Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Look Back At Trendmasters' Godzilla Toy Line

King of the Monsters

He's larger than life. He's the star of over two-dozen films. He's an international icon. He's the King of the Monsters. Few people haven't at least seen part of a Godzilla film. It's certainly no exaggeration in making the claim that the big guy is one of the most recognizable characters in the world of cinema. What began as a dark allegory of the nuclear age in 1954, originally titled Gojira in Japan, Godzilla would soon become the longest running movie franchise in history. As of 2011, Godzilla has been the star of 28 films, not including the 1998 American version. Currently, another American Godzilla film is in the works while Japan has put their series on hiatus.
In the early '90s Trendmasters had been nearly nonexistent in the world of toy companies, overshadowed by heavyweights like Mattel, Playmates Toy Biz, Kenner, Hasbro, and so many others. However, that changed in 1994, when Trendmasters released their formidable Godzilla toy line. Prior to '94, American Godzilla fans were sorely missing the assortment of Godzilla figures that are available today. Without the accessibility of the internet it was even difficult to get imported G-figures from Japan - not to mention that the Bandai and Bullmark toy lines were often very expensive.

In the early '90s the second series of popular Godzilla films were being produced in Japan, now referred to as the Heisei Series, although, at the time, many of these films were not yet being distributed in America. By 1994 American Godzilla fans were finally getting their own giant monsters appetite satisfied with the impressive Dark Horse comic book series and with G-Fan, a magazine (that's still being published today) that focused solely on the Big-G and his kaiju (fan term for a giant Japanese monster) brethren. 

Trendmasters took their chances with Godzilla in '94 and it paid off, big time. The toy line proved to be a huge success. Their first line of figures were the 5" series, consisting of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, MechaGodzilla, King Ghidorah, and Mecha-Ghidorah.

Trendmasters' 5" Rodan

It's interesting to point out that Trendmasters chose to base their figures off the Heisei series of Godzilla films, which - at that point - many American fans had yet to see, due to the films not receiving international distribution. The Rodan and MechaGodzilla figures were based on the Godzilla Vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993) designs (technically Rodan was known as Fire Rodan through much of the film) and Mecha-Ghidorah who was first seen in Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

Packaging from the first line of figures
 In addition, Trendmasters released a Godzilla 'Monster Bank' and 'Hatching Monsters' which were miniature Godzilla figures (Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and MechaGodzilla) that came with 'break-a-way' egg shells, hence the name.

Next in Trendmasters toy line were 12" light-up/sound Godzilla figures, which included not only the King of the Monsters himself, but also Gigan - the giant monstrous cyborg from Nebula M8 who first appeared in the '70s film, appropriately titled: Godzilla Vs. Gigan. Gigan was one of the few monsters from the earlier G-films to make an appearance in the toy line. Fan favorites such as Varan, Baragon, and Megalon were also later released but it was near the end of the line, thus less were produced, making them quite collectible.

One step 'a-head' of the other Godzilla toys
One of the more interesting Trendmasters Godzilla toys was the micro-battle playsets. The first three in the series were: Godzilla and MechaGodzilla in L.A., Godzilla and King Ghidorah in San Francisco, and Godzilla and Rodan in New York City. What made the playsets even better were the break-away buildings and little gimmicks like a 'zip-line' for Rodan and the lowering military-base platform for Mecha-Godzilla.

Three heads are better than one
The micro-battle playsets were a huge success and spawned another series, including ones that, instead of Godzilla's head, were the heads of King Ghidorah, MechaGodzilla, and Space Godzilla.

40th Anniversary Collector's Edition
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Godzilla, Trendmasters released a 'collector's' set of 5" G-figures, which included several figures not available outside of the box set, such as Battra, Gigan, and Biollante. The figures were also of a higher quality than those of the standard 5" line. While the original figures were somewhat rubbery, the new ones featured in the 40th anniversary were made of sturdier plastic and possessed more detail.

Wind-Up Walker MechaGodzilla
A series of Wind-Up Walkers were also produced, though it was short-lived in comparison to the other figures.

