What do you get when you combine a teddy bear with some sort of monstrous creature? You get my Pet Monster.
My Pet Monster came out in 1986 and was produced by American Greetings. It spawned a popular cartoon show that same year. The original intent behind My Pet Monster was to capitalize on the young male demographic by offering a plush toy that hopefully, boys would want to play with.
What Was My Pet Monster?
You just need to take a look at this pic to hopefully remember what this odd creation looked like. He had blue plush fur, horns, a fanged smile, and orange plastic handcuffs. Oddly, the handcuffs would be the defining characteristic of My Pet Monster. They had a breakaway chain which could also be worn by a kid so he could be attached to his new pal. This was kind of like a messed up version of “My Buddy”
There were various sizes of the doll that were released and of course a bunch of spin-off characters including Gwonk, Wogster, and Rark to name a few classics.
The initial popularity grew really fast as a good marketing campaign made it impossible to not to see a My Pet Monster commercial. This lead to a crapload of extra merchandise including coloring books, puzzles, lunch boxes and anything they could slap a logo on pretty much. I can’t prove it but I’m positive I had a My Pet Monster lunchbox. I’ve looked everywhere but I think it’s long gone.
Marketing To Boys
This was actually one of the first plush dolls marketed to boys at the time. When you think about the idea of “dolls for boys” it really started with GI. Joe which could roughly be considered the male barbie. So this mechanism had been in place for quite awhile. In the plush toy category however, the boy market hadn’t really been targeted. American Greeting wanted to create something soft and cuddly but that appealed to boys hence the reason My Pet Monster was designed with fangs and for some reason, handcuffs.
They had this odd job of having to create something that looked menacing but not TOO menacing and I think they actually pulled it off pretty well. I remember thinking it was pretty cool and I think I thought of My Pet Monster more of a character and like a big action figure more than a cuddly toy. He just happened to be soft and made up of blue hair in my young 9-year-old mind.
The My Pet Monster Cartoon Show
Through the ’80s there’s a lot of examples of cartoon shows that were created first in order to launch a toy. Transformers would be one of the most notable examples using a four-part series to introduce the toy line. To our young minds, we had no idea we were essentially watching 22 minute long commercials. If you look back on shows from that time you can notice how any character being talked to there would always be a full mention of their name. The is obviously to make that character known for quick branding leading to very unnatural conversations.
The timeline with My Pet Monster is a bit hazy, the toy definitely came first and it looks like the cartoon was made due to the huge popularity. There is a big gamble putting all your money into a T.V show with the risk that it won’t be successful and then you’re stuck with a warehouse full of an unwanted toy. It’s inevitable that a successful toy line will spawn a T.V show ie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The problem that arises is you are left under the gun a bit and don’t have a lot of time to get a show up on the air. It’s not hard to see the shows that suffered from this as there is a lot of simple animation and not a lot of action or changing landscapes.
The show did have a pretty catchy theme song that, if you just watched that video, is probably stuck in your head right now. The start of it always seemed to me like a bit of an Addams Family rip off too.
The T.V Show Characters
I don’t recall that the My Pet Monster T.V show only lasted one season. I think this was a quick take the money and run situation as they probably knew they didn’t have a long lasting franchise on their hands. The show was based around My Pet Monster who would be referred to as “monster” for the duration of the show and lived with a boy named Max. If you remember back to the show anytime Monster would have his handcuffs put on he would turn back into the stuffed animal version.
Some of the premises of the show involved Max keeping Monster a secret from everyone. This had shades of ALF in my mind and also a bit of Calvin & Hobbes. The only two that knew about Monster were Max’s sister Jill and his friend Chuckie. Interesting name choice…
Here are some interesting connections with the voice actors, especially if you’re Canadian like me:
Max was voiced by Canadian Sunny Besen Thrasher which might be the greatest name in human history. He provided voices for things like:
- Garbage pail kids
- Care Bears
He also appeared on the ICONIC Canadian show Beach Combers.
Jill was voiced by fellow Canuck Alyson Court who also provided voices in:
- Care Bears
- Garbage Pail Kids
- Star Wars: Ewoks (playing the character first done by Winona Ryder
- Beetle Juice
- X Men- The Animated Adventures
This girl is a pivotal voice of the ’80s and most iconic to me, and if you’re a Canadian, first appeared on Mr. Dressup.
Another main premise of the show was the adversary Mr. Hinkle, a neighbor who always thinks Max is up to something. So he was actually right the whole time as Max possessed some sort of other worldly demon…
There was also Beastur who kind of has a Sully from Monster Inc. vibe. (I’m now wondering at the huge missed opportunity for some kind of Pixar/My Pet Monster Crossover). Beastur hated light and was always trying to bring back Monster to Monster Land. Those good ‘ol magic cuffs served even more purpose as they were able to resort Beastur to a smaller version, though he was still alive.
Fun Fact: Pretty much the entire cast was recruited after the show to provide most of the voices of the Beetlejuice cartoon in 1989.
The My Pet Monster Movie
There was a direct to video live-action movie that was also cranked out in 1986 (this makes me further think it was a put all your eggs in one basket situation knowing it wasn’t going to sustain itself very long). The move had a bit of different approach as the premise was about a boy who becomes the Pet Monster after being exposed to a statue. There was a character named Dr. Snyder who wanted to kidnap him for publicity purposes. This was like a modern retelling of King Kong but with blue fur instead…
In the movie, the sister’s name is changed to Melanie and also was voiced by Alyson Court
For the life of me, I barely remember this but take a look at how epic this thing looked and the very real trailer that went along with it. Unsurprisingly this “movie” doesn’t have the greatest ratings on IMDB…
The Resurrection Of My Pet Monster
Like most things that are based around nostalgia, My Pet Monster was no different. In 2001 a company named ToyMax (Max; so many connections here..) released a 22-inch talking version of it. Interest was piqued again in 2018 and Hasbro acquired My Pet Monster to be able to re-release some different versions of it. I’m not sure the long-term plan with it or what type of products they’re wanting to put out there but it’s all theirs now!
Wrapping It Up
My Pet Monster is an interesting piece of 80’s nostalgia. It wasn’t the most iconic and definitive toy of the ’80s, nor was the T.V show but it still has a nice small part of the decade. It didn’t have the impact of GI Joe, Transformers He-Man etc but it’s always recognizbale. You’re here reading this because you remember it, and maybe that’s what the ultimate intention of it was; not to be a game changer but carve out its own little corner of a decade that was absolutely packed with iconic and long-lasting brands and characters.
To me, it still represents a big part of the ’80s and it’s something I’ll always associate with the decade. It obviously made somewhat of an impact on me because in putting together all these articles for this blog My Pet Monster was something that stuck out that I felt I needed to take a look back at it.
Just for the love of God, do not watch that live-action movie…
If you want to get your own special edition My Pet Monster from the ToyMax re-release you can head here: Amazon