Tag Archives: Halloween Countdown

How I discovered the Monster Squad…

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I’m sure most Monster Kids can recall that moment when they were exposed to and ultimately fell head over heels in love with classic horror. That first experience where they stumbled upon an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, when they caught a glimpse of a Basil Gogos painting, found their first Aurora monster model kit, or tuned into their first local horror host screening a beat up old print of one of the universal classics on a Saturday afternoon. For me, I can pinpoint that moment to an almost exact place, date and time. I had just recently turned ten years-old, it was in Orlando on August 22nd 1987, at the Altamonte Springs Cineplex Odeon theater at roughly 4:00pm. I know that because that was when I attended a screening of Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad with my childhood friend Bryan and my mind was blown by what transpired on that huge movie screen over the course of the next hour and twenty minutes.

The excitement had been building for a couple weeks prior to that screening. I had about $10 worth of saved birthday money in my black Velcro Jimmy Z wallet that was earmarked for a matinee at my local theater and there were a handful of flicks that I really wanted to see that summer. I wasn’t sure if I should get a ticket to North Shore (I lived in FL and was in the middle of my surfing/BMX/Skateboarding phase), the new live action Masters of the Universe flick (I was in the waning days of my initial love of that cartoon and toy line), or Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie. Then one afternoon I was hanging out with my friend Bryan at another kid’s house that I didn’t know all that well. That kid’s parents were out shopping and we were sitting at the kitchen table flipping through the Orlando Sentinel looking for the comics and movie announcements. We were making a mess of the Arts and Entertainment section, spreading it all over the kitchen trying to find the fun stuff when out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed an ad for a film I hadn’t heard of and the tagline had me diving over Bryan to snatch up the page.

“You know who to call when you have Ghosts. But who do you call when you have Monsters?”

Monster Squad Newspaper Ad August 14 1987 2

I wish the above picture was ripped from the Orlando Sentinel, but unfortunately their archive is mainly text, but pretty much everything else besides the theater location is what I saw that afternoon.  I remember drooling over the artwork in the ad, the iconic painting by Craig Nelson featuring a group of kid monster hunters hanging out on the hood of a hearse underneath a sky literally filled with monsters. It was like the Mt. Rushmore of classic movie monsters, and at that moment I knew exactly where the remainder of my birthday money was going. All thoughts of surfing vacations in Hawaii, Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, or little people in GPK costumes evaporated from my consciousness. In my spastic excitement Bryan and his friend had stopped spreading and paper out and they hovered over my shoulders to get a look at what I was obsessing over. They were hooked too. The Monster Squad sounded amazing to our 10 year-old brains, it was like The Goonies versus Halloween and we all decided that come hell or high water we’d be catching that movie as soon as possible.

Spokane Chronicle Page Spread Aug 14 1987

That afternoon was capped off with some weird drama as Bryan and I got into an argument with his friend about the use of his home phone and our now immediate need to call a 1-900 number to “hear a special monster message”, part of the Monster Squad theatrical advertisement that ran in the August 14th papers across the country (as seen above.) By calling 1-900-660-6666 we could actually talk to a freaking monster! Bryan’s friend was having none of it as he wisely knew that he’d get into huge trouble when the phone bill came and there were a bunch of charges that he’s have a tough time explaining away. No matter how much we needled him, no matter how much we cajoled, or offered a month’s worth of sack lunch Twinkies, he would not budge.  Needless to say we were bummed and in a fit of childhood stupidity Bryan and I stormed out of his house and sped away on our bikes in a huff. That little row lasted the entire week and on that next Saturday it was just Bryan and I packed into the rear-facing, fold-up station wagon seat en route to catch a screening of a film that would forever change my life.

