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 By the 1960s, fear had been replaced by fun—the song “Monster Mash” was on the radio and the schlocky vintage flicks were as cool with trendsetting teenagers as their little siblings.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    

1963 Original Aurora Creature From The Black Lagoon Un Built Model With Box1963 Aurora Us Issue Creature From The Black Lagoon Pro Built Up With Box Wow !!1969 Aurora Frightening Lightning Dracula Model - Partial Build / Paint - In Box1972 Vintage Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Cave Bear Kit No. 738 *factory Sealed* *vDestiny The Vampire Mermaid Debbie D Resin Model Kit Sexy Scream Queen HorrorFrankenstein Monster Universal Karloff Vintage Resin Garage Kit Model Diorama 1962 Aurora Dracula Model Kit- The Original! See DetailsRare Pro Painted Devils Rain Resin Bust Statue Fewture Sideshow Paquet "night Of The Living Dead" 1/8 Scale Cast Resin Assemble Kit.The Wolf Man, Horo38 Vinyl Model Kit By Horizon Hobbies And Toys Is A 1993 UnivePolar Lights The Bates Mansion From Psycho1963 Original Aurora Creature From The Black Lagoon ModelLot Of 3 Monogram Luminators Neon Monsters: The Mummy, Dracula, The WolfmanThe Bates Mansion From Pyscho Polar Lights Untouched1972 Vintage Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Giant Bird Kit No.739 Vintage 1964 Aurora Godzilla Glow In The Dark Model BuiltGhost & Forgotten Prisoner Of Castel-mare & Chamber Of Horrors Assembly KitVintage 1964 Aurora Model Kit Mummy's Chariot 99% Complete! Vhtf! Scarce!1972 Sealed Aurora Frankenstein Model KitPolar Lights "the Addams Family Haunted House" Glow In The Dark Model Kit" NewAurora The Mummy Model Kit 1963 Partially Assembled #427-98 W/ Box, Instructions1978 Monogram Green Godzilla Re-issue Glow Model Kit Complete No Box Or InstructOriginal 1963 Aurora The Mummy Model Kit-built-up-paintedVintage 1969 Aurora King Kong Glows In The Dark Partial Model Kit…parts & BoxAurora Prehistoric Scenes - Lot Of 4 Incomplete KitsPolar Lights 1999 Aurora Universal Monsters Frankenstein Plastic Model Kit New1963 Aurora Us Issue Phantom Of The Opera Model Mint Unbuilt In The Box CompleteVintage Lot Of 4 Old Models Spaceman, Dracula, Mummy & Roman Gladiator N/r% 1965 Aurora Witch Model Kit W/ Original InstructionsPolar Lights 1999 Aurora Universal Monsters The Mummy Plastic Model Kit NewPolar Lights 1999 Aurora Universal Monsters Wolfman Plastic Model Kit New SealedPolar Lights 1999 Aurora Universal Monsters Dracula Plastic Model Kit New SealedPolar Lights The Forgotten Prisoner Of Castle MareOriginal 1966 Aurora The Forgotten Prisoner Model Kit-built-up-paintedAurora Monster Scenes Vintage Model Kit Lot 1971Munsters House At 1315 Mockinbird Lane MoebiusVintage 1994 Monogram Creature From The Black Lagoon Model Kit 1/8 Scale NewPolar Lights "the Bride Of Frankenstein Model Kit" 1997 - NewRare Moebius Monster Scenes Dr. Deadly Pre-painted Store Display Model Mib G521Moebius 914 Bela Lugosi As Dracula 1/8 Scale New Sealed Model KitUniversal Studios Frankenstein Revell Model KitMummy's Chariot, Wolfman's Wagon & Frankenstein's Flivver - 3 Polar Lights Model1964 Aurora Instructions For Frankenstein's Flivver Model Kit1969 Aurora Frankenstein Complete Glow Parts Set, Includes Belt Rope Knot% 1961 Aurora Frankenstein Model Kit W/ Original InstructionsUniversal Studios Dracula Revell Model Kit Monogram Giant Tyrannosaurus Rex Model Kit1970 Johnny Lightning Custom Dragster Orange W Rare Dome Canopy ExcellentRare Moebius Monster Scenes The Victim Pre-painted Store Display Model Mib J486Reproduction Box For 1972 Aurora Wolfman Glows In The Dark Model Kit #450 Vintage Aurora 452 The Mummy Model Kit Parts With Box 1972Dracula Dragster Automobile Model Kit, Mint In Box, SealedWolf Man Wagon Automobile Model Kit, Mint In Box, Sealed