PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Toy Fair 2018: Monster High Closed Down

pc-2-18-01The PopCult Toybox

UPDATE: For the latest news on Monster High, and signs of a possible revival, click HERE.

Mattel’s Monster High seems to be missing in action at Toy Fair this year. So far the only mention I’ve seen of it anywhere was in a press release about Mattel’s partnership with Tynker, an educational program that helps teach kids coding. This is no great surprise, as the doll line unwittingly paid tribute to another classic monster movie at retail last year: The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Unless Mattel had Monster High buried in a corner of their enormous booth that nobody’s bothered to cover on the internet yet, the rumors of the past two years are true. Monster High has been cancelled.

It’s been a precipitous fall for Monster High, a brand that, just four years ago, was pulling in almost two billion dollars a year, but it’s also pretty much the norm for the toy business.  Monster High had close to an eight-year run, which is pretty impressive for a toy line.

pc-2-18-03In 2016, Mattel, in dire financial straits following the loss of the Disney Princesses line to Hasbro, rebooted Monster High and tried to aim it at a younger audience.

Instead of extending the life of the brand, that move seemed to hasten its demise, as collectors rejected the new designs and the already dipping sales never quite recovered. The new designs were really out of touch with what fans wanted.

If any new Monster High toys  make it into stores in 2018, they’re most likely just the last few items that were in the production pipeline. Apparently the division was shut down last year (or earlier) and the design personnel shifted to other projects.

pc-2-18-07Last year Mattel introduced Enchantimals, which seems a lot like Monster High, only replacing the monster part with cute woodland critters, and that line is pretty much destined to have a short shelf-life. Hasbro tried the girl/animal hybrid thing with their My Little Pony Equestria Girls line, and that didn’t exactly set the world on fire.  I don’t see Enchantimals doing any better. Like with the failed Ever After High, Mattel cannot seem to catch lightning in a bottle again.

Interestingly enough, the core concept behind Monster High–adventures of the offspring of famous monsters as youngsters–is still alive and well in at least two new properties from other companies.

pc-2-18-04Videogame developer Beautiful Glitch and publisher Those Awesome Guys will release Monster Prom in April.  Monster Prom is a dating simulator with an angle familiar to fans of Monster High.

This new game places the traditional dating simulator into one of the most traumatic environments known to teenagers, high school.

Gone are the days of a solitary slog to find your perfect match, Monster Prom lets you pit your wits against your friends with 1-4 player modes available. Beautiful Glitch has released a trailer for what looks like a hellishly fun trip back to adolescence, and you can find out more on the game’s steam page. The game will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux.

More interesting, in terms of coincidental origins is Super Monsters, a Netflix animated kids series that will make it into toy stores via Hasbro’s Playskool brand.

pc-2-18-05Let’s go to the press release: “Super Monsters is an animated series about a group of preschool-aged kids who are descendants of the world’s most famous monsters, such as Count Dracula, Cleopatra and Frankenstein. The show follows the kids through their Pitchfork Pines Preschool adventures as they learn to master their own special powers while learning how to be the best they can be.”

Super Monsters is basically Monster High, set in pre-school. Monsters still remain popular with kids, and there’s still plenty of life left in the idea of the children of famous monsters learning monstrous life lessons.

I do have to wonder when Cleopatra made the jump from historical figure to monster, though.

Hasbro’s Super Monsters product line will include collectible figures of the core cast, plush, playsets and vehicles iconic to the show. The line will also feature role play products to let kids act out their own silly monster adventures. As the global master toy licensee, Hasbro will launch its line based on the Super Monsters series in fall 2018 under its Playskool brand in the U.S., with additional markets to follow in 2019.  Season one of Super Monsters is available now on Netflix. Season two of the series will launch in October 2018.

pc-2-18-08So Monster High is dead, but monsters live on. Super Seven showed new Universal Monsters action figures. Funko (seen left) will be producing more recent horror movie icons like Jason and Freddy as He-Man style figures. NECA continues their MEGO-style horror series with figures based on Re-Animator and The Fog, and plenty of other companies will be releasing spooky toy concepts this year.

The interesting thing to watch in the coming years will be how the large and passionate Monster High collector community evolves.  Will Monster High fade from memory completely, or will a group of dedicated collectors manage to keep it alive long enough to be revived by Mattel five or ten years down the road? The concept obviously has legs. Kids have loved classic monsters for over sixty years.  It all depends on the patience and persistence of the fans.  Plus, it’s hard to keep a good monster in the grave.

UPDATE: Additional information about the fate of Monster High can be found in an update to this post HERE.