Universal Monsters Week | Mezco, Trick or Treat, & WOWindows

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The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

The only authentic Halloween decoration featuring the Universal Monsters this year is a pretty nifty WOWindows poster featuring Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster.  But — have no fear — there are plenty of other Universal Monster items out there this season.  So, hold on to your electrodes, as we recap the shocking offerings.

Diamond Select Toys is supposedly wrapping up its Universal Monsters line of toys, ending on a disappointing note with a non-likeness, no-need-to-be-licensed Van Helsing figure.  Although Diamond is coming out with an amazing Creature from the Black Lagoon figure next year, as well as a nice Son of Frankenstein, without any signs of Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, Werewolf of London, Kharis, or any supporting characters, it’s time to turn to other toymakers for our fill of Monster goodness.  And it looks as if Mezco is slowly taking away Diamond’s luster with its expansive offerings: Universal Monsters Living Dead Dolls and stylized figures.  This October saw the release of the amazing Dracula Living Dead Doll.  The Mummy stylized figure, which follows the ghastly Monster and Creature figures released earlier this year, will come to life soon.

Mezco Monsters

However, the grandest of this year’s Universal Monster items are not even officially licensed by Universal Studios.  Nope.  Instead, they are licensed through the estates of the individual actors.  Trick or Treat Studios, the up-and-coming leader of the Halloween mask-making world, has unleashed two great masks: The Bela Lugosi Mask (based upon Lugosi in the DRACULA play) and the Phantom of the Opera Mask featuring the likeness of the Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney, Sr.  These two incredible masks deserve to the be the first in a long line of masks based upon the actors who invented the monsters.  Unfortunately with Universal involved, one never knows if “what should be” will be, but we’ll see…

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Universal Monsters Week | Monster Hot Wheels & New Stock Art

1
The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

The official Universal Studios Monsters are back from the grave, this time adorning some sweet rides from Hot Wheels.  These creepy cars are now available at select grocery stores, such as certain Kroger stores and Winco, and will probably be found in the Halloween aisles.  In total there are six vehicles: Creature from the Black Lagoon Low Flow, Dracula Neet Streeter, Bride of Frankenstein ’59 Cadillac Funny Car, Frankenstein Double Demon Delivery, The Wolf Man Volkswagen T1 Panel Bus (not pictured) and The Mummy 1934 Chrysler Airflow (not pictured).

Universal Monsters Hot Wheels

And what is interesting about them is that they feature new artwork for our Monster friends.  Instead of the horrible CGI monstrosities created at the beginning of the last decade, these monster toys feature characters with a more “hand-illustrated” look.  And while none of them look much like the original characters (or, God forbid, actors), it is a step in the right direction, even if it means eliminating the Wolf Man’s dog snout (poor choice, indeed, Universal).  Perhaps these line-art versions of the Monsters will be seen on other products in the future.  Maybe the CGI-looking, computer-drawn abominations from 2002 will finally be gone forever…  Only time will tell.  All I know is that I’d give almost anything to have these 1997 versions back.  Or the 1991 Monsters…  Or the Aurora Monster Model art…  But anything is better than the ones we’ve had to endure for the past decade.  That is certain.  We’ll be back Friday with our final look at the Universal Monster products of 2013.

Halloween 2013 | Spook Spotter

1

Hallmark

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

To get the hearse wheels spinning, we’ll share with you one of the coolest indoor decorations we’ve seen: The Hallmark Haunted House Shadowcaster.  Part tabletop display, part light show, this Hallmark creation is one-of-a-kind.  The display looks great during the day, but really comes to life at night.  Each window features a spooky silhouette that only appears when the display is activated.  An evil enchantress cooks up a crazy concoction in the doorway, while jack-o’-lanterns stand guard on the porch.  Cats, spiders, and skeleton-men haunt the windows, and a ghost hangs out in the rafters.  Each characters appears with the help of a flickering LED light strategically placed behind the facade.

However, the real treat is what’s behind the mansion:  a flock of frightening fanged-beasts!  Through the magic of modern technology, dozens of bats, of all shapes and sizes, are projected onto whatever is directly behind the house.  Illuminated in orange and purple, the light show shifts between two basic positions (plus a third transitioning scene) and lasts anywhere from half-a-minute in “try-me” mode to an hour when the button is held down for several seconds.

Although the house itself doesn’t seem too sturdy and the plastic it is molded in could be thicker, this is still a great little decoration that really captures the essence of Halloween and the magic of the season.  It can be purchased for $19.99 at participating Hallmark retailers.

TJ Maxx

This Halloween season is not unusual in the fact that the best products are not found in the traditional retail stores, but at the discounters.  The TJX group (T.J.MAXX, Home Goods, and Marshall’s) has some of the most interesting offerings.  In addition to the traditional devilish dinnerware and lethal linen, they are offering up both vintage-inspired designs and classic Gothic elegance.

