I can’t tell you much that happened in elementary school, but I can distinctly remember meeting the principal Mr. Devitt on the first day of first grade in 1986. The memory isn't tied to anything he said or did, although he was an intimidating hulking presence and former football player, but what lurked behind him. There a was grotesque yet funny, royal blue, plush toy monster that peered out from his office as he greeted students one by one. "He can’t be that mean, he’s got a My Pet Monster," I told my six-year-old self.
Whether or not AM Toys executives knew it at the time, there was no better time to release the blue, fanged plush toy My Pet Monster than 1986. In 1985, children were bugging their parents to buy toys like Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids and My Buddy, establishing a trend for friend-like toys kids could lug around and confide in. At the same time, toys featuring like the Masters of the Universe Slime Pit, Madballs, and Bed Bugs hinted that kids also wanted to be grossed out. Enter My Pet Monster, with its ogre-like nose, orange eyes, purple mouth with disgusting fangs, brilliant blue fur, and breakable neon orange handcuffs.
Double the girth of a Teddy Ruxpin or a Cabbage Patch Kid, the 26-inch My Pet Monster was a teddy bear on steroids, its head alone the size of a small dog. For a five or six-year-old child, it was the perfect size to fight, pretend with or cuddle up to at night. That's not to mention the monster's big selling point, plastic and velcro handcuffs that provided endless permutations of arresting an ogre bear. I can easily picture my kids today immediately picking up the cuffs and busting out of those chains like a superhero.
When My Pet Monster burst onto onto the crowded toy scene alongside G.I. Joe and Transformers, AM Toys parent company Amerian Greetings had already had enjoyed success from toy and cartoon properties like Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, and The Get Along Gang. Much like other successful toys from the era, My Pet Monster came with a multimedia push. Whereas He-Man and Care Bears got their own show, My Pet Monster's creators decided to switch it up and present a full-length live action movie alongside a cartoon.
In the Hi-Tops-produced direct-to-video film, Max and his sister Melanie go to a museum to see a monster-like statue from the Middle East. Max turns into My Pet Monster after being exposed to the statue and sunlight, much to the delight of the evil Dr. Snyder, who tries to capture Max, the monster, throughout the movie.
Hijinks ensue as Max and his sister elude Dr. Snyder and change Max back into a human. But every time Max gets hungry, he finds himself turning back into the blue creature. In the Super Mario Bros.-inspired opening credits to the movie, filmmakers teased both My Football Monster and Beastur, two spinoff toys, who appeared in the cartoon the following year.
My Pet Monster got the cartoon treatment as well in 1987 on ABC. In that iteration, My Pet Monster is given a completely different origin. The show follows Max again, but this time he's given a plush monster with handcuffs who turns into a real-life monster when the cuffs are taken off. As a character, Monster falls somewhere between the Tazmanian Devil and Bugs Bunny.
Throughout the original 15 episodes, Max and his monster are followed by the wet blanket neighbor Mr. Hinkle, who suspects Max is hiding something, and Beastur, a hench-monster who is trying to bring back the escaped Monster to MonsterLand.
In one of the episodes, Max and Monster become trapped in Monsterland and must find a way to escape. On another adventure, Max, Monster and the gang join Mr. Hinkle on a camping trip and encounter the mystery of Bigfoot. In a somewhat educational episode, Monster learns about school elections, posing as an exchange student in order to liven up the political process. While it wasn't groundbreaking, the cartoon series capitalized on the popularity of the toy, pushing sales even higher.
Interestingly, after My Pet Monster was canceled in 1987, the cast of the show — Sunny Besen Thrasher, Stuart Stone, Jeff McGibbon, Alyson Court and Dan Hennessey — reunited in 1989 for the Beetlejuice cartoon.
In addition to Beastur and My Football Monster, My Pet Monster also spawned a series of Monster Pets, hand puppet plush toys including the cat-like Gwonk, dog-like Rark and the vaguely feminine Wogster. A second series with Yaplet and Yiplet followed. Alongside the main toys, a rash of books, puzzles and other small toys followed.
In 2001, a talking My Pet Monster was re-designed and re-released by Toymax. The toy featured sayings like "I'm really strong," "I'm your monster friend," and "Let's wrestle." The revamped version of the toy was a bit more polished, with a shiny nose and larger smile. While the original My Pet Monster were released with 16", 22" and 26" versions, the Toymax re-issue was only released as 22 inches.
Since the release of the Toymax version of My Pet Monster in the early 2000s and a re-release of the cartoon series in 2008, nothing much happened with the character until earlier this year. In May, Deadline reported that Hasbro had, along with other properties such the Power Rangers, had attained the rights to My Pet Monster. Whether that could mean more toys or, *gasp,* a My Pet Monster movie, still remains to be seen.
Like many other toys from the 1980s, My Pet Monster has become a somewhat valuable collectible. If you're looking to reclaim your childhood and find a My Pet Monster of your own, eBay has plenty of options but, be warned, you may have to have to pay upwards of $80 for a used Monster without his famous handcuffs. Even some of the Toymax versions are going for as much. If you're in the market for the original version with handcuffs, good luck, they're rare and could cost you a few hundred dollars.