October 05, 2019

MY PET MONSTER


MY PET MONSTER
(ABC, September 12-December 19, 1987)

Nelvana Ltd., Those Characters From Cleveland, Telefilm Canada





MAIN CAST:
Jeff McGibbon – Monster
Sunny Besen Thrasher – Max Smith
Alyson Court – Jill Smith
Stuart Stone – Chuckie
Dan Hennessey – Beastur
Colin Fox – Mr. Hinkle
Tracey Moore – Princess



            Created by AmToys, a subsidiary of American Greetings, My Pet Monster was a plush doll targeted towards boys; the first of its kind. Designed to be simultaneously cute and terrifying, the large doll came came with bright orange manacles that had a trick link that would allow the simulation of his escaping from them. The manacles could also be removed and worn by kids to act like the monster themselves.




            To promote the doll, American Greetings went all-out for a major media push by commissioning a direct-to-video live-action special based on the toy. It was produced by Nelvana with The Global Television Network and Telefilm Canada. Also titled My Pet Monster, the special finds young Max Smith (Sunny Besen Thrasher) being transformed into a monster whenever he was hungry due to a strange statue in a museum. Dr. Snyder (Colin Fox), the man who found and brought back the statues, sought to capture Max to prove that the legends of their power were true and to validate his work. The special was written by J.D. Smith and directed by Timothy Bond. It would be released onto VHS by Hi-Tops Video with the doll in 1986.

Monster with Chuckie, Max and Jill.

            The doll proved a hit, and American Greetings sought to keep up the momentum by commissioning Nelvana to expand the special into an animated series. However, changes were made to the overall concept. While it still featured Max (again played by Thrasher, although depicted as blonde and without glasses), this time Monster (Jeff McGibbon) was a separate entity that could become an inanimate toy when magical manacles were placed on him. The only others to know about the monster were Max’s sister, Jill (renamed from Melanie in the special and also made blonde, but again played by Alyson Court), and Max’s friend, Chuckie (Stuart Stone). Fox also returned as a new character: next door neighbor Mr. Hinkle who lived with his dog, Princess (Tracey Moore). Hinkle knew about Monster but always failed in trying to prove he existed to others. A new antagonist was introduced in the form of Beastur (Dan Hennessey), who came from Monsterland like Monster and sought to drag him back home by any means. Beastur was briefly mentioned in the special in relation to the statues.

Monster in toy mode.

            My Pet Monster debuted on ABC on September 12, 1987. The series was largely driven by the chaos that ensued by the kids trying to keep Monster a secret and Monster constantly trying to engage with the world with his limited understanding of how things worked. Other storylines also dealt with school bullies and monster hunters. Smith returned to write several episodes as well as assistant story-edited with Peter Sauder, who also wrote several scripts. The writing staff was rounded out by Mike Silvani, Steve Wright, Alan Swayze and John de Klein. Development of the characters was directed by George Chanter, Linda Edwards, Rochelle Lulow and Ralph Shaffer, and facilitated by Jim Elliot, Tom Jacobs, Cindy Moyer, Michael Robertson and Susan Trentel. John Welsman returned from the special to comprise the series’ score, but the theme was composed by Marvin Dolgay and Kevan Staples. Animation duties were handled by Hanho Heung-Up Company, Ltd.

Beastur, foiled again!

            The show actually proved popular enough to warrant a continuation, but American Greetings felt no need to pursue a second season at let it end after 13 episodes. The My Pet Monster toyline continued to thrive into the early 90s, spawning dolls of various sizes, spin-off characters and other merchandise like books, lunch boxes and puzzles, until the appeal had run its course. In 2001, a company named ToyMax attempted to cash in on nostalgia by releasing a new 22-inch talking version of the doll. Somewhere along the way, My Pet Monster came into the possession of Saban Brands and was included in the Hasbro buyout in 2018.

The DVD cover art.

            As for the animated series, Hi-Tops released several episodes to VHS beginning in 1988. KaBoom! Entertainment released the complete series onto DVD exclusively for Canada in 2008. A United States version would be released the following year by Trinity Home Entertainment




EPISODE GUIDE:
“Goodbye Cuffs, Goodbye Monster” (9/12/87) – Max discovers his new monster toy is alive while another monster comes looking to bring him home.

“The Wolfmen are Coming!” (9/19/87) – Max tries to get tickets for The Wolfmen concert while Jill’s costumes make Mr. Hinkle think there are real wolfmen loose in the neighborhood.

“Boogie Board Blues” (9/26/87) – Max’s friends come to his aid to help him win the Junior Boogie Board Competition.

“Rock-a-bye Babysitters / Monster Cookie Mix-Up!” (10/2/87) – Max and Chuckie have to babysit Mr. Hinkle’s niece for Jill, and Monster wants to help. / Monster devours the cookies Jill baked for a charity drive and Beastur interrupts the attempts to replace them.

“The Masked Muncher!” (10/17/87) – Chuckie and school bully Leo make a bet for the upcoming pie-eating contest, and if Leo wins, he gets Monster.

“Runaway Monster” (10/24/87) – Monster decides to run away when he thinks everyone forgot his birthday.

“Finders Keepers / My Poet Monster” (10/31/87) – Everyone is after Monster when he decides to keep the stolen jewels he found. / To thank Max for teaching him to write, Monster signs Max’s badly-graded essay so that his mother won’t see it.

“Escape from Monsterland!” (11/7/87) – The kids and Monster end up trapped in Monsterland.

“Little Bigfoot” (11/14/87) – The kids and Monster go camping with Mr. Hinkle in an attempt to solve the mystery of Bigfoot.

“Monster Makes the Grade!” (11/21/87) – Intrigued by the school elections, Monster poses as an exchange student to get involved in the process.

“Monster Movie Mayhem! / Superhero For Hire!” (12/5/87) – The kids make a movie with Monster that accidentally gets switched with a video of a show dog. / Monster becomes a superhero and fights crime.

“Gorilla My Dreams” (12/12/87) – Beastur crashes the gang’s trip to the zoo.

“The Monster Hunter” (12/19/87) – Not only does Monster have to evade Beastur, but a monster hunter that’s looking for him.

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