The most unique pieces at HomeGoods and Marshall’s, though T.J.Maxx does end up with some of the overstock.  If you love to keep things dim and grim, you may be interested in some of the faux-stone busts and statues.  Or perhaps creepy candelabras are more your thing.  They have plenty to choose from, including this one that comes complete with LED candles.  Battery-operated, it retails at $24.99.  The light is that harsh, cold, traditional (almost blue) LED style, but it’s ghostly in its own undead way.

The next offerings come from Christopher Radko.  HomeGoods usually carries his vintage-reproduction line of ornaments named after the famous “Shiny Brite” Christmas ornament company.  This year, they serve up some Halloween-themed bulbs that would be perfect for any vintage display or Halloween tree.  In addition, they also have several wooden tabletop and wall pieces with artwork taken right off of early 20th century postcards, like this lovely little witch pictured above.

Tuesday Morning

The main rivals of the TJX group, Ross and Tuesday Morning, have fewer options for the season of the witch, but — every now and then — a spooktacular find materializes.

Such is the case with Tuesday Morning’s Original WoWindow Posters.  Usually only found at the big name Halloween stores, Tuesday Morning is offering up two discontinued designs.  The creepiest of which is the “Vince the Vampire” two-poster set.  When they put “Wow” in the name, they aren’t kidding.  One of the posters in this set could almost cover an entire door.  Now imagine two of them at that size!  These massive decorations really fill out and (fill up) any window, wall, or door.  The first poster features the vampire’s giant face.  The second is a continuation of his body, with his hand taking up the majority of the second display.

Vampire Window Scene Setter

What is most notable about this poster is that it is not made with the same cheap plastic you used to find in this type of decoration.  This is made of a thicker, heavier film, which makes it great for use year-after-year.  The best thing about it is also the biggest drawback: the size.  Unless you have giant windows, it will be hard to place this set.  Fortunately, you can put up the one poster with the vampire’s face and get a decent effect.  At $4.99, it’s hard to pass up.

99 Cents Or Less

99 cent Haunted House display

While the regular retail offerings have been rather lackluster this year with Target, Walmart, and Spirit all failing to deliver on any noteworthy level (not to mention their tardiness in actually putting anything up in their brick and mortar stores), the dollar spots have not disappointed.  Usually, Dollar Tree has some of the greatest “cheap” decorations.  While they do have a few really awesome things that we will be highlighting in two days, 99 Cents Only is this year’s ultimate creep spot.  From outdoors to indoors, they provide wall-to-wall creeps and plenty of hot-and-cold running chills.

Dollar Tree used to be the king of cardboard tabletop decorations.  Now, 99 Cents Only has taken that honor and added some ghoulish delights that are certain to bring death to the liveliest of tables.

The most notable table centerpiece is the one you see pictured above.  Bats, black cats, and ravens surround a classically-designed haunted house.  Unlike some of the Dollar Tree decorations and the previous 99 Cents Only decorations, this piece solves the problem of folding edges and unaligned pieces by having a multitude of supports.  There are basically three layers to this piece, all adding to the spookiness of it, but also supporting the thin cardboard structure — an ingenious evolution of the dollar centerpiece.  It retails at 49 cents, but prices may vary by location.

Dollar Halloween Yard Signs99 Cents only also has some cool outdoor decorations, from window posters to door-covers to these Halloween yard stakes.  They are fairly sturdy — especially for a buck — but they won’t last in the ground if you live in a blustery area.  They are large enough, however, to make good wall signs.  Made of a coated plastic that is more weather-resistant than some of the other outdoor signs around, these are pretty nifty.  They come in four designs: vampire, witch, devil, skeleton; and they retail at 99 cents each.

These Frankenstein decorations are now available at 99 Cents Only.  One is a jointed tabletop figure that is being sold at closeout.  The other is a plastic wall poster that retails for 99 cents.  We’d say more, but we think we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree has a wide variety of window clings, plastic toys, and cardboard characters, as well as some interesting 3-D decorations made out of wire and tinsel.  They have felt cutouts, plastic skulls, and foam tombstones — basically all of the usual suspects.  So what are the standout items at the one-dollar-retailer this Halloween?

Surprisingly, napkins.  Napkins and paper plates.  For years, it seems, Dollar Tree has been pitching the same basic pumpkin party plates.  This year, that has all changed.  They not only have these great ’80s-inspired Haunted House napkins (pictured below), they also have a full set of paper tablewear (featuring a raven and a rat) that is far superior to any party goods in the big box stores.

Dollar Napkins

In addition, Dollar Tree is offering up massive window posters, much like the ones from Tuesday Morning, only less durable and… busier.  In the case of the Bates Mansion poster, however, busy is somewhat acceptable,  Wait…  Yes…  You heard correctly: BATES MANSION window poster.

