|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 series: Goosebumps.
|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 supernatural.
|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, puzzles, board games 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 popular villains.
|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.