The classic Universal Monsters are certainly no strangers to being used for promoting products; whether it's fast food chains or postage stamps, we've seen their faces on just about everything over the years. Out of all the promotions they've been used for, I gotta say that one of my all-time favorites would have to be the Pepsi "Party Monster" campaign.
While I believe they technically started in 1991 with the "Monster Match" Pepsi giveaway, the Party Monsters really came into their own in 1992, which is when first I scored a pack of these Universal Party Monster Collectors' Cards as part of a free giveaway with any Pepsi product purchase at the time. Now normally some basic trading cards of these monsters wouldn't be anything to get incredibly excited about, but we're talking about monsters who know how to party! Think of Frankenstein in The Monster Squad, multiply how fun he was by a thousand, and that's pretty much what they were trying to accomplish with these cards. The set features the primary Universal Monsters: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Today, I'm gonna show you my set of the Party Monster cards, and hopefully you'll feel inspired to track down a pack of your own when it's all said 'n done. Let's begin with Frankenstein:
As you can see, Frankenstein is ready to party with the best of 'em. He's wearing a novelty paper party hat, some cool dude shades, and what appears to be a tuxedo. On the back of the card, we learn some personal details about him that literature and films never let us in on. I really love the image in my head of big Frank calling up road service to get a jump start. This clearly needs to be filmed at some point in the future; maybe as a public service announcement commercial about road safety that they could air every October.
All that said, I have a feeling his bride might take issue with Frankenstein's description of the perfect date. Speaking of which, let's check out her card:
The Bride of Frankenstein is looking fine as Cleopatra here, and she's got a handful o' grapes, lightning bolt earrings, and a serpentine tiara to prove it. Looking at the back of her card makes me think that she and Frankenstein are having some marital problems; he wants somebody breathing, and she wants somebody who can bend at the waist. While neither is a difficult thing to come by, wanting somebody who can bend at the waist is a particularly odd desire. Is it because she dropped some of her grapes and needs somebody who can pick them up, or is there something far more kinky floating around in the brain she was bestowed? One can only wonder.
Next up, we have Dracula himself, and while his outfit doesn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary, those purple bat glasses are amazing. I do take issue with his hair, however. Is Dracula going bald in the front? It looks like he grew his hair long in the back and then flipped it forward and used some hair spray to form his classic widow's peak. Eh, who are we kidding... he still looks far cooler than any of us could ever dream of looking. Dracula also sounds like he'd be the life (and death) of the party should anybody decide to play a few rounds of "spin the bottle".
The Wolf Man is obviously indulging himself in this moonlight tropical luau; complete with a lei garland and a miniature cocktail drink umbrella. And judging by the look in his eyes, he's definitely had a few too many mai tais on this particular occasion. Can you blame him though? If people were coming up to me at parties and asking, "Would you rather have that in a bowl?", I'd probably toss back as much booze as it took to drown out their voices. Then again, if I was the Wolf Man, I could just tear a person to shreds for such a party fowl. That's one of the benefits of being a Wolf Man: you can "wolf out" on somebody and you can blame it on the moonlight or genetics or whatever the hell you want, and nobody will question it.
The Mummy is looking pretty good here, and I particularly like how he's wearing a neck tie on top of his old bandage wrappings. A tie that appears to have lifted its pattern directly off of an eighties Trapper Keeper folder, so I wholeheartedly approve of it. How I didn't see "Walk Like An Egyptian" coming as his favorite song choice is beyond me. Perhaps it's because I'm writing this at 3am. I also love the incredibly corny "Walk a Nile in my shoes" one-liner. Mummy jokes are the best. Well, no, they're the second best. Why? Because Mummy parties are apparently the very best. Spray-painting hieroglyphic graffiti? I've never been to a celebration where this was one of the party activities, and I feel like my life will be somewhat lacking until I remedy this.
Lastly, we have the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and I gotta say ol' Gill-man is easily my favorite of the bunch. Aside from having always been my favorite of the Universal Monsters, you gotta admit he looks pretty incredible with his cap turned sideways. I just wanna walk right up and give him a high-five on his giant webbed hands. I love this his idea of a perfect party includes amphibious landings. Sounds like he basically wants all parties to take place in a terrarium... and I gotta admit, that does sound like an extremely fun experience.
