There’s a good chance that the first action figure you ever bought of your favorite horror movie icon came courtesy of Todd McFarlane and his once-mega-popular Movie Maniacs line. Long before companies like NECA, Mezco, and Sideshow Collectibles came along and gave more love to the horror genre than any other toy companies in history, McFarlane Toys was not just the dominant player in the game but, well, the ONLY player in the game.
Not to bore you with historical facts, but the basis genesis of McFarlane Toys is that the company was born out of Todd McFarlane’s dissatisfaction with Mattel. Once upon a time, McFarlane was working with Mattel to create action figures of his comic book characters like Spawn, and when that whole deal just didn’t work out for him, Todd took matters into his hands and launched a toy division of his own. That was back in the mid ’90s, and it was in the late ’90s that the Movie Maniacs line was born.
In the wake of putting his own spin on iconic movie monsters from the distant past, McFarlane began acquiring popular modern horror licenses for the Movie Maniacs line, launched in 1998. The first series, which revolutionized the toy game by bringing highly detailed action figures of beloved horror movie characters to the toy shelf for the first time, included Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, and both Eve and Patrick from Species 2 – firmly establishing that the line was devoted exclusively to horror and science fiction villains. There were even “rated R” variants of Leatherface, Jason, and Eve; Leatherface and Jason were covered in blood, while Eve’s nipples, unlike the regular version of the toy, were on full display.
Nobody ever said these were for kids. In fact, it’s cause they weren’t that they were so awesome.
Movie Maniacs Series 2, released in 1999, added Chucky, Ghost Face, Norman Bates, Michael Myers, and Pumpkinhead to the mix, and they were joined by The Crow‘s Eric Draven. Granted, Draven isn’t exactly a “Movie Maniac,” but the second series took the line down a path that it continued on until it eventually came to an end. Essentially, any character from a horror, sci-fi, cult or fantasy film was eligible, though the primary target audience always remained us horror fans.
In Series 3, Ash Williams, Edward Scissorhands, Shaft, Snake Plissken, Brundle Fly, and The Thing‘s Norris Creature (joined by Spider-Head) and Blair Monster were immortalized as Movie Maniacs. Series 4 brought the first and only Candyman toy into the world, along with Evil Ash, a new figure of Freddy Krueger, Terminator 2‘s T-800 and T-1000, and most notably, two different versions of the titular Blair Witch: “Tree Witch” and “Dread Witch.” Of course, the character was never actually seen in the original film, or its sequel, leading to much confusion among fans. Long story short, McFarlane was given free rein to design the unseen character.
For the fifth series, McFarlane and his team brought horror villains like Wishmaster‘s Djinn, the Tooth Fairy from Darkness Falls (open-mouthed and closed-mouth versions were released) and even Jason X‘s iteration of Jason Voorhees to the table, along with the Lord of Darkness from Legend, a few different versions of Sarah Conner, and the T-800 Endoskeleton. Series 6 was all about the Alien and Predator franchises, and it included Alien 3‘s Dog Alien and Alien: Resurrection‘s Warrior Alien, as well as Predator 2‘s standard Predator and Predator Hunter. Due to high demand, Lord of Darkness was also re-released in Series 6, and the figure this time around included a detailed collector’s base.
The Movie Maniacs line met its end in 2004, with the seventh series being its final hurrah. Corporal Hicks from Aliens made it into the line along with, finally, Robocop, but the last series was mostly devoted to the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Leatherface, Erin, Old Monty and Sheriff Hoyt made the cut, each of them packaged with dioramas and bases.
In addition to the standard wave of Movie Maniacs, various other collectibles were released under the umbrella. Deluxe figures of Ash, Freddy, Chucky, Michael Myers and Leatherface upgraded the movie icons to 12″ and 18″ sizes, and box sets paid tribute to movies like Freddy vs. Jason (long before the movie was actually made), Bride of Chucky, King Kong, Aliens and Jaws. There were also various exclusive figures, including Army of Darkness-inspired “Ash vs. Pit Witch” and “Ash vs. Evil Ash” two-packs.
One could argue that horror toys are better than ever in the present, and you damn sure won’t find me disputing that claim, but you never forget your first. And for most of us fans, McFarlane Toys’ Movie Maniacs line allowed us to collect our favorite monsters and madmen for the very first time. Eighteen years later, many of the villains that filled out the line have still never been given any love by other companies, and it’s for this reason that we will forever cherish what Todd and his team gifted us with back in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Today, McFarlane Toys is focused more on The Walking Dead than anything else, but without their Movie Maniacs, who’s to say that horror toys would even be as popular as they are right now? Without Movie Maniacs, companies like NECA may not even exist.
Behind every great thing is a pioneer that made it all possible, and in the world of horror movie toys, McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs was unquestionably that pioneer.
Check out some of our favorite Movie Maniacs toys below!