A Little Halloween in July!

By Shawn Robare

Longtime readers of the site will know that Halloween is a big deal at Branded.  It’s the one main time during the year where I do my best to update every day, making October a month full of scary goodness.  It’s also around that time that I help to organize and encourage a community of like-minded spooksters via the Countdown to Halloween website, a portal for hundreds of bloggers taking a shot at a month long blog-a-thon.  Typically around this time of year, specifically towards the end of July, my mind starts to wander a bit and I have a hard time not thinking about jack-o-lanterns, candy, and packing in as many scary movies as possible.  Traditionally, July is the time of year to start yearning for Christmas, but here at Branded, Halloween trumps Xmas, Thanksgiving and pretty much all of the other holidays.

Well, with the many rooms of my mind already decked out in orange and black, it came as a very welcome surprise to start stumbling across a bunch of Halloween-themed goodies in the stores and I thought it would be fun to share some of them here.  First up, 2011 marks the return of Mountain Dew Pitch Black.  Probably one of the first sodas specifically designed for the season, Pitch Black made its concord grape-flavored debut back in 2004 and it didn’t stick around for very long.  Released to coincide with the holiday season, the soda left store shelves only to return the next year as Pitch Black II (a sour-tasting variation of the soda), which again was pulled from store shelves after the end of the season, though this time it seemed for good.  Over the last five years there have been many new contenders for the official soda of Samhain, including four years worth of Jones Soda mini cans in a variety of Halloween-y flavors, a series of monster-head A&W/7-Up mini cans, and a purposefully generic Halloween soda offered at Aldi’s.  Though any Halloween soda is better than none, I’ve still been silently waiting for the return of Pitch Black, and finally the wait is over.

Unfortunately, like in years past, this is a limited edition return to store shelves, and as cool as it is to have it back, I have a feeling it won’t last until coming Halloween season.  Guess I’m just going to have to stockpile some and hope for the best next year…

If the return of Mountain Dew Pitch Black wasn’t enough to get me in the mood, Toys ‘R Us and Diamond Select Toys have partnered to release a series of Real Ghostbusters Minimates figures!  I knew the first series was scheduled to hit the shelves sometime in July, and in this first batch there are 4 monster figures exclusive to the toy chain (The Boogeyman, a Terror Dog, The Pharaoh Ghost, and Sam Hain.)  I was on the hunt for the figures while vacationing in Florida, but even after tracking down my original childhood Toys ‘R Us location, all I could find was one set featuring Janine in her pink Ghostbusting gear and a Slimer.


Upon returning to Atlanta I took one more shot and scoped out my local TRU.  Low and behold they had one set left of each of the monster packs, which I quickly grabbed up.  So what can you expect out of these toys?  Well, besides the fact that this is the first time we’re getting some of these cartoon accurate characters in toy form, they leave a little to be desired.  As far as the good aspects go, these figures look great, in particular the Boogeyman and the Energy Terror Dog…


…the thing that I find frustrating about these figures is that for some reason the toy designers felt an unholy urge to stick so strictly to the basic minimates design that all decent articulation and functionality has been thrown out the window.  Basically all four figures have a variation of the standard minimate buried underneath various wrap-around coverings (e.g. Sam Hain’s cloak, etc.) and attachments.  To think that there is a normal minimate at the center of the Terror Dog is just weird adherence to toyline’s design, not to mention the fact that it hampers the figure’s poseability to just one stance.  Some of these coverings and attachments, though beautifully sculpted with great paint applications, are also unfortunate as they make some of the figures insanely top-heavy (in the case of the Booglyman) or impossible to keep the figure together (in the case of Sam Hain whose head won’t connect to his neck joint because of the cloak.)  It really makes these figures frustrating in the form over function department.

Oddly enough, I believe that the designers intended to have the figures taken apart as there are some cool hidden details.  For instance, if you take Sam Hain’s head and cloak off you’ll reveal a clear orange minimate with some fun exposed ribcage paint applications on the chest.  Similarly, if you pull off the Pharaoh Ghosts’s head and chest covering you’ll expose the original un-haunted Thief’s body underneath.  Though I’m kind of disappointed in these figures, I’m really glad that I finally have some of these characters displayed on my shelves and they make a nice accent to some of the animation cels I have in my collection (like the Pharaoh Ghost, The Boogeyman, and the Terror Dog)…


I’ve just discovered that there will be a second series released this coming September just in time for the Halloween season that’ll include Evil Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Sandman, and oddly enough, the living embodiment of the Ghostbusters logo that always reminded kids to stay tuned during the commercial break interstitials!

In other Minimates news, while searching for the Real Ghostbusters figures I also stumbled upon a bunch of Universal Monsters figures on the Toys ‘R Us clearance pegs.  I couldn’t pass these up at $2.50 a set, so I picked up a couple of Creature From the Black Lagoon figures (one normal and one that glows in the dark) as well as a Wolfman figure.  These have prompted me to dig out my collection of Creature figures including a Little Big Head, my Creature Tech Deck Dude, and the very Creature-esque Lizard Man from the Secret Saturdays line.

