Monster-model madness descended upon the youth of America in the 1950s, when Universal Pictures’ classic horror films enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Universal had launched the golden age of monster movies in 1931 with its adaptation of “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi, followed quickly by “Frankenstein” with Boris Karloff. The hits continued throughout the 1940s with movies like “The Wolf Man,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “The Mummy,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “The Bride of Frankenstein.” But in 1956, when Universal licensed its monster movies to television stations, the studio unleashed a new craze for the films’ spooky stars.

TV-show horror hosts like Vampira and magazines like “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” which debuted in 1958, helped make the campy classics popular with new audiences, as did their return to double-feature matinees at certain theaters. By the 1960s, fear had been replaced by fun—the song “Monster Mash” was on the radio and the schlocky vintage flicks were as cool with trendsetting teenagers as their little siblings.

The monster-model phenomenon was engineered by the Aurora Plastics Corporation, founded in 1950 to produce standard plastic toys and figure kits. A decade later, the company’s first customer survey revealed that people were anxious to get their hands on models of these popular movie monsters.

Frankenstein became Aurora’s first monster model in 1961, and the kits were in such demand that the company had to extend production to 24 hours a day (average output was three kits per minute). Aurora hired the realist painter James Bama to illustrate the packaging for its monsters and placed ads in the back of DC comics, “Mad Magazine,” and “Famous Monsters of Filmland.”

Over the next six years, Aurora created 13 different monster models, starting with Dracula and the Wolf Man in 1962. The last kit in the original series was made in 1966 as a joint effort with “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” and featured a decomposing skeleton called The Forgotten Prisoner of Castel-Maré.

However, the characters were revived for the “Frightening Lightening” kits in 1969, made with glow-in-the-dark plastic. Though these novelties were first sold in rectangular boxes like the original monster models, after a few months, Aurora switched to square boxes with new artwork so customers could tell them apart. The hot-rod trend of the ‘60s also spurred Aurora to create a new hybrid called “Monster Rods,” like the Wolfman’s Wagon and Dracula’s Dragster.

Aurora tried a different tactic in 1971 with its “Monster Scenes,” featuring familiar characters in ghoulish environments such as the Pain Parlor or the Hanging Cage. Yet an ill-...

The company’s final attempt to market monsters was made in 1975 with the “Monsters of the Movies” line, which added Japanese figures like Rodan and Ghidra. However, the success of Aurora’s original monsters inspired several copycat versions in the following decades, such as the glow-in-the-dark models made by Ani-Forms or the vinyl versions produced by Tsukuda. More recently, companies including Monogram, Revell, Polar Lights, and Moebius Models reissued some of Aurora’s original designs, receiving great fanfare from those who loved the kits during their childhoods.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1971 Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Tar Pit SealedBernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein – Rare Resin Model – Early Figure Kit 1991 MintAurora Prehistoric Scenes Allosaurus Factory SealedEd Roth /ratfink Original Fink Eliminator _plus!Huge 1960's Aurora Model Lot 13 Kits Aurora Monster Model Lot #61974 Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Sailback ReptileVintage Aurora Toy Model / Store Display/ Salesman Sample/ The Three Musketeer's1969 Lindberg Hobby Shop Window Poster Road Hog Satans Crate Scuttle Bucket NiceBilliken Vinyl Godzilla Kaiju Model Baragon 12 Inch Size Pro BuiltupUnnamable Demon 1/6 Figure ~ Model Hobby Kit Built & Custom Painted 1993Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Giant BirdVintage Aurora Creature From The Black Lagoon Glows In The Dark Model Kit 1972Mpc Disneys Haunted Mansion Grave Robbers Reward Model Kit Miob Doc Savage Model Kit Assembled And Painted.17" Tall Man Of Bronze Doc Savage Model Kit Assembled And Painted.13" TallHuge Lot Aurora Prehistoric Scenes 1970s Model Dinosaur T-rex More Vintage 1974Lot Of Four Aurora Universal Monsters Plastic Model KitsVintage 1971 Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Cro-magnon Man Sealed Kit Extremely CleanAurora 1972 Glow In The Dark Phantom Of The Opera Mib. I Opened The Seal.Vintage 1971 Aurora Monster Scenes Gruesome Goodies, Sealed BoxVintage 1971 Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Sabre Tooth Tiger, CompletePredator The Stalker Resin Model Kit Unbuilt 5th Sense 1:6 ScaleGodzilla Maser Cannon Model Kit 1/87 (ho) Scale TohoPolar Lights/aurora Witch - Rare Sealed Kit!1963 Aurora Us Issue Phantom Of The Opera Model Mint Unbuilt In The Box CompleteThe Addams Family Haunted House Aurora Reissue Mint Sealed Model Polar LightsLycanthrope/werewolf BustGs Witchblade Bust Sexy Statue Figure Professionally PaintedPolar Lights The Witch Model Factory Sealed. Copy Of AuroraGodzilla Monster Model Kit 1999 Aurora / Polar Lights The Mummy Model Kit #427; Almost Complete In Mint BoxAddams Family Tv Sitcom Tie In Horror Comedy Unbuilt Model Kit Polar Lights 1995Vintage Bandai Stegosaurus Waling Mechanical Dinosaur Model Kit In Box - JapanOriginal Vintage 1963 Aurora Creature From The Black Lagoon Model Kit Box OnlyBela Lugosi As Broadway's Dracula Moebius Models Kit Sealed Universal MonstersVintage 1983 Monogram Frankenstein Model Kit #6007 1/8 Scale Unused In BoxPsycho Bates Motel Plastic Model Kit (mib) Polar Lights (2010) Hawk 1970's Glow In The Dark Weird Ohs Davey And Daddy Model Kits BoxedBatman's 1966 Robin The Boy Wonder Plastic Model Kit Scale 1/8! Vintage 1972 Aurora Hunchback Of Notre Dame Glow In The Dark Model KitOriginal Vintage 1964 Frankenstein’s Flivver Model Kit Box & InstructionsThe Wolfman By Monogram The Creature By Monogram Hellraiser Chatterer Cenobitecenobite Pro Painted Model Figure Screamin 1991Jason Voorhees Friday The 13th Model Figure Kaiyodo 1987 JapanOriginal Vintage 1964 Aurora King Kong Monster Model Kit Box Only2000 Polar Lights #5091 Chamber Of Horrors Guillotine Model Kit In Mint Box2007 Aurora / Moebius #460 Dr. Jekyll As Mr. Hyde Model Sealed Mint In Mint Box1964 Aurora King Kong Model Nicely Built UpGs Witchblade Medieval Bust Sexy Statue Figure With Box Dynamic Forces Top CowNew Unbuilt Aurora King Kong Plastic Model Kit #7507 In Box With Instructions1964 Aurora Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde Professionally Built Up Model 100% VintageVintage Life-like Neanderthal Man Model Kit Miob Prehistoric Scenes Aurora1965 Aurora Bride Of Frankenstein Model Built Up Original NiceVintage Life-like Neanderthal Man Model Kit Misb Prehistoric Scene AuroraAurora Revell Monsters Of The Movies Dracula Boxed Bagged Original Kit No ResAurora Revell Monsters Of The Movies Frankenstein Boxed Bagged Original Kit NoreBernie Wrightson Model Kit (zombie)Monster Customizing Kit, Polar Lights 1998 The Skull , Lizard And Rat