Twenty Seven years later and I can still feel the visceral pull of needed to call that 900 number.  When I sat down to write this my mind raced.  Dare I dial it?  Would that recording still be ready to play, sitting on an aging cassette tape in some call center switchboard, just waiting for me to finally be brave enough (and financially stable enough) to accept the charges and hear a real live (er…recorded) monster tell me some juicy tidbits about their life, or my Horror-scope, or whatever cheesy message was in store?  I had some Skype-Out credit sitting in my account so I decided what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen?  Well, it’s my sad duty to report that the number is no longer in service.  Sigh.  That doesn’t mean my research stopped there.  I dug into the internet archives hoping someone else had written about, or hopefully recorded that original message.  No dice.  Well, not exactly.  Thankfully someone on youtube managed to rip an old 1-900-660-6666 commercial from a VHS tape and upload it, though for the final nail of my despair coffin the commercial was Christmas themed.  Apparently whoever held that number changed it out seasonally.  Still, kinda neat that my detective skills were unable to unlock that tidbit I guess.

So in place of the actual Call a Monster message, here’s asimilar horror-themed 900 hotline from back in the day.  I’m particularly fond of it as it was pimped by Al Lewis, Grandpa Munster himself and called the Jr. Vampires of America Club!

Also, this first post is just the taste of a much longer article that I recently wrote for the premiere issue of Monster Shindig magazine which should be debuting later this month!

Lastly today’s first Monster Squad Trading Card!!!

Monster Squad Wrapper

I made a mini set of 80s Topps-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time, one that unfortunately never had an official set released (or any merchandise for that matter.) So come back each day for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #10, The Mummy!

10 Mummy F-B

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IT’S ALIVE! Branded gears back up for the 2014 Countdown to Halloween

It’s been pretty quiet around here during this past summer as I’ve been juggling a lot of projects, but things have calmed down a bit and I’m fully ready to tackle my 9th Halloween at Branded in the 80s.

Before I talk about this year’s theme, I wanted take a second and point again to the Countdown to Halloween site, a hub for sites who are participating in the month-long celebration of all things Halloweeny.  I recently re-skinned the website for this new year and added a brand new batch of participant badges, all with a monstrously aquatic theme in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the release of Universal’s Creature From the Black Lagoon!

Julie Adams and the Gill Man in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 1954.

I had a lot of fun fudging the 3-D effect for the new site banner as well as picking some creature-rific imagery for the 2014 badges.  This year there’s also a special project I’m working on specifically for the countdown site that I hope to announce in the next few days.  So head on over to the Countdown site. check out the list of participating websites, and join up if you’re planning on celebrating on your own site!

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As for Branded, this year I’m finally going to spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite films, probably my most favorite, Fred Dekker’s 1987 kid-adventure, horror masterpiece The Monster Squad!  I’ve written and talked a little bit about the flick over the years, though mostly it was either reviewing the bootleg DVD, lamenting the lack of an official DVD release, and then when the film was finally released on disc, it was to lament the horrible cover art that adorned it.  I fully intended to spend a week talking about the movie when the 25th anniversary came up a couple years ago, but I got sidetracked and just wrote one short piece about seeing the film for the first time.  I also did a breakdown of Eugene’s room when I first started my exploration of 80s era kid’s rooms on film.  I still feel though, that I haven’t sufficiently tackled a discussion of the flick, so for the next 31 days I’m going to do my best to dig into all aspects of my favorite movie of all time!

10655011_1449641078658365_981214608_nI have a pretty ambitious line up of articles and features planned to celebrate this cult classic, so I hope you’ll join me each day as I examine all aspects of the movie from the script, the marketing, the home video release, trivia, behind the scenes footage and so much more.  As an added bonus, each day this month I plan on posting a treat for your virtual McDonalds Halloween Boo-Pail.  I’ve always been bummed that the movie didn’t have a big merchandising push like other kid’s flicks from the decade, so there were never any read along adventure books, Burger King Collectors glasses (a crime since they were so prominently featured in the movie), or toys.  We didn’t even get a set of Topps trading cards!  We all know how much I love Topps, wax wrappers and junk, so I’ve taken it upon myself to create a mini set of collectible digital Monster Squad trading cards, and I’ll be “handing” them out in place of candy for all you trick or treators who stop by Branded this month.  To get you started I’ll post the first one below.

27 Scraps F-B

Thanks again for reading Branded and I look forward to kicking some Wolfman nards over the next month…

countdown button 200 2014 Robare

31 Days of Monsters, Days 16 & 17: Cute Little Gobllins and one ugly Gorgon!

Alright, with today’s two monster animation cels I’ve finally gotten caught up on my 31 Days of Monsters Countdown!  These cover days 16 & 17, and once again features creatures from both the Filmation and Real Ghostbusters cartoons.  First up is this cel/production photocopy background from the Filmation show featuring the main gorgon herself, Medusa!

