|R.L. Stine surrounded by his creations.
After the success of his young adult horror novels, Parachute Press persuaded R.L. Stine to write a series of scary books for a
younger audience. Stine conceived of an anthology series that focused on a
rotating cast of characters in various locations; typically with young children
using their wits to deal with horrific situations. Stine used pop culture, real
life influences and memories of his own childhood fears to devise stories that
blended humor and horror usually by coming up with a title first. After seeing
an ad in the TV Guide with the
slogan “It’s goosebumps week on Channel 11,” Stine found the title for his
|The very first Goosebumps.
Initially, Stine signed a six-book
deal with series publisher Scholastic,
the first of which was Welcome to Dead House in July of 1992. The series was
produced specifically for girls, but boys ended up becoming fans as well. Stine
ended up penning 62 books for Scholastic in the original series. Each book was
distinctive through brightly colored slime around the borders, the simulated
embossed goosebumps in the title, and by the striking cover art from Tim Jacobus. Although fans loved the
books, critics had a less-warm reaction to them and many came under
fire for being “too scary” or for the themes employed, such as the
|Stine's wall o' Goosebumps stuff.
As demand began to grow, so too did the franchise. In 1994, Tales to Give You Goosebumps and Goosebumps Triple Header featured collections of short stories
while 1995 saw the debut of Give Yourself Goosebumps; a choose-your-own-adventure-type book
ghostwritten by several authors. A merchandising blitz followed, including t-shirts,
and more. By 1996, Goosebumps accounted
for 15% of Scholastic’s annual sales.
|Fear can age you.
Despite the growing popularity and the series’ inclusion on several
best-seller lists, expanding beyond the printed format proved a challenge as
licensors were hesitant to try and market something without a recurring
character or stable story. Scholastic attempted to rectify this by giving the
series a logo in the form of its “G”, dubbed the “G-splat” from designer Sharon
Lisman, and by creating a skeleton mascot named Curly who had
hair and glasses like Stine’s.
|Who's the dummy?
Goosebumps’ big breakthrough
came when Margaret
Loesch, head of the Fox
Kids programming block, bought her son a copy of Say Cheese and Die! His reaction to the book prompted
Loesch to enter into a deal with Scholastic to bring Goosebumps to FOX. Developed by Deborah Forte, the live-action
series largely adapted stories from the original Goosebumps series with a few coming from the later Tales anthologies and Goosebumps 2000 (more on that in a bit),
as well as a couple of stories original to the show. Sometimes elements of the
stories were modified, with Stine’s approval, to make them work better within
the format and the time allotted, as well as to keep those familiar with the
books guessing. Like the books, the show featured a rotating cast of characters
and locations, with the exception of sequel stories. The series was written by Dan Angel, Billy Brown, Rick Drew, Charles Lazer, Neal Shusterman, Ron Oliver, Scott Peters, Jeffrey Cohen, Bruce Edwards, Jose Rivera, Sean Kelly, Jessica Scott, Mike Wollaeger, Peter Mitchell, Michael Short and Andrea Raffaghello.
Goosebumps debuted on October
27, 1995 on FOX and originally aired on Friday
afternoons, replacing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the timeslot, before moving to its
permanent home on Saturdays for the next two seasons. It became a hit; taking the #1 spot in its first week and maintaining
a steady momentum for most of its run. Those ratings quickly translated into
sales as the books saw a major increase in demand. Between 1996 and 1998, Scholastic
would republish 18 of the adapted books as Goosebumps Presents, essentially just adding photos from
their respective episodes while changing little else. Along with its run on Fox
Kids, the series aired on YTV and Canal Famille in Canada,
where it was principally filmed. The series was also broadcast around the
world, although some countries’ censorship rules led to many episodes being
banned or shown at night.
|The Haunted Mask comes to life.
While the episode structure was virtually the same throughout the entire
series’ run, the thing that changed the most was the series’ intro. The original
opening featured a man, supposedly R.L. Stine, looking over a town from a
hilltop when his briefcase opened and manuscript pages came spilling out. One
page became a shadowy G-splat that flew over a town before winding up at a
house whose doorway opened to a montage of scenes before the title. For the
second season, the G-splat was sped up and the montage was cut out. Each intro
played over a hip-hop inspired theme by Jack Lenz.
