They used to be everywhere back in the good old days. Ugly plastic & rubber beasts! During the golden 80s & early 90s KO era, the dino-mania reached another peak. Factories in Hong Kong and China flooded the Western market with all sorts of cheap monster toys. One of the most popular KO makers of that time was Imperial Toys.
KOzilla family: Dor-Meis and Imperial Godzillas.
Years before Imperial put out licensed Godzilla figures, they released a whole toyline of 3rd party steeds, vehicles and accessories called Dragons, Knights & Daggers. These were advertised as additions for play with all 5.5” laser, sword and sorcery action figure lines.
Unmarked Gigan knock-offs.
Imperial Beasts from Dragons, Knights & Daggers.
Mixing up scifi elements with prehistoric monsters was a concept that proved very successful in the 80s. It also gave birth to great toylines such as Sparkle’s Defenders of the Planets (1985) and Remco’s Warrior Beasts (1983).
Defenders of the Planets Quasar with “Rhino-Beast”.
Warrior Beasts “Fire Dragons”.
Dragons, Knights & Daggers started out in 1983 as well. Which is four years earlier than Mattel’s MotU spin-off Powers of Grayskull (1987) btw. Imperial also released numerous beasts that originally weren’t intended as 5.5” extensions. Some of the molds were put to use years before He-Man and pals came to life, back in the 70s or even late 60s, when the company was founded.
Two-headed Dragons by Imperial.
Some particular beasts were evergreens in the KO recycling bin. Their molds and designs were used over and over again throughout the years, handed down from one KO factory to another. One prominent example is “Remco’s” Fire Dragons. These came out both boxed as Warrior Beast steeds as well as loose no-name dino toys, you could find at any cheapo store back in the days. The beasts were still around in the late 90s. At least in Europe.
Two-headed T-Rex by Dor-Mei (middle) and his brothers.
Other big suppliers of prehistoric beasts and such were Chitech and Dor-Mei. Chitech’s most popular piece is probably their three-headed dragon, released in numerous color variations. Not all releases are marked Chitech though.
Marked and unmarked 3-headed Chitech Dragons & Winged Chitech Dragon.
Multi-headed dragons were a very popular concept during the golden KO age, as well. IMO they also defined the “Imperial Beast” genre. The bigger beasts were often made of multiple pieces. Interchanging heads and bodies resulted in a broad range of produced combinations and variations, which is typical for knock-offs.
Dor-Mei was well known for their articulated giant Godzilla rip-off figures. Actually they looked alot cleaner than Imperial’s licensed non-bootleg releases. Because of their dirty casts and shitty paint jobs, Imperial Godzillas are often mistaken as bootlegs. Whereas the original Dor-Mei’s KOzillas had clean casts and decent paint jobs.
Dor-Mei molds have been in use for at least a decade, from the mid 80s until the late 90s. Later releases weren’t marked Dor-Mei any longer. They also varied in body texture, paint and articulation.
Rare KOzillas “Made in Spain”.
I think no other KO sub-genre offers so many oddities and mysteries like this. Some figures show up quite often. Some very rarely, like the two “Made in Spain” KOzillas shown above. And others only show up once, like a two-headed Godzilla bootleg I found in a Bodega store on Tenerife, buried under a pile of fake Action Man Barbies.
The infinite number of releases seems unmanagable. And whenever you think you are done, another suprise is gonna come your way. At some point collecting rubber beasts is comparable to the work of a hunter of rare specimen. You just don’t know yet what you gonna get.
Mixed pickles: Dor-Meis, Chitechs, and unmarked stuff. The winged beasts are contemporary KOs, released by KiK in 2014.
Fire Dragon gift set by Remco. Source: http://www.figurerealm.com/.
Dragons, Knights & Daggers Battle Beast MIB. Source: http://www.collector-actionfigures.com/.