Unfortunately Eddie Spencer, Jr. is part of the photocopy in this image, but it does go really well paired with the Medusa cel (and seeing as how he’s holding up a mirror I can pretty safely assume that this is an accurate background image.)

Though it would have been nice to get a cel that showed her full face, I’m going to go ahead and make the claim that I didn’t want to inadvertently turn any Branded readers into stone.  Yeah, that’s the ticket (said in my best imitation of Jon Lovitz…)

Next up we have this cute little guy from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon…

Unfortunately I can’t quite place this character from a specific episode at the moment.  I’ve been watching so many episodes lately that my brain is becoming fried and resembles a ghost trap after it’s just slammed shut and is still smoking…

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Days 14 & 15: Of Witches and Brat-A-Rats!

Still playing catch-up this week, so I have another double feature of monster animation cels to share today.  Being the 16th, we’re officially at the halfway point of the season, a time to start making those last minute costume plans and to start looking for sales on jumbo bags of candy to hand out to the kids!  Also, I’ve gone though the responses to the Monster Cereal Prints Scavenger Hunt Contest, and will be sending out notices to the winners via e-mail.  Thanks again to Manny Galán of Cartoon Lagoon Studios for the prize packs and remember that you still have a chance to win a set of these awesome prints (signed by Galán and the voice actors of the Monsters) by heading over to the Strange Kids Club and submitting your very own cereal monster creation!

Back to the monster animation cels though, first up today we have this fun piece from the Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon featuring the whimpering yes-man to mail baddy Prime Evil, Brat-A-Rat!

Voiced by Peter Cullen, Brat-A-Rat is a weird, alien, bat-rat-lizard creature with the ability to levitate.  He’s is to Prime Evil, sort of what Salacious Crumb is like to Jabba the Hut in the Star Wars universe, and ends up tattling on the other ghosts as well as dishing out some of PE’s punishments for failure.  He always reminded me of having a sort of Don Bluth-inspired character design, which is probably why I’m so fond of him…

Next up in today’s double feature we have our second evil Witch of the countdown, Kestrel, who hails from the season five Real Ghostbusters episode “If I Were a Witch Man”, circa 1989…

In the episode Kestrel, a witch imprisoned in a crystal ball by Puritans during the late 1600s, gets free and begins looking for revenge in modern day Lewison (which just happens to be the ancestral town of the Spenglers!)  Kestrel possesses the body of Margaret Prandish, the headmistress of a local girl’s academy that was built upon the Elron Witchcraft Altar where Kestrel was held captive in the crystal ball for centuries.  The above cel has the in-between form that is a mixture of Kestrel and Prandish, and it’s pretty freaky to boot!

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 12 & 13: Raul Julia would have made a lovely Bello Micawb…

Ack! I’m so unprepared for this year’s countdown, but it hasn’t hindered me from enjoying the heck out of the season thus far.  Though I missed a couple days this past weekend, I’m not going to sweat it.  I’ll just double up on some stuff as we enter day 15, the half-way point on the countdown this year!  So today I have two spooks to share (well one spook and one creepy dude.)  The first animation cel is of the Addams-Family-inspired character Mr. Bello Micawb (pronounced like “macabre”) from the Real Ghostbusters episode Loathe Thy Neighbor which debuted in November of 1987…

Bello, the patriarch of the Micawb family, is sort of the Gomez Addams/Herman Munster of the family (though he leans much more towards Gomez in design and in the voice acting.)  The episode is one of my favorites, which doesn’t surprise me as Michael Reeves was the main writer listed.  From what I’ve found during my 80s cartoon explorations, Reeves tends to be responsible for some of the better episodes of all the series he wrote for.

The second creature I have today is this adorable purple brute from Filmation’s Ghostbusters episode, The Battle for Ghost Command…

Again, though this fellow came with a production photocopy background, it’s not from the same scene as the actual animation cel I acquired.  As you can see from the below screenshots, I managed to snag a cel that has this grape-colored fur monster right in mid-snack in an alleyway…

  

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 11: Deadtime Synergy!