For the third season, the show was renamed Ultimate Goosebumps to showcase the new content it would present to
viewers and distinguish those episodes from the reruns airing on weekdays. It
also had its theme music altered slightly. The intro began the same way, but
special effects were added to show the hill covered in slime and lightning
striking from the briefcase when it opened. After the G-splat escaped, “Stine”
turned into a colony of bats before it cut right into a new montage of scenes
and segments from the original intro. Season 4 used the same intro, but “Ultimate” was removed from the title. The
only consistent part was that the intro ended with a voice saying a modified
version of the books’ tagline: “Viewer beware, you’re in for a scare.” Before
the V-Chip and television
ratings systems came into effect in 1996, each episode began with the warning
that the show was rated “GB-7, because it may be too spooky for kids under
seven.” After, the GB-7 became the standard TV-Y7 rating.
The third season also saw Goosebumps
become part of the “No Yell Motel” programming block in 1998, which
featured interstitials starring puppets working inside a creepy motel. It was
accompanied by the new Steven
Spielberg cartoon, Toonsylvania, and the sequel series Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension. Despite the series’ continued success,
Fox Kids moved it to Monday afternoons for its final season to clear the way
for Saban Entertainment’s original productions
as Saban had merged with Fox Kids in 1996 and took over its programming.
Unfortunately, the series languished there and was ultimately cancelled after
the season ended. After its run, the series was moved to Fox Family Channel for the
next two years of reruns. Reruns also ran on Cartoon Network during October between
2007 and 2009, and The
Hub, headed by Loesch at the time, acquired the series and aired it from
2011-2014 until the network changed ownership and became Discovery Family.
|Make sure your fathers are properly fed and watered.
By 1997, sales of the books had begun to slump due to increased
competition from other publishers looking to capitalize on Goosebumps’ success with their own similar series. Scholastic’s
total sales took the biggest hit, dropping 40% and making front
page news. In response, Scholastic and Stine created Goosebumps 2000, which was meant to be scarier than the original
while not changing much else stylistically. After its conclusion in 2000, Stine
intended to release a new series called Goosebumps Gold, but even though some cover art was
already rendered it was cancelled due to the legal
dispute between Scholastic and literary packager Parachute Publishing,
which was co-founded by Stine’s wife Jane and had a stake in the
franchise. In 2008, Stine began publishing a new series called Goosebumps HorrorLand, which featured an overreaching plot
set in the HorrorLand amusement park from the original series and crossing over
various characters from the books. When that series concluded in 2012, Stine
launched Goosebumps Most Wanted featuring new stories with the series’ most
|Step right up for the scariest theme park ever!
Ten episodes were released independently on VHS
between 1996 and 1998 in the United States and the United Kingdom, with three
of them being re-released together on two volumes. In 2004, 20th Century Fox began
releasing the series to DVD
in individual volumes. Initially, each release contained one episode but later
began to include two. In 2008, twelve of the episodes were re-released as
double-feature sets. To coincide with the release of the new HorroLand series, new DVD sets were
released featuring between three and four episodes and replaced the recycled
book art from prior releases with all-new cover art. In 2013 and 2014, the complete
series has been released as both individual seasons and a full collection
by Revelation Films in the United
Kingdom and by Madman Entertainment in
Australia and New Zealand. The entire series was also made available on
streaming services iTunes and Netflix.
In 1998, Fox Family
Films attempted to make a Goosebumps movie
produced by Tim Burton that would have a
grander scope than the series, but the plans fell apart. In 2008, Columbia Pictures
acquired the film rights and featured series developer Forte as a producer,
along with Neal H. Moritz.
The film was finally released on October 16, 2015 starring Jack Black as a fictionalized
version of Stine and Odeya Rush
as his daughter, Hannah. The film dealt with the fact that all the monsters
from Stine’s books were locked away within the books until they were
accidentally released by Zach Cooper (Dylan
Minnette), leading to Stine, Hannah and Zach having to recapture them all.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2018.