Dollar Wall Banner

No, it’s not licensed, but the house pictured on the poster is clearly inspired by the one Norman and Mother call home, or maybe even Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris.  While the house is the centerpiece, it is surrounded by giant tarantulas, jack-o’-lanterns, candelabras, and lightning — virtually every spooky thing they could fit  So, no.  It’s not going to win any art awards, but it has a creepy haunted house on it!  How can you beat that for a buck?  More than anything, it’s reminiscent of a somewhat garish store display for soda, chips, or some other Halloween-themed party treat… and this is really why we love it.  Also, did we mention how massive this thing is?  It’s huge.  Turned on it’s side, it could easily fill a doorway.  If you do pick one up, good luck placing it!

Telco Motion-ettes of Halloween: History and Collector’s Guide

8

Overview:

Photograph of Telco Box ArtBefore the late 1980s, Halloween decorating was mostly comprised of putting up ceramic jack-o’-lanterns, cardboard cutouts of ghosts, and the occasional lighted blow mold.  But, in 1986, one company developed an idea that forever changed the way haunters decorated their homes, for that was the year when Telco Creations introduced a revolutionary concept to the witching season: animation.  Nowadays, Americans take for granted that they can walk into any store to purchase an animatronic figure to “frighten up” their All Hallows’ displays.  Before Telco, that would have been impossible.  Telco Creations was renowned for its innovative Christmas decorations, and it only seemed an appropriate next step to tackle Halloween.  Thus, the Original Telco Motion-ettes of Halloween were born: the Witch, the Ghost, and the Scarecrow.  The line immediately expanded to include the Monster and the Vampire characters, as well as the Skeleton in the top hat.  Each tabletop figure stood 24” tall, sized to be reminiscent of the motorized holiday window displays for which department stores had always been known.  They featured head and arm movement, as well as illumination, and were powered by electricity.

Telco Bat _BigScare

By 1987, Telco Creations had introduced its line-up of groovy ghouls nationwide in retailers like  Woolworth and Kmart.  By 1988, the catalog was even more expansive, even including smaller (18″), battery-operated versions of the figures, each of which had lighted eyes and a spooky sounds.  (An intermediate line of figures followed.) The characteristics of the larger Motion-ettes morphed over time to include additional features like lighted heads and “life-like” audio.  In 1992, Telco joined forces with Universal Studios to create officially licensed monster Motion-ettes.  After this release, the larger, electric figures were phased out.  However, the smaller, battery-operated Halloween figures remained in stores through the end of the century.  This guide is intended to help you understand the development of the Motion-ette line and identify certain figures you may have seen.  If your question isn’t answered here, it may be addressed in our Telco Halloween Motion-ettes FAQ.  You may also be interested in our Fair Market Value Guide based upon our ten-year observations.

Editor’s Note:  The images on this page are archival images, many of which are over 25 years old.  In some cases, there are obvious defects in our particular copies of the images.  The Big Scare has done its best to present the best quality Telco stock, promotional, and catalog images for your reference, so as to provide you with the most accurate depiction of the products.  All information and images on this page are for educational purposes.

The Original Motion-ettes of Halloween

The first Telco Halloween figures are uniquely different from those that followed.  While all early Telco figures featured electric power, motion, and an accessory (usually illuminated), the first wave included figures with single-arm motion as opposed to the more common double-arm movement.  The figures were activated by a red button on the base, as opposed to the more common cord rotary switch.  Furthermore, the figures had a glossier, shinier finish.

Their accessories were also less standardized and, in the case of the Monster, more elegant.  Unlike later versions, the first Monster came equipped with a metal lantern.  Other differences include a more Karloffian head-sculpt and a lighter costume.  The other figure that experienced a major overhaul from its initial incarnation was the Ghost.  The first release looked like the classic “bed sheet” ghoul.  Later on, this spook received a glowing jack-o’-lantern head.  Its lighted skull accessory was also replaced with a cat (which was illuminated in some figures and not in others).  The Scarecrow later received a set of plastic arms and a sculpted head, though the cloth version returned for a brief stint in 1989.  The Skeleton only experienced a change of accessories.  For the most part, the design of the original Witch remained unchanged throughout the entire run of the line, as did that of the original Vampire.  While materials changed and additional features were added, these two were the most steadfast figures in the whole series, though it should be noted that the Vampire was given a range of accessories in addition to the traditional skull and later received a “glowing head.”

Awful Accessories

The Telco series of animated figures was unique in the fact that its figures had a variety of accessories.  The most commonly used accessories were skulls, pumpkins, plastic lanterns, and cats.  However, broomsticks, canes, pitchforks, and crows/ravens were also added to certain figures.  The most unique accessories would have to be the Witch’s crystal ball and the hard plastic bats and cobras (snakes).  The bat accessories were actually modeled after Telco’s own animated bat figure.