Since I was already displaying these I decided to also bring out my collection of Frankenstein’s Monster figures including the Scooby Doo, Little Big Head, Tech Deck, Lego, Dollar Store, Smurf, Rubber Ducky, Glow-in-the-Dark and wind-up Frankys…

Finally, this past week saw the release of Rankin/Bass’ 1972 animated special Mad Mad Mad Monsters, the sort-of sequel (prequel?) to R/B’s 1967 swanky stop motion creepfest Mad Monster Party.  Though it’s not quite as fast-paced and fun as MMP, Mad Mad Mad Monsters is still a fun flick and a reminder of a better time when studios were still producing holiday cartoon specials.  There aren’t very many Halloween specials floating around, let alone being released on DVD (check out this episode from the Saturday Supercast podcast where I join in on the conversation on some classic Halloween cartoon specials), so it was really cool to see this offered by ClassicMedia.  The disk also features a Halloween-y entry in Rankin/Bass’ 1972 series Festival of Family Classics called Jack o’ Lantern.  The best part?  This single disc release is only $7, and that’s the MSRP!  Here’s hoping ClassicMedia releases some more cult Halloween specials in the near future.



All in all this has made for a wonderful Halloween in July!

  • Paul

    Small world! This is my TRU now (I moved to FL 2 years ago). I grew up in MA, we didn’t have Playworld, but we did have Child World. Do you remember the street Playworld was on or anything it was near? Maybe I can help map it out for you and snap a photo of what’s there now.

  • Paul – It is indeed sir. I spent a good time growing up in an around Altamonte and Castleberry, and this was my childhood TRU. I wish I remembered enough about the area to figure out where the old Playworld used to be…

  • Paul

    Is that the TRU in Altamonte?

  • Belle Dee – Yeah, I’m trying to decide between another round badge/banner featuring a vintage drawing of either Peter Cushing or Vincent Price. Might end up doing both and letting everyone decide for themselves. Also, it just occurred to me that there aren’t nearly as many toys and stuff that feature the Hammer monsters. This has to change…

  • I just got Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters DVD in the mail the other day and watched it yesterday. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make ‘Jack o’ Lantern’ part of my regular Halloween viewing, and I’m going to blog about it when the countdown comes around. Speaking of countdown, I guess the 2011 banners will be posted soon! I’m so excited! I’m preparing already! I love the photos of the monster toy groupings. I have those Little Big Head Universal Monsters and I love them. Now I want to get those UM Minimates. Those are so cool!

  • Nice post! I’ve been drinking the PB all summer and probably should try and save a couple bottles for October but once it’s in the fridge it’s too tempting not to drink it. I had no idea the stores would start releasing stuff so early! Looks like I’ll have to make a round of window shopping and start upping my post-output for the site. :)

  • Batfan

    Maybe on the sad day when Judd Hirsch kicks off, they’ll release it

  • Rondal – I envy you being able to share Halloween fun with your daughter, it has to be one of the really parts of being a parent! Dex – Good Point! Jason – Yeah, it’s taken me a bit to write about it, but honestly as soon as I saw it on shelves back in May, it was pretty quickly sold out. I guess there are a lot of Pitch Black fans around Atlanta. Michael – That has got to be annoying. Then again, I guess it’s par for the course over there… Batfan – Though I’d also love snagging a copy of that special, my gut is telling me that it’ll probably languish in a vault forever. The studios just don’t see the profit in digging up this stuff (even though the wacky Paul Lynde special has been released a couple of times…)

  • Batfan

    Here’s a question for you, do you think they’ll ever release ‘The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t’ on DVD? Classic stuff :)

  • Over here in Japan, we usually get some stuff in early September which is usually gone by the end of September, only to be replaced by Christmas goodies! I always have to buy early because by the time our Halloween party rolls around, all you can get is Xmas crap! Very frustrating.

  • You finally found some Pitch Black?! It’s been available in my area since the beginning of May. But now that you reminded me, I have to stock up this week before it’s too late! I haven’t gotten into the Mini-Mates, but these Real Ghostbusters ones might sway me. The Slimer is sweet as always, and the Pharaoh Ghost is the one I want the most(Egyptian themed toys are appealing to me). Nice score! Halloween will be here before you know it!

  • Agreed! I usually moan about Christmas overtaking Halloween shelves before Oct 31st and July is a bit too early for Halloween. But it hasn’t been overkill yet so it’s kind of like a teaser.

  • Very stoked to hear you getting in the spirit of things, Shawn! :) August always kicks off the true beginning of the season since that’s when all the craft stores start coming out with their “Autumn” wares. I cannot wait to start taking my daughter our shopping for weird orange and black knick knacks!!

  • Dex – Wow, last year it seemed like we were three weeks into September before I started seeing anything. That is crazy early!

  • While out and about this weekend I found a few things at the mall. Bath & Body Works had put out this green apple hand soap dispenser. When you press down on it, it lights up and laughs. The clerk said they were going to be putting out more stuff on Monday. http://www.twitpic.com/5uq3ii# And the mall’s Hallmark store had already started displaying some Halloween. http://www.twitpic.com/5uqfla