Now what the cards don't reveal is that they're actually part of larger images that you could cut out of 12-packs of Pepsi:
(photo credit: adam430rk)
So it turns out that Frank is a pool shark. Just look at that icy cold demeanor of his; he's just waiting to play the winner of the Wolf Man vs. Creature from the Black Lagoon pool game. Then he's totally gonna get the winner to lay down some serious cash while they're feeling overconfident, and that's when ol' Frankenstein is gonna show 'em how pool is really played. He may be wearing a party hat, but when it comes to pool, Frankenstein is all business.
Wow. The Bride of Frankenstein really knows how to throw one hell of a toga party. Looks like her sorority house in the background there is even sponsored by Pepsi, what with the "Gotta have it" banner 'n everything. Even more impressive is that she's clearly got the other monsters having a dance-off to see who can have the honor of feeding her grapes. Make no mistake about it, the other monsters may get more credit, but it's the Bride who's really been running the show all along.
So Dracula apparently decided to throw a disco party of some sort, but there are several questions that need answering here. First off, why is he digging into the hors d'oeuvres? I thought he's only interested in sucking blood, not chowing down on what appears to be cheddar cheese, bacon, and an olive. More importantly, why did the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Mummy opt to not wear any pants? You know, the fact that I ask these questions is probably why I don't get invited to any monster parties. Damnit.
I'm sorry, I don't mean to take anything away from the Wolf Man here, but everything that matters in this image is taking place behind him. He's apparently throw a beachfront luau party, and the other monsters are absolutely loving it. First off, we have the Creature from the Black Lagoon playing the ukulele and presumably singing the limbo song while Dracula, Mummy, and Bride do their best hula dances. But the real star of the show here is Frankenstein. I mean holy shit... he is clearly the master of doing the limbo. I don't know "how low can you go", but I assure you, it's not as low as Frankenstein.
So much to comment on here. The Mummy appears to have created the ultimate monster rock supergroup. You've got Frankenstein heading up the group with lead vocals, which I'm pretty sure would be a spectacle in and of itself, but look what else is going on. The Bride is rocking an tenor saxophone, Dracula is on rhythm guitar, while Creature takes the lead. And did you notice the Creature's guitar? It's shaped like a fish! Goddamn, here I was thinking I couldn't love him more, and Creature busts out a fish guitar? I've been playing guitar for ages now, but I'd be the first one to sign up for lessons from Gill-Man, if for no other reason than to see him rock that fish guitar. Also, judging by how ferociously the Wolf Man is playing the drums just like Animal from The Muppet Show, I think it's safe to say they're not catering to the general public by performing the Monster Mash. Lastly, the Mummy stores his bass in what? That's right, a sarcophagus. Perfection.
Gill-Man isn't content to go with the flow, so naturally he's the only one drinking Mountain Dew. Even better, he's drinking it with a krazy straw. A krazy straw! On top of that, he through a tropical party inside a cave and lit up the place with fish lanterns. I've been saying forever that the Creature is the best of the Universal Studios Monsters, and after considering all the imagery we've seen today, there shouldn't be any doubts left in your mind.
While they were promoted heavily in stores, I don't recall seeing many commercials for them at the time. Here's the only commercial I could find that featured the Party Monsters, and it's only for a brief moment:
Gotta love those Halloween Horror Nights jack-o-lanterns; especially the Mummy one with all the gauze wrapped around it.
Before I go, I thought you'd like to see one last bit of Party Monster memorabilia. Of all the Party Monster items you could score, I gotta say my favorite was the old "Super Big Gulp" cups from 7-Eleven convenience stores. I flipped out when I tracked down a Creature from the Black Lagoon one at Comic-Con a few years ago, and it's certainly the holy grail of my Party Monster collection:
It truly is a thing of beauty, isn't it? The Gill-Man tempts me daily to drink homemade Ecto-Cooler from this mighty paper goblet. Perhaps I'll actually make that happen sometime. Until then, we'll continue to party the night away. Because that's what we monsters do; we party.
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