Chilling Changes

Devil Regular Head Sculpt - Telco Stock ImageBy the time 1988 rolled around, Telco had given most of its original characters makeovers, and it added new designs to the mix.  The Vampire Bat, “Wolfman” (Werewolf), Gorilla, and Devil all made their debuts in the 1988 catalog.  Each of these figures included a feature new to 24″ Motion-ettes: lighted eyes.  Depending on the character, the eyes either glowed red or orange.  In addition, Kmart carried an exclusive Witch (with an alternate head sculpt) and the Phantom of the Opera that year.  Both were distributed to other retailers the following year.  1988 was also the year that Telco introduced a feature that would later become a staple of the Halloween line: glowing heads.  The first figure to feature a fully illuminated head was the newly-designed Ghost Motion-ette.  His plastic jack-o’-lantern head turned side to side, while glowing bright orange.

From Bug Eyes to Glowing Heads: Telco Grows Up

 By 1989, Telco continued to expand its character offerings, introducing new characters such as the “Flying Wicked Witch” and a Grim Reaper.  And while the original six characters remained unaltered from the previous year’s makeover, the 1988 additions each received a new treatment.

The g1989 MAD DEVILlo1989 MAD WEREWOLFwing eyes on the Devil, Wolfman, and Vampire Bat were all replaced with sculpted eyes, though the resulting “bug eyes” made the characters look “crazed” and “mad,” making these versions less popular than the former glowing-eyed figures and far more rare on the secondary market.  While the glowing-eyed beasts can be purchased rather easily, the bug-eyed monsters don’t show up that often, and, when they do, they generally sell for 1.5 to 2 times the amount of their lighted-eye counterparts.  The Devil and Wolfman later received glowing heads.

In fact, in 1990, all of the Halloween Motion-ettes debuted with fully illuminated heads.  To make the new technology work, most of the figures’ heads were re-cast in lighter-colored plastic.  The Vampire and the Phantom of the Opera were now extremely pale, the Monster was now molded in yellow, and the Wolfman became green.  (This green “Wolfman” was later renamed the “Beast Man.”)  The Witch saw no change, which made the feature rather ineffective.  An alternate Witch also received the “glow” treatment.  Additionally, a new character was added to the catalog, this one based on the 1925 Universal picture, The Phantom of the Opera.  The figure was named “Red Death,” after the sequence in the film and the character in the Edgar Allan Poe short story.  By 1991, Telco streamlined its output, reducing the Halloween offerings to the glowing versions of the Witch, Vampire, Monster, and the Grim Reaper character (which now adopted the “Skeleton” moniker).  In its final effort to innovate, Telco added “life-like” sounds to its 24″ line.  The audio (usually cackling, laughing, or moaning) could be controlled by a switch on the base of the figures.

Inspirations and Imitations

The muse behind the designs of the Halloween figures has always been a bit of a mystery, but it is clear that Telco drew inspiration from  images of the classic monsters and assorted Halloween toys that were available at the time.  For example, comparing the head sculpts of the Telco Motion-ettes to 1980s Halloween masks is an interesting exercise.  The Devil sculpt has a lot in common with the “Be Something Studios” Lucifer mask from 1980.   The argument could be made for other characters as well (albeit with different mask companies).  But no one will ever really know if Halloween masks were the references used by the Telco team.  What is clear, though, is that designs of the Monster, Vampire, and Phantom all appear to be based on the characters portrayed by Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, and Lon Chaney, Sr. respectively, making these innovative figures the first animated Halloween tributes to Horror films.

Because Telco’s idea was so successful, other companies immediately started production on their own lines of animated Halloween figures, all with the same basic features, many with eerily similar character designs, some with totally unique takes.   Competitors included Witchtime, Topstone, Rennoc (now Santa’s Best), EPI, and, of course, Gemmy — the current powerhouse in Halloween animation. Additional companies joined the holiday animation war, but they went as quickly as they came.

Something Different

By 1991, the market was so saturated with Halloween animation, Telco decided that it had to do something different.  The following year, it joined forces with Universal City Studios to create an official line of Motion-ettes modeled after the Universal Studios Monsters.  These Motion-ettes were the first ever animated Halloween figures to be licensed by a movie studio, thus inspiring a trend that would forever change Halloween decorating.

18" Universal Frankenstein (Alternate Coloring) Box ArtThe initial release of the Universal Monsters included the four main characters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  All of the characters received official head sculpts and costumes.  They were produced in both electric 21″ (instead of the regular 24″) and battery-operated 18″ formats (There were also 16″ variants).  Unlike their generic predecessors, they did not have lighted accessories, but they did include sound.  They were widely available at Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Meijer stores, as well as smaller retailers.  After the success of the first line, the Bride of Frankenstein and the Mummy were added; though, by this point, Telco’s focus had shifted to the more economical battery-operated 18″ line, making the last two difficult to come by in the larger size.  The 21″ version of the Mummy is the rarest of all Motion-ette figures, though he has surfaced on the secondary market.  It should also be noted that there were two versions of the Frankenstein Monster produced.  The first release came with a bright green paint application, while the second was released in a pasty, grayish green color.

