If these guys look like Japanese monsters to you, it's because they very much are. These figures originated in Japan, featuring kaiju from the Ultraman franchise. For the American market, Bandai decided to drop any connection to Ultraman and simply present the figures as random weird creatures. They tossed colorful plastic mini garbage cans into the mix and voilà, Canfull of Monsters was born.
Around the same time (1979-early '80s), Bandai also released these figures in the U.S. a couple of alternate ways. The first came under the name Monster Toss, and included a little plastic flipper in addition to the figures and can. The idea was that you'd use the flipper to try to fling the monsters into the can (hours and hours of fun). They were also released under the name Handful of Monsters, with six figures in a simple carded blister pack. Handfull of Monsters packages seem to be less commonly found than Canfull of Monsters or Monster Toss.
Now, here are some other basic details about these little weirdos:
- As far as I've been able to tell, there are 16 different sculpts in the set. There was likely quite a few more in the original Japanese Ultraman set the sculpts were pulled from, so it's not uncommon to see additional, similar figures from Japanese releases mistaken for Canfull of Monsters.
- Canfull of Monsters packages contained 15 figures. Monster Toss included 12.
- The figures came in four main colors: blue, green, yellow and orangey red. I am pretty sure all sculpts came in all four colors. As you can see from the photo above, the Handful of Monsters packages also included pink, but I've never seen a pink figure from Canfull of Monsters or Monster Toss.
- They measure about 1.5" tall.
- The material is a soft, keshi-type rubber--the same that was used for the Japanese releases.
- Recognize that trash can? It re-surfaced in the 'mid '80s in the MUSCLE line, used as container packaging for the 10-pack assortments. In MUSCLE it came in a translucent white, but in Canfull of Monsters it came in solid green, red and yellow.
- The figures from the American releases are actually a bit smaller than their Japanese counterparts. I believe that's the main (possibly only) way you can tell them apart. Here's an example:
As far as the names of the Ultraman characters that are represented in these sculpts, I'll leave that to the experts (leave a comment below to help ID them if you can!). There are definitely some odd-lookin' critters, and I'd imagine most American kids (and adults) who saw these back in the day, and had no idea they came from Ultraman, thought they were pretty bizarro.
Here's a closer look at all 16 can-dwellers. Monster family photo!
What do you think? Do you own any Canfull of Monsters figures, or have any memories from back in the day?
For more on this line, including photos of the Canfull of Monsters packaging, be sure to check out this post on MinifiguresXD. You can also see a photo of the Monster Toss packaging here.