The Story of My Pet Monster
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?
This toy had blue plush fur, horns, a fanged smile, and orange plastic handcuffs.
They had a breakaway chain which could also be worn by a kid so he could be attached to his new pal.
There were various sizes of the doll that were released along with a bunch of spin-off characters including Gwonk, Wogster, and Rark to name a few.
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 an excess of extra merchandise including coloring books, puzzles, lunch boxes, and anything they could slap a logo on.
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 be considered the male barbie.
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. This was one of the reasons My Pet Monster was designed with fangs.
They had to find the balance of creating something that looked menacing but not too menacing.
Many thought of My Pet Monster as more of a character. He was like a big action figure more than a cuddly toy.
The My Pet Monster Cartoon Show
Through the ’80s, there are many examples of cartoon shows that were created first in order to launch a toy.
Transformers would be one of the most notable examples. A four-part cartoon series was used to introduce the toy line.
Kids had no idea they 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 would always have their full name mentioned.
The is to make that character known for quick branding but it would lead to very unnatural conversations in the show.
The timeline with My Pet Monster is a bit hazy. The toy definitely came first and it appears that the cartoon was made because of the huge popularity.
There is a big gamble when you put all your money into a cartoon with the risk it won’t be successful. You then might be stuck with a warehouse full of unwanted toys.
It's inevitable that a successful toy line will spawn a cartoon show such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The problem that arises is the studios don’t have a lot of time to get a show on the air. This is easy to see in shows where the animation is poor, and the story is lackluster.
The TV Show Characters
The My Pet Monster TV show only lasted one season. 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.” He lived with a boy named Max.
Anytime Monster would have his handcuffs put on he would turn back into the stuffed animal version.
One premise of the show involved Max keeping Monster a secret from everyone. This was a bit like ALF.
The only two that knew about Monster were Max’s sister, Jill, and his friend Chuckie.
Another premise of the show was the adversary Mr. Hinkle. He was a neighbor who always thinks Max is up to something.
There was also Beastur who kind of has a Sully from Monster Inc. vibe. Beastur hated light and was always trying to bring back Monster to Monster Land.
Those magic cuffs served even more purpose as they were able to resort Beastur to a smaller version.
Fun Fact: Most of the entire voice cast was recruited after the show to provide the majority 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.
The movie had a unique 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. The movie didn't do very well and had terrible reviews.
The Resurrection Of My Pet Monster
Like most things based around nostalgia, My Pet Monster was no different. In 2001 a company named ToyMax released a 22-inch talking version.
In 2018, Hasbro acquired My Pet Monster to re-release some different versions.
My Pet Monster is an interesting piece of 80’s nostalgia. It wasn’t the most iconic and definitive toy of the 1980s but is still remembered fondly.
It didn’t have the impact of GI Joe, Transformers, or He-Man, but it’s always recognizbale.
To many, My pet Monster still represents a big part of the 80s and is something always associated with the decade.