Moving Forward

With so much competition, Telco’s decision to focus on its smaller, battery-operated line was a smart one and kept the Halloween figures in stores through the end of the 1990s.  For the most part, the character offerings remained limited.  After the Universal line, Telco returned to the traditional generic characters.  The 18″ line-up included the Vampire, the Monster, the Skeleton, and two versions of the Witch.  (To read more about the small line and the intermediate line, click here.)  Telco also released a few unique takes on these characters during this time: a Witch rising from a cauldron and a Grim Reaper rising from a chair.  The latter featured some of the most technologically advanced animation in Halloween decorating to that point.  It also featured a unique soundtrack with spoken dialogue and sound effects, a huge improvement over the previous “life-like” sound.  Telco folded shortly after the start of the new century due to factory problems, but its legacy lives on and today’s Halloween animatronic manufacturers owe Telco everything for paving the way for their success.

Have a question that wasn’t addressed in this guide?  Check out our Telco Halloween Motion-ettes FAQ!

Telco Motion-ettes of Halloween: History and Collector’s Guide

25

Overview:

Photograph of Telco Box ArtBefore the late 1980s, Halloween decorating was mostly comprised of putting up ceramic jack-o’-lanterns, cardboard cutouts of ghosts, and the occasional lighted blow mold.  But, in 1986, one company developed an idea that forever changed the way haunters decorated their homes, for that was the year when Telco Creations introduced a revolutionary concept to the witching season: animation.  Nowadays, Americans take for granted that they can walk into any store to purchase an animatronic figure to “frighten up” their All Hallows’ displays.  Before Telco, that would have been impossible.  Telco Creations was renowned for its innovative Christmas decorations, and it only seemed an appropriate next step to tackle Halloween.  Thus, the Original Telco Motion-ettes of Halloween were born: the Witch, the Ghost, and the Scarecrow.  The line immediately expanded to include the Monster and the Vampire characters, as well as the Skeleton in the top hat.  Each tabletop figure stood 24” tall, sized to be reminiscent of the motorized holiday window displays for which department stores had always been known.  They featured head and arm movement, as well as illumination, and were powered by electricity.

Telco Bat _BigScare

By 1987, Telco Creations had introduced its line-up of groovy ghouls nationwide in retailers like  Woolworth and Kmart.  By 1988, the catalog was even more expansive, even including smaller (18″), battery-operated versions of the figures, each of which had lighted eyes and a spooky sounds.  (An intermediate line of figures followed.) The characteristics of the larger Motion-ettes morphed over time to include additional features like lighted heads and “life-like” audio.  In 1992, Telco joined forces with Universal Studios to create officially licensed monster Motion-ettes.  After this release, the larger, electric figures were phased out.  However, the smaller, battery-operated Halloween figures remained in stores through the end of the century.  This guide is intended to help you understand the development of the Motion-ette line and identify certain figures you may have seen.  If your question isn’t answered here, it may be addressed in our Telco Halloween Motion-ettes FAQ.  You may also be interested in our Fair Market Value Guide based upon our ten-year observations.

Editor’s Note:  The images on this page are archival images, many of which are over 25 years old.  In some cases, there are obvious defects in our particular copies of the images.  The Big Scare has done its best to present the best quality Telco stock, promotional, and catalog images for your reference, so as to provide you with the most accurate depiction of the products.  All information and images on this page are for educational purposes.

The Original Motion-ettes of Halloween

The first Telco Halloween figures are uniquely different from those that followed.  While all early Telco figures featured electric power, motion, and an accessory (usually illuminated), the first wave included figures with single-arm motion as opposed to the more common double-arm movement.  The figures were activated by a red button on the base, as opposed to the more common cord rotary switch.  Furthermore, the figures had a glossier, shinier finish.

Their accessories were also less standardized and, in the case of the Monster, more elegant.  Unlike later versions, the first Monster came equipped with a metal lantern.  Other differences include a more Karloffian head-sculpt and a lighter costume.  The other figure that experienced a major overhaul from its initial incarnation was the Ghost.  The first release looked like the classic “bed sheet” ghoul.  Later on, this spook received a glowing jack-o’-lantern head.  Its lighted skull accessory was also replaced with a cat (which was illuminated in some figures and not in others).  The Scarecrow later received a set of plastic arms and a sculpted head, though the cloth version returned for a brief stint in 1989.  The Skeleton only experienced a change of accessories.  For the most part, the design of the original Witch remained unchanged throughout the entire run of the line, as did that of the original Vampire.  While materials changed and additional features were added, these two were the most steadfast figures in the whole series, though it should be noted that the Vampire was given a range of accessories in addition to the traditional skull and later received a “glowing head.”

