Halloween Cardboard Die-Cut Gallery: Creatures of the Night

2

The Big Scare is proud to announce the final installment of this year’s Halloween Cardboard Die-Cut Gallery.  We hope you have enjoyed all of the frightening images you have seen here.  We will be back with even more images next year.  Until then, take in the terror-ific sights of these Halloween frights.  We’ll be back in two days with another post.

 

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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

28

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!

The Other Telco: The Economy Motion-ettes of Halloween

14

The following is a sub-article about the economy line of the Telco Motion-ettes of Halloween.  To read the full article on the history of Telco and the 24″ line of Motion-ettes, click here.

After the initial Side of 18 inch Telco Boxsuccess of the 24″ line, Telco opted to expand its offerings to a wider consumer base.  The 24″ electric Motion-ettes retailed at $69.99, a fairly hefty price for a Halloween decoration in the 1980s.  As such, Telco decided to create an economy line of animated figures that could be purchased by Halloween enthusiasts on a budget, thus the 18″ battery-operated Motion-ettes of Halloween were born.

The first wave of figures included smaller versions of the original Witch and Vampire, as well as smaller versions of the 1988 Monster and  Ghost.  This debut line varied greatly from the economy Motion-ettes that followed.  The most noticeable difference was the size of the lighted accessory each figure held.  The first wave had larger accessories than the versions that succeeded.  The second difference was that these figures included AC adapters, meaning that they could be powered by electricity in addition to batteries.  There were some minor variations in certain characters as well.  The hair on the first edition Witch resembled that of her 24″ counterpart, meaning it was fluffy.  She was later given curly hair.  It should also be noted that early editions of the Monster came equipped with a skull accessory as opposed to the more traditional lantern.  Over the years, the economy line became more standardized.  The AC adapters were phased out and the accessories became smaller.  The initial four figures continued to be produced and additional ones were added, including a green Beastman and a Skeleton, neither of which had accessories.  An alternate version of the Witch was introduced later on.  And, at one point, Telco was offering both its original Witch and the alternate Witch.  Lighted eyes and “spooky sounds” were trademarks of the 18″ line, with most of the figures coming with the iconic electronic wailing sound that defined Halloween in the early 1990s.

Once Telco acquired a license from Universal Studios, they debuted an 18″ line featuring official Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, and  Creature from the Black Lagoon figures.  The Bride of Frankenstein and the Mummy came out the following year, but neither were as big of sellers as the original four.  Some retailers carried 16″ variants, which causes confusion among collectors to this day.  These figures did away with the lighted accessories, but maintained the lighted eyes.  The electronic wailing was replaced with “life-like” laughter, moaning, roaring, and cackling, depending on the character.

In 1990, Telco debuted an intermediate line of Motion-ettes, slightly larger than the battery operated counterparts, but much smaller than the 24″ line.  These were electric-powered figures and included the aforementioned “life-like” sounds.  The Witch, Ghost, Vampire and Monster were part of this special line that is often confused with the other two on the secondary market.

To read the main article about the Telco Motion-ettes, the original animated figures of Halloween, and to learn about special figures released in the economy line, click here.

Spook Spotter: Dollar Finds: Paper Monsters Play Set

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

While browsing through the 99¢ Only Store, we stumbled on a most amazing phenomenon…something so incredible, we mistrust our own judgement.  Look!

What you see above is a very unique item featuring great looking monsters and a cool haunted house.  And while we aren’t entirely certain what it is supposed to be, we decided to call it a Monster play set.  Despite the fact that the package insists this is not a toy, we are uncertain what else it could be.  Oh, of course, they can call it a “centerpiece” all they want, but with 8 stand-up monster figures and a haunted house, a paper play set is more likely.

Included with the haunted house are small cutout figures: a vampire, werewolf, Grim Reaper, witch, mummy, skeleton, scary scarecrow, and a Frankenstein Monster who will look awfully familiar to many a monster kid.

Take a look at this beauty for yourself at your local 99¢ Only.  Well that’s a wrap for September.  Join us next week as we kick off October with The Big Scare’s Halloween Activities Week – 2012 edition.