It’s day eleven of the countdown and unfortunately I have another Real Ghostbusters animation cel that I haven’t been able to place in a specific episode.  Sometimes I wonder if I watch too many cartoons to a point where these things get so scrambled in my brain that it’s hard to remember anything.  Anyway, what drew me to this one was that for one, it was a woman (rare on my past Monster countdowns), and two she sort of brought the idea of a zombie Jem to mind.  Granted, she’s not as awesome as this zombie Jem by Christopher Tupa, but still, I like toying with the idea…

Actually, she kind of looks like a cross between Jem and Zombie Geena Davis from the end sequence of Beetlejuice now that I think about it (just without the wedding dress…)

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 10: Scared Stiff, er, uh, he’s actually kind of scared melty here…

We’re all the way up to day 10 of the countdown, and one-third of the way though the month of October already.  It seems like the days take forever to pass during September, but once we hit October it just flies by.  Anyway, today I present another Filmation Ghostbusters animation cel, another featuring one of Prime Evil’s main henchmen, the robot ghost Scared Stiff!

Scared Stiff is basically the evil ghost equivalent of C3-P0 from Star Wars, though just as bumbling, harmless and ready to fall apart at the seams during times of stress.  His place is more for comic relief in the series, but as a kid I still enjoyed watching him, especially when he was “destroyed” by the other villains in the show.

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 9: Twinkie’s Witch

Day nine brings us our first witch of the countdown (there should be at least two more coming), and I believe the first witch animation cel overall on Branded.  This character didn’t have a name in the series as the episode she hails from, Kitty-Cornered, it one of the more Slimer-centric later season 5 mini-episodes…

She’s referred to as Twinkie’s Witch as she’s the owner of a wish-granting cat named Twinkie who in the episodes is knocked off the witch’s broom and lands on Slimer.  The spud then proceeds to have his wishes granted causing havoc in the firehouse while the Witch looks frantically for her cat.

When I procured this animation cel I ended up receiving a number of tandem cels that feature the witch flying around what I assume is the corner of a building.  Most of the cels were pretty sparse, only featuring her hand or are from her head up (sort of like that Simpsons episode where Bart gets the Scratchy cel with only the floating arm.)  But along with the cels I also received a number of fuller production drawings including the one below featuring the witch noticing that it was snowing around the firehouse…

 

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 8: Battly for Belfry!

It’s Day 8 of the 31 Days of Monsters Countdown, and today’s creature is a little more on the cute and harmless side, Belfry from Filmation’s Ghostbusters…

Belfry was introduced in the first episode shortly after the Ghostbusters and their sons imprison Prime Evil in a vault in an abandoned mine shaft.  They make a joke about leaving him in the vault for 100 years, which actually comes to pass.  On the eve of the hundredth year Prime Evil finally gets tired of waiting to be released and starts yelling for help.  Belfry, this tiny, pink, lonely, hog-nosed bat (who strongly resembles Piglet from the Winnie the Pooh series) happens upon the vault and overhears PE’s pleas for help.  Thinking he’s another bat that he can be friends with, Belfry opens the vault and lets Prime Evil free, whose first order of business is to recruit a bunch of ghosts so that they can travel back in time and kidnap the original Ghostbusters.

Belfry is sort of a combination of Cringer and Orko from the He-Man cartoon, archetypes that Filmation used a lot to give the viewer a character that they could glom onto and sort of experience the action through.  He also popped up at the end of every episode with the GB haunted TV, Skelevision, to offer PSA’s and to recount the moral learned in some of the episodes.

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 7: The Scared Crow Spector…

Being as un-prepared for the countdown as I was this year, there are a few of these monster cels that I haven’t been able to pin down and do the proper research on their background.  Today’s little spook is one of these, so for sake of argument I’ll just call him the “scared” crow spector!

Though I’m sure this little spook comes from the Real Ghostbusters series, I’m not sure which episode or the context.  When I picked this one up I was drawn to the interesting design.  It really speaks to the fall, scarecrows, and weird tentacle-d creatures which I tend to flip over.  Hopefully by the time the countdown is over I’ll have figured out how this guy is…

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.