Awful Accessories

The Telco series of animated figures was unique in the fact that its figures had a variety of accessories.  The most commonly used accessories were skulls, pumpkins, plastic lanterns, and cats.  However, broomsticks, canes, pitchforks, and crows/ravens were also added to certain figures.  The most unique accessories would have to be the Witch’s crystal ball and the hard plastic bats and cobras (snakes).  The bat accessories were actually modeled after Telco’s own animated bat figure.

Chilling Changes

Devil Regular Head Sculpt - Telco Stock ImageBy the time 1988 rolled around, Telco had given most of its original characters makeovers, and it added new designs to the mix.  The Vampire Bat, “Wolfman” (Werewolf), Gorilla, and Devil all made their debuts in the 1988 catalog.  Each of these figures included a feature new to 24″ Motion-ettes: lighted eyes.  Depending on the character, the eyes either glowed red or orange.  In addition, Kmart carried an exclusive Witch (with an alternate head sculpt) and the Phantom of the Opera that year.  Both were distributed to other retailers the following year.  1988 was also the year that Telco introduced a feature that would later become a staple of the Halloween line: glowing heads.  The first figure to feature a fully illuminated head was the newly-designed Ghost Motion-ette.  His plastic jack-o’-lantern head turned side to side, while glowing bright orange.

From Bug Eyes to Glowing Heads: Telco Grows Up

 By 1989, Telco continued to expand its character offerings, introducing new characters such as the “Flying Wicked Witch” and a Grim Reaper.  And while the original six characters remained unaltered from the previous year’s makeover, the 1988 additions each received a new treatment.

The g1989 MAD DEVILlo1989 MAD WEREWOLFwing eyes on the Devil, Wolfman, and Vampire Bat were all replaced with sculpted eyes, though the resulting “bug eyes” made the characters look “crazed” and “mad,” making these versions less popular than the former glowing-eyed figures and far more rare on the secondary market.  While the glowing-eyed beasts can be purchased rather easily, the bug-eyed monsters don’t show up that often, and, when they do, they generally sell for 1.5 to 2 times the amount of their lighted-eye counterparts.  The Devil and Wolfman later received glowing heads.

In fact, in 1990, all of the Halloween Motion-ettes debuted with fully illuminated heads.  To make the new technology work, most of the figures’ heads were re-cast in lighter-colored plastic.  The Vampire and the Phantom of the Opera were now extremely pale, the Monster was now molded in yellow, and the Wolfman became green.  (This green “Wolfman” was later renamed the “Beast Man.”)  The Witch saw no change, which made the feature rather ineffective.  An alternate Witch also received the “glow” treatment.  Additionally, a new character was added to the catalog, this one based on the 1925 Universal picture, The Phantom of the Opera.  The figure was named “Red Death,” after the sequence in the film and the character in the Edgar Allan Poe short story.  By 1991, Telco streamlined its output, reducing the Halloween offerings to the glowing versions of the Witch, Vampire, Monster, and the Grim Reaper character (which now adopted the “Skeleton” moniker).  In its final effort to innovate, Telco added “life-like” sounds to its 24″ line.  The audio (usually cackling, laughing, or moaning) could be controlled by a switch on the base of the figures.

Inspirations and Imitations

The muse behind the designs of the Halloween figures has always been a bit of a mystery, but it is clear that Telco drew inspiration from  images of the classic monsters and assorted Halloween toys that were available at the time.  For example, comparing the head sculpts of the Telco Motion-ettes to 1980s Halloween masks is an interesting exercise.  The Devil sculpt has a lot in common with the “Be Something Studios” Lucifer mask from 1980.   The argument could be made for other characters as well (albeit with different mask companies).  But no one will ever really know if Halloween masks were the references used by the Telco team.  What is clear, though, is that designs of the Monster, Vampire, and Phantom all appear to be based on the characters portrayed by Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, and Lon Chaney, Sr. respectively, making these innovative figures the first animated Halloween tributes to Horror films.

Because Telco’s idea was so successful, other companies immediately started production on their own lines of animated Halloween figures, all with the same basic features, many with eerily similar character designs, some with totally unique takes.   Competitors included Witchtime, Topstone, Rennoc (now Santa’s Best), EPI, and, of course, Gemmy — the current powerhouse in Halloween animation. Additional companies joined the holiday animation war, but they went as quickly as they came.

