History of these adorable figures!
During the theatrical release of Unico in 1981 in Japan, they advertised and pushed several products to the public. Clothing, books, stationary items, watches, bags, bikes, and much more. Snack goods were also for sale, but the Unico designs on the packaging weren't the only thing to look out for.
Sanrio/Tezuka Productions worked with Morinaga, a well-known confectionary company, and released chocolate snacks with collectible figures and items of Unico, Chao, and Akuma-kun in various poses. There were three unique package designs available that sold for 100 yen each. The pink, blue, or red boxes held the chocolate treat, while a separate box attached to the top held the figure or accessory. Since you could not see the toy, it was a surprise each time. If you wanted to collect them all, you needed to purchase quite a few candies or trade with others.
Mascot accessories were also available with these Morinaga chocolate snacks. While it is unknown how many kinds there were or if Sanrio also gave them out at their stores, we know a few of the accessories included baskets and vehicles for the figures to sit in or on. A few of the items have images of Unico and Chao, but if they do not, you can tell the accessory is from the set as their copyright reads Copyright 1977 Sanrio Co, LTD. Tezuka Productions Co.
Not all the figures were sold with the candy, though. They distributed figures at Sanrio and other stores to promote the movies. It's unknown whether you had to make a purchase to get a figure as a gift, or they simply gave them away.
When the second film, Unico to the Island of Magic hit theaters in 1983, a new set of six figures appeared featuring Unico, Kukurukku, Tolby, and Yamaneko. The new figures had tags made to look like a clapperboard with the movie's release date (July 16th) and production information.
Most of the merchandise released during this period focused on Unico, so you did not see other characters at all, unlike the previous movie's cast.
More information on the figures
They produced 11 unique figures and in five different colors. Blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow. The 1981 figures included five different Unico poses, two Chao poses, and only one for Akuma-kun.
The 1983 release had three Unico figures plus a Kukurukku, Tolby, and Yamaneko. While the other characters were new, they reused three designs from the original set. Sitting, sleeping, and standing Unico.
We have noted the differences in the cords attached to the figures. The original set has soft cords, while the 1983 release has harder strings that don't bend easily.
Are there any rare figures?
While the figures are often harder to find, there are a few that pop up less than others. The mini Unico in a sitting pose with his front leg up, Kukurukku, Tolby, and Yamaneko, are the hardest to find from what we have observed. Certain colors may also be rarer than others, but we are unsure which. The packaging from the Morinaga candy is highly sought after as well. Mandrake recently had a few of these figures with original packaging on their auction site, which sold for 10,000 yen (around 77 US dollars).
To view more images and information on these figures, we recommend checking out these websites:
- Taichiro Morinaga - Wikipedia
- Story - Morinaga America (morinaga-america.com)
- 森永チョコスナック(マイユニコ) (coocan.jp)
- ユニコ（１） (coocan.jp)
- ［2199］ ユニコ 森永チョコスナック ピンク箱 (mandarake.co.jp)
- 森永チョコスナック ユニコ 【トルビー(ライムグリーン)】 | まんだらけ Mandarake