Godzilla Trading Cards
It is worth mentioning that nearly every Trendmasters Godzilla toy came with their own trading card that depicted a monster on the front, with detailed information and 'power stats' on the back.

Godzilla Giant Playset

The Godzilla Attacks New York Giant Playset was one of the hallmarks of the toy line. By shooting 'atomic blasts' out of Godzilla's mouth one could devastate a playset resembling New York City. The set included collapsible buildings, military vehicles, and frightened pedestrians.

Monster Island Unleashed!
Some of the larger (more expensive) Godzilla figures not only came with a Godzilla trading card, but with a Monster Island Unleashed black-and-white mini-comic. It featured Godzilla taking on most of his enemies in the span of a dozen or so pages.

Space Godzilla Figure From The Godzilla Wars Series

Godzilla With Snap-On Armor

MechaGodzilla Gets An Upgrade


Trendmasters soon expanded their Godzilla line with 'Godzilla Wars' featuring figures with snap-on armor and the inclusion of Space Godzilla into the series. A less-than-stellar series of human figures, called G-Force, were also released in the Godzilla Wars line.

Unreleased Prototype For The Godzilla Mega-Monster Mutation Figure
Trendmasters next series of figures was the lackluster Godzilla Doom Island line, which paired Godzilla up with typical Jurassic Park-like dinosaurs. It was hardly inspired and led to the unproduced Godzilla Mega-Monster Mutation figure series - which was canceled before they were released. Sadly, with a franchise of so many films and so many more monsters that could have been turned into figures, it's a shame that Trendmasters went the route of resorting to 'mutation' and 'snap-on armor' figures, when much more could have been done to compliment their impressive first line of figures.

The Very Impressive, Yet Sadly Unproduced Destroyah Figure
Trendmasters also tried their hand with the Gamera series, but the line was quickly cut short due to lack of sales.

Trendmasters' Gamera Series
By 1998 Trendmasters had stopped their 'classic' line of Godzilla figures in favor of Tri-Star's Americanized version. Unfortunately, the new toy line didn't perform up to expectation and ended abruptly - and subsequently ended Trendmasters.

Ironically, Godzilla made Trendmasters a competitor in the toy market and also caused their eventual demise once retailers began refusing their figures based on Tri-Star's Godzilla: The Series cartoon.

It would also seem that, aside from the '94 line of Godzilla figures, Trendmasters never seemed to make wise decisions regarding their toy lines. After all, this is the same company that chose to create toy lines based on:

Battlefield Earth = box-office bomb/failed toy line
Gamera = not well known in America, especially in the mid-90s/failed toy line
Forbidden Planet = a 1956 sci-fi flick most kids haven't seen/failed toy line
Independence Day = sci-fi summer blockbuster to be sure, but not really a kids film/failed toy line
Mars Attacks = same as above, except for it not being a blockbuster/failed toy line
Extreme Ghostbusters = poor attempt at the largely superior show, The Real Ghostbusters/failed toy line
Lost In Space = based off a show most '90s kids were unfamiliar with & the film bombed/failed toy line
Gumby = need any more be said?/failed toy line
Casper = not exactly the franchise that lends itself to great toys/failed toy line

Is it any wonder why Trendmasters went out of business? It's actually rather surprising that they were around until 2002, and even more of a shock that they even produced such an exceptional Godzilla toy line back in 1994. However, for them, lightning never struck twice.

8 comments:

  1. http://www.flickr.com/photos/36185771@N06/6889496037/in/photostream

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  2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/36185771@N06/page2/

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  3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/36185771@N06/page3/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/36185771@N06/page4/

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  4. Wow! These prototypes are fantastic - thanks for sharing, Shytoons!

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  5. Me and my brother bought a lot of these when we were little, as well as the lost in space, independence day, and Mars attacks toys. The ID4, LIS, and Mars Attacks toys were some of the best figures of their day! The Godzillas were alright, but couldnt really compete with the japanses vinyls.

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  6. Do you know if the 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition set came with a set of trading cards?

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  7. no 40th sets dont come with trading cards

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