Something Different

By 1991, the market was so saturated with Halloween animation, Telco decided that it had to do something different.  The following year, it joined forces with Universal City Studios to create an official line of Motion-ettes modeled after the Universal Studios Monsters.  These Motion-ettes were the first ever animated Halloween figures to be licensed by a movie studio, thus inspiring a trend that would forever change Halloween decorating.

18" Universal Frankenstein (Alternate Coloring) Box ArtThe initial release of the Universal Monsters included the four main characters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  All of the characters received official head sculpts and costumes.  They were produced in both electric 21″ (instead of the regular 24″) and battery-operated 18″ formats (There were also 16″ variants).  Unlike their generic predecessors, they did not have lighted accessories, but they did include sound.  They were widely available at Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Meijer stores, as well as smaller retailers.  After the success of the first line, the Bride of Frankenstein and the Mummy were added; though, by this point, Telco’s focus had shifted to the more economical battery-operated 18″ line, making the last two difficult to come by in the larger size.  The 21″ version of the Mummy is the rarest of all Motion-ette figures, though he has surfaced on the secondary market.  It should also be noted that there were two versions of the Frankenstein Monster produced.  The first release came with a bright green paint application, while the second was released in a pasty, grayish green color.

Moving Forward

With so much competition, Telco’s decision to focus on its smaller, battery-operated line was a smart one and kept the Halloween figures in stores through the end of the 1990s.  For the most part, the character offerings remained limited.  After the Universal line, Telco returned to the traditional generic characters.  The 18″ line-up included the Vampire, the Monster, the Skeleton, and two versions of the Witch.  (To read more about the small line and the intermediate line, click here.)  Telco also released a few unique takes on these characters during this time: a Witch rising from a cauldron and a Grim Reaper rising from a chair.  The latter featured some of the most technologically advanced animation in Halloween decorating to that point.  It also featured a unique soundtrack with spoken dialogue and sound effects, a huge improvement over the previous “life-like” sound.  Telco folded shortly after the start of the new century due to factory problems, but its legacy lives on and today’s Halloween animatronic manufacturers owe Telco everything for paving the way for their success.

Have a question that wasn’t addressed in this guide?  Check out our Telco Halloween Motion-ettes FAQ!

Universal Monsters Hawthorne Village Collection Guide

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The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

In the mid-2000s, the Bradford Exchange acquired the license to the Universal Studios Monsters and began to produce highly detailed collectibles based upon these timeless characters and their respective films.  The company created a train set (featuring images of the Monsters), as well as miniature figurines, and, of course, a haunted holiday village comprised of several famous buildings and structures from the Universal Monster movies.

The collection, part of the Hawthorne Village, could be obtained by purchasing a subscription, where a new 7″ building and scale figurine would be shipped every month.  With the help of our Internet friends who own the collection, The Big Scare has compiled the following collector’s guide.  Special thanks to Ms. Mapes for sharing photos of her collection with The Big Scare, and for allowing us to snap some of her very spooky scenes during our visit.

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THE BUILDINGS

The following list is the sum total of the buildings issued in the Universal Monster Collection.  They are listed in order of their release:

Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab with Frankenstein Monster figure
Dracula’s Castle with Count Dracula figure
The Mummy’s Tomb with Kharis figure
The Creature’s Black Lagoon with Gill Man figure
The Wolf Man’s Lair with Wolf Man figure
Frankenstein’s Burning Windmill with Monster and Henry Frankenstein figure
The Bride of Frankenstein’s Castle with Bride of Frankenstein figure
The Phantom’s Paris Opera House with Phantom figure
The Invisible Man’s Inn with Invisible Man figure
Transylvania Train Station with Train Conductor figure
The Mummy’s Museum with Imhotep figure
Frankenstein’s Cottage with Frankenstein and Maria figure
Burial Site  (Frankenstein) with Fritz figure
Gothic Cathedral  with Lurking Dracula figure
Fortune Tellar Campsite with Bela the Gypsy figure
The Creature’s Haunted Rita with Dr. Reed figure
House Of Dracula with Dr. Edelman figure
Castle Frankenstein with Monster on rock figure
Ritual Chamber  with Boiling Pot figure
The Invisible Man’s Demise with Policeman figure
The Creature’s Excavation Site with Excavation figure
The Wolf Man’s Mansion with mustached Talbot figure
 

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

The first house in the collection is Frankenstein’s Laboratory.  Like all the buildings, it measures about 7″ in height.  The design is partially inspired by the lab as seen in the 1931 classic, but it takes influences from other famous movie structures as well.  Bats and torches adorn the walls.  And Fritz, Frankenstein’s mad assistant, can be seen peeking out from the window.

The second piece in the series is Dracula’s Castle.  This one is almost completely inspired by the castle seen in the 1931 movie.  It is very detailed.  There are evil trees surrounding the property, vines climbing the walls, and dozens of bats – including some encircling the topmost tower.

