Many of the things us horror fans hold near and dear experienced golden times in the 1980s, which is why so many of us look back so fondly on that glorious decade. Not only did slasher films reach the apex of their popularity – and awesomeness – but so too did monster movies reign supreme at both the box office and on video store shelves. Monsters were all the rage in the ’80s, which was also reflected on toy shelves at the time.
One of the coolest things about the ’80s was the explosion of monster toys that brought gross-out horror movies into our homes, with lines like Boglins and Madballs standing tall as prime examples of just how much fun it was to be a kid during those times. But if you’re asking me, there’s only one reigning king in the world of ’80s monster toys. And though he was indeed a monster, he was also a beloved pet.
Originally released in 1986 by the American Greetings Corporation’s offshoot toy company AmToy, and coming along just one short year after that very same division struck monster gold with the aforementioned Madballs line, My Pet Monster was instantly notable for being one of the first plush dolls marketed towards both girls and boys. It was also notable because, well, it was a goddamn 26-inch PET MONSTER.
Surely inspired (to some degree) by the release of Gremlins two years prior, which centered on a boy and his inhuman friend, My Pet Monster allowed for kids to look after and care for a Gizmo-like doll of their very own. Wearing breakaway orange shackles and with a body primarily comprised of bright blue fur, the doll was as eye-catching as toys can possibly get, outfitted with a toothy smile and a head of hair that can only be described as pure ’80s.
Another obvious inspiration on My Pet Monster was Hasbro’s My Buddy doll, which hit toy shelves the previous year. Whereas the Chucky-esque My Buddy was a human friend, My Pet Monster was of course a friend of an entirely different sort, catered directly to the desires of kids who weren’t exactly looking for human companionship. He was for those, like us, who preferred the company of scary-looking monsters, representing horror fandom to a tee.
Not surprisingly, monster-loving kids couldn’t get enough of their hairy blue friend, and in the wake of the doll’s toy store rollout, a slew of spinoff products soon arrived. Other characters with names like Wogster, Gwonk, and Rark were added to the line, though they never caught on the way the original doll did. There was also an oddball variant dubbed My Football Monster, with eggplant-colored fur and wearing a helmet, which is similarly obscure.
In addition to things like coloring books and plastic Halloween masks, the franchise also spawned a direct-to-VHS film in 1986. Running an hour long, the movie was about a boy named Max who literally becomes the monster after being exposed to a powerful statue, and it’s easily one of the strangest exports of the ’80s. In 1987, 13-episodes of a My Pet Monster cartoon series aired on ABC, which depicted “Monzie” as the friend of human character Max.
By the time the 1990s came around, the popularity of all things My Pet Monster had waned, and it would be many years before ’80s kids started feeling nostalgic for their strange childhood friend. It was precisely that sense of nostalgia that led to Toymax rebooting the doll in 2001, releasing a talking version that measured 22″ tall. The upgraded remake of the doll, with the squeeze of his left hand, spouted lines like “I am your monster friend!” and “I’m really strong!”
More than just a lifeless doll, My Pet Monster was indeed a friend to ’80s kids the world over. And if that’s not the hallmark of a great toy, then I’m simply not sure what is. You are still loved, Monzie.