horrible Hamilton,
the biggest of the invading insects.
Colorforms Outer Space
These were the first three-dimensional toys from the company that made its
name producing vinyl stick-on playsets. Inspired by Mattel's Major Matt Mason
line of astronaut toys, the Colorforms Outer Space Men were a highly imaginative
line of bendies depicting extra-terrestrial lifeforms. Each distinctive creature
came from a planet in our solar system. Alpha 7 came from Mars, Astro-Nautilus
came from Neptune, and so on. In the 60's, kids could still wonder whether
little green men lived on the Moon, or on Mars. This fantasy was punctured
when the 1969 moon landing failed to find any aliens. There were no aliens
waiting, just dust and rocks. Kids lost interest in the Colorforms Outer
Space Men, and a planned second series never made it past the prototype stage.
Colorforms did go on to produce a stick-on playset and a few jigsaw puzzles
featuring the aliens. Other companies copied the sculptures and produced
bootleg toys. Miniature Colorforms aliens plastic figurines were included
in a space fantasy board game. Miniature bendies could be found in vending
machines, and carded as "Space Mauraders Bendables." Today, many collectors
consider the Colorforms Outer Space Men to be one of the most creative, original
toy lines ever made.
Copyright 1996 Monster Castle Productions, Inc.
Frankenstein "Overview" image prepared by Kerry Gammill.
Created by Raymond Castile using