The next building in the collection is The Mummy’s Tomb.  This one is very neat, because it has a whole area where you can display figures on the actual piece.  You can position characters just outside the entrance to the tomb and all along the walkway.  Of course, that makes for great scenes, especially when Kharis is involved!  This one even has torches that light up!

As you can tell by the photos, the Hawthorne Village pieces are very detailed, most of that detail comes from the delicate sculpting.  Every shingle has texture.  Every stone in the wall has depth.  This is what sets these pieces apart from similar villages from the likes of Department 56 and Lemax.  The paint schemes, however, fall somewhere between those of  the detail-oriented Department 56 villages and the mass-produced application of Lemax.  But they aren’t really anything to complain about, considering that these buildings are actually smaller than your average Lemax or Department 56 piece.  Taking that into consideration, they are actually fairly good.  The pieces don’t give off too much light, but that is where exterior ambiance lighting comes into play.  And the Universal Monsters buildings lend themselves wonderfully to that!

The Wolf Man’s Lair is the fifth structure in the collection.  This one takes a lot of liberties, but it is one of the most desired of the collection nonetheless.  It comes complete with its own full moon and an interior courtyard that is perfect for making little scenes with the monster accessories.

The seventh piece in the series is the Bride of Frankenstein’s Castle.  This one lends itself well to the Gothic theme of the village.  With its series of chimneys and vine-covered walls, it manages to combine the classy with the creepy, just like the Bride herself!  This piece comes along with its own Bride of Frankenstein figure, striking a very familiar pose.

The eighth structure in the collection is the very forbidding Phantom’s Paris Opera House.  This building has the most unique design of all and is very detailed.  It has a ton of windows, but the “stone” figures which adorn the roof are probably the most eye-catching decorations on this one!

Issue number nine is The Invisible Man’s Inn.  It is probably one of the most-detailed in the collection.  The accessory that comes along with it, the Invisible Man himself, is also one of the best accessories in this village collection.  He’s not all there – you can see through his hand!

The final piece we will be showcasing comes from later on in the collection.  It is called the “Haunted Rita,” based on the boat of the same name in Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Coming in at issue number sixteen, it is probably one of the most popular pieces – if only because it is one of the most iconic images from any Universal Monster film.  Can you spot the Gill Man’s claw coming from out of the water?

VILLAGE ACCESSORY SETS

While the buildings themselves each came with a “free” accessory, the Bradford Exchange offered a separate line filled with additional figures and scene-setters.  There were thirteen sets of figures released in total.  Each set included two to four figures.  The following list details the contents of each set.

1.  It’s Alive! – Dr. Frankenstein, Fritz, and the Monster rising from his slab
2.    Dracula Rises – Dracula and victim, Dracula rising from his coffin, Dracula hiding in the garden
3.    Mummy’s Curse – Imhotep, Mummy in Sarcophagus, Ankh-es-en-amon and Imhotep
4.    Black Lagoon – Captain Lucas, Dr. Reed, Creature in the water, and Kay on the rocks
5.    Beware the Full Moon – Maleva in the wagon and the Wolf Man trapped in the forest
6.    Frankenstein’s Town Mob – Man with dogs, Villagers with torches, and the Monster
7.    Bride of Frankenstein – Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Pretorius, and the Bride in bandages
8.    Phantom of the Opera – Phantom Fleeing, Phantom and Christine in boat, and Christine at tomb
9.    Invisible Man – Invisible Man in lab, Invisible Man outside, Villagers
10.  Uncovering Artifacts – Various Archaeologists, “tools,” and “maps”
11.  Dracula’s Vampires – Count Dracula in the catacombs and his three brides
12.  Grave Robbers – Fritz with cart, Elizabeth, Dr. Waldman, and Priest
13.  Searching for the Creature – Archaeologists and “Creature Claw Rock”

The figures are only a few inches tall, but they are jam-packed with detail. Take a look for yourself.

Universal Studios Monsters Village Frankenstein Scene

Thank you, Ms. Mapes for sharing your collection with all of us!

If you enjoyed this page, check out the other sections of the site for more articles about haunted villages, decorations, and, of course, the world famous Universal Studios Monsters!

Universal Monsters Week | New Monster Model Kits

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The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

This week on The Big Scare, we will be highlighting where you can track down some cool Halloween merchandise featuring our favorite fiends of Filmland.

There have been a number of exciting Monster Models released in recent years.  And the trend continues this fall with a slew of monsters and their mates making the ”scream scene!”  The Moebius Models Bride of Frankenstein kit is now available to purchase. The 1:8 scale Creature from the Black Lagoon kit with victim, sculpted by Adam Dougherty, will be debuting in the next few weeks.  The deluxe Bela Lugosi Dracula model kit with victim (based on the original stage play) is also set to debut in September.  So grab some glue and paints and get ready to create your own monster scenes this Halloween!