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Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Pet Monster

This may sound like a rather odd question to ask, but were you ever afraid of the hypothetical and very imaginary “monster under the bed” or “monster inside the closet”?

It's okay if you were. I'll be the first one to admit that I had a fear of a monster that lived under my own bed.

Granted, it turned out to be nothing more than a T-shirt that I outgrew that was covered in dustbunnies. At least, that's exactly what it looked like during the day.

When the sun set for the day, and the moon lit up the night sky, the dark shadows that covered that dust covered shirt suddenly made it seem a lot more scarier. It wasn't uncommon for me to get creeped out whenever I looked under the bed at night, because it sort of resembled a dead animal...or a monster!

And, believe a young kid, I did almost everything possible to protect myself from the monster that hid under my bed. Whether it meant plugging in a glow-in-the-dark nightlight in the nearest electrical outlet, or having my parents check underneath the bed for a monster check, or even leaving the window open in the middle of January to freeze the monster enough so that they wouldn't even think of bothering me.

As I said, I had the most “elite” monster security system available.

I don't really remember when I “installed” my monster security system. In all likelihood, it was when I was three years this would be going back to the mid-1980s. And, I would say that from the ages of three to six were the years in which I was most afraid of the “monster under the bed”.

But after the age of six, I began to get less afraid of the monster that I believed resided underneath my bed. Instead of being afraid of it, I began to have a change of heart towards my former nemesis. I began to see it as a friend, instead of an enemy. Instead of being afraid of it, I came to the conclusion that the monster underneath my bed was a friend, protecting me against other creepy figures of the night such as the boogeyman, the killer tarantulas, or the evil tooth fairy who steals your teeth instead of leaving you money underneath your pillow.

And yes I had a vivid imagination as a kid, and no I will not apologize for it.

But what caused this sudden about face about an imaginary monster that lived under my bed? What caused me to see this “monster” as a friend instead of a foe?

The answer lies in today's Saturday Smorgasbord entry.

You see, right around the time that I was six years old, a cartoon used to air on television that I absolutely fell in love with. Unfortunately, the cartoon was also short-lived. It lasted for thirteen episodes during the 1987-1988 television season. However, I remember the show airing well into the 1990s and beyond.

The show was actually based on a plush toy that was produced by American Greetings (and no, it wasn't a Care Bear). In 1986, plush toys that were marketed only to boys were quite rare, so American Greetings came up with a fuzzy blue monster with horns, a pointed smile, and a large polka dotted nose. The monster dolls also came with a set of orange handcuffs made out of plastic, which could be locked and unlocked. The cuffs not only fit the monster doll, but it also fit children's wrists as well.

The popularity of the plush doll spawned dozens of merchandising opportunities. Colouring books, puzzles, Little Golden Books, and clothing items featured this fuzzy blue monster, and in 1986, the doll even spawned a live-action television special, which featured a boy named Max transforming into a monster after he bumps into a statue which emits a curse on him. I can only verify that this live-action special exists through my own eyes. I remember watching it once and only once. And it was so long ago that I don't quite remember what it was all about.

But I DO remember the cartoon adaptation. And, that's what we're talking about today.

Do any of you remember “My Pet Monster”? It's okay if you don't. I'll give you the 411 right now. But before I do that, I will give you one piece of trivia. Apparently, this show could be considered a “Six Degrees of Separation” kind of show, because many of the voice actors could be tied to other shows.

Sunny Besen Thrasher and Alyson Court both voiced characters on “The New Archies”.
Alyson Court, Colin Fox, and Tara Strong (then known as Tara Charendoff) would voice characters on “Beetlejuice”. (Amusingly enough, whereas Court and Strong played best friends Jill and Ami on “My Pet Monster”, they would play bitter arch-rivals Lydia Deetz and Clare Brewster on “Beetlejuice”)
And, just about the whole cast would appear on at least one episode of “Care Bears”!

Anyway, back to “My Pet Monster”.

My Pet Monster” debuted on ABC on September 12, 1987. It would later air in Canada on Global Television. The plot of the cartoon was like this. A boy named Max Smith (Sunny Besen Thrasher) brings a monster doll home with him and discovers that once he removes the handcuffs that are attached to him, the doll comes to life, becoming Monster (Jeff McGibbon), a mischief making, garbage eating, lovable ball of fluff who would do almost anything for those he loved best.

Very few people know of the fact that the monster doll is real. Max decides to keep Monster's identity a secret. Later on, Max's sister Jill (Alyson Court), and Max's best friend Chuckie (Stuart Stone) are introduced to Monster (or Monzie as Jill calls him), and they too promise to keep his identity a secret. In most cases, they hide him in plain sight just by snapping the handcuffs back on him. But sometimes they are forced to throw a disguise on Monster when the cuffs are inaccessible for whatever reason.

With good reason too, given that during the course of the thirteen episode series, Monster makes a couple of enemies along the way.

Enemy #1: Mr. Hinkle (Colin Fox), the annoying neighbour next door.

Well, okay, technically Mr. Hinkle doesn't ever meet Monster. Max, Jill, and Chuckie do too good a job hiding him.

Mr. Hinkle's dog, Princess on the other hand? Yeah, she knows of Monster's existence all too well. And, given how Monster loves to scare her at every possible opportunity, it's a wonder that poor little Princess hasn't dropped dead of a stress-related heart attack!

But then again, Princess was always considered to be more of a minor annoyance than foe.

The real enemy that Monster had to deal with was a great big purple and red monster who went by the name of “Beastur” (Dan Hennessey). Now, Beastur was a real nasty piece of work. He lived in the vast dark world of Monsterland (which we actually see in one episode after Max, Chuckie, and Monster enter through the portal after Beastur kidnaps Jill), and Beastur's main goal in the series is to capture Monster and bring him back there. But with Monster adjusting to life on Earth, he is reluctant to leave his new friends behind.

But lest you think that Beastur is a worthy opponent, think again. Beastur doesn't exactly have the largest brain out there, and almost every single one of his schemes goes completely wrong.

And then there's his weakness. Natural sunlight.

You see, one of the reasons why Beastur loves Monsterland so much is because the whole world is one big, dark, scary cave with no light. Whenever Beastur travels to Earth, he always wears gigantic black sunglasses to protect him from the sunlight.

Of course, once Max, Chuckie, and Jill discover this weakness, they waste no time in exposing his Achilles heel, often blinding Beastur back to Monsterland.

But whenever Beastur and Princess aren't in the picture, Monster has lots of fun with his friends. And, sometimes he causes unintentional problems for them both.

For instance, he accidentally ate some cookies that Jill had baked for a charity drive, so he tried to make replacement cookies with Max and Chuckie's help. Unfortunately, Monster's ingredients for the cookies made them explode after consumption, so they had to find a way to stop people from eating them.

Monster also helps Max get some self-confidence after he is humiliated by a snooty boy prior to a surfing contest.

And when Monster goes undercover to examine what life as a middle school student is all about, he ends up running for class president!

So, have I sparked your memory about “My Pet Monster” yet? No? Well, how about clicking HERE? By clicking the link, you can watch a full-length episode of the series that somebody posted on YouTube. You're welcome.

So, you see? You shouldn't be afraid of the “monster under your bed”! He just might be the best friend you have!

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