Companies designed most Beatles memorabilia and merchandise for young female fans. Revell model kits bucked that trend. The company already produced models of planes, ships, and other male-orientated products, so why not the Fab Four? In 1964, the Beatles' "Authentic Kits" models joined the market.
Revell manufactured Beatle kits, one of each band member. They were "precision molded plastic - easy to assemble." Identification on the packages stated, "©1964 by Revell Industries, 4220 Glencoe Avenue, Venice, California, U.S.A., manufactured in U.S.A., Litho in U.S.A." and included another disclaimer "Licensed by NEMS Enterprises, London."
Like other band items, Revell was cautious about investing their inventory into producing all four Beatles as models. So, after researching that Paul and Ringo were the two most popular Beatles in the U.S. at that time, they designed them first by early August 1964.
Tony Bulone and Magda Kopec did Paul's original Revell model sculptures for molding, then Kopec did the other three Beatles. Bulone's daughter, Jill Houghton, added, "Elvis sat for [her dad] once, about the time Elvis was going in the military." After demand for the models stayed strong, Revell produced all four Beatles by the end of 1964.
"In 1964, hot on the heels of Revell's popular Rat Fink line came the company's issue of the four members of The Beatles. They apparently beat rival Aurora to the punch in obtaining the license to the group's likenesses - Revell was known much more for their kits of automobiles, planes, and battleships than characters; that's where Aurora excelled.
All four likenesses were accurately sculpted, complete with accurate depictions of their instruments (Ringo only had a snare drum, rather than a full drum set), and all were posed in the standard stances that their fans could even recognize in silhouette. John Lennon is unusually pictured playing his acoustic with electronic pickups, rather than the more famous Rickenbacker of his early days. Today the Paul and Ringo figures are the most commonly found of the set of four, with George being much more difficult and John being the toughest of them all." - The Michigan Toy Soldier Company Blog.
Revell made the models, designed to be painted, from white plastic. The U.K. version came out in the spring of 1965 when their U.K. branch picked up the license - had more vivid colors on the boxes and used the British spelling on the package for "moulded." When the models were first issued, only the John and George kits were released in the
U.K. market, with Paul and Ringo only available in the U.S. The U.K. versions were marked "Revell (G.B.) Ltd." and were missing the U.S. price code marker next to the model number. Other than the information on the box, the actual U.S. and U.K. models were identical.
Each box measured 9"x6"x2" and featured vivid color graphics drawn by artist Donald "Putt" Putman. Once completed, the model measured officially at 2½"x6"x9½". The description listed that each figure stood 9" tall - except Ringo, whose model stood 7" when completed. Inside the model, boxes were individual plastic bags with instructions/assembly directions.
Printed on the box exterior was a description written for each Beatle. For example, John's story read, "Features...This beautifully detailed reproduction of John Lennon with guitar stands a full 9" high. Each feature is so life-like that it is a "must" for every teenage room. A few simple pieces...a few dabs of paint...and John will be your very own." There was a slight variation in the name and instrument on the other individual boxes.
The box for the model of John was labeled "Kookiest Of Them All" (H-1352:150). Paul as "The Great McCartney" (H-1350:150). George as "Lead Guitar - Loud and Strong" (H-1353:150). Ringo's label read, "Wildest Skins In Town" (H-1351:150) model.
They also printed a short biography on the side of the box:
"John...the most "way-out," he writes many of the Beatles' songs with Paul McCartney. It was John's inspiration that started the group and today he is considered to be the leader of the Beatles."
"Paul...an irrepressible, good-humored member of the McCartney clan, he is loved by thousands as the zaniest Beatle. His black hair and his hazel eyes has won as many hearts as his left-handed stroking of the bass guitar. Not only does he possess a clever tongue and wild imagination, he is also regarded as the best-looking Beatle."
"George...the youngest of the Beatles plays lead guitar for the group. He has always defended "freedom of expression" and at one time considered being an artist. Offstage he is quiet and sensitive...but on stage, he comes on loud and strong."
"Ringo...is the pulsing, throbbing creator of the Beatle rhythm. Best known for craggy features and jeweled fingers, his beat has brought ecstasy to worshippers all over the world. The pounding crescendo of these drums has made "Ringo" a name to remember...everywhere."
On the side of the boxes for the "Paul" and "Ringo" models, Revell incorrectly labeled the face of George as "John" and John as "George." The phrasing was "Get Them ALL...For Your Very Own" along with "©NEMS Enterprises Ltd. London, England."
The company produced promotional posters advertising the Beatles Model Kits. These posters featured printed drawings of Paul and Ringo on each end and stated, 'Build the Beatles Revell Authentic Kits $1.50 each. Printed in the U.S.A.' They measured 25½" x11" (65cm x 28cm).
"Around 1965, my father had a friend who worked for Revell. One day, the friend told him, "Hey, you got a son, right? Well, I have a garage full of Revell models. Bring him by. He can help himself to as many as he wants." My dad didn't believe in ever turning down anything that was free, so I soon found myself in his friend's garage staring at crates of new, unopened Revell models…from 20 to 50 (I'm guessing) of everything the company had put out in the preceding decade. "Help yourself," the friend said. "Take as many as you want. I'm going to throw them out one of these days. I need the space for my new band saw." - Mark Evanier "The Beatles Model Kits" (via News From Me Blog)
Shop display flyers/brochures featured the Paul and Ringo model. They measured 8½" x11" and were two-sided, with Paul on one side and Ringo. John and George were not pictured but described as "available at a later date." It proudly boasted that "35,000,000 fans say this kit can't miss!".
"I started at Revell (at the) end of 1968. When I had my very first day at the company (Revell), I made a 'company trip' with my new boss. When we visited the shipping department, I saw a single small model kit on an empty shelf. This model kit was Paul McCartney. I asked him if I could buy it. It was OK, and I did; it was my very first purchase at Revell. After this first model kit, I became interested in this theme and wanted to know how Revell came to this strange product. At that time, there was a second European Revell-sister, Revell (G.B.) Ltd. in Potters Bar. Our English friends were (a long time before Revell Germany) in the position to create their own products, especially for the U.K. market. Such a project was 'The Beatles.'
Our English friends took care of the license, which was given by NEMS Enterprises London/England in 1964. The production run was done at Revell in Venice/Calif., the main company of Revell. All four figures were in the international catalogue from 1965 until 1966 only. After that, I suppose the licensor changed, and the license fee became too expensive.
There was never a special leaflet with the pictures of the kits. Also, those kits were never the big seller in Germany. At that time, The Beatles were of less interest. For example, 'Ringo' never was sold on the German market, only the other three.
During my job at Revell, I became Head of Product Development at the beginning of the Seventies. Many, many times, I tried to re-introduce the Fab Four because we still owned the molds. But no matter who was the licensor, I never got the permission for a reissue. There were a couple of owners of the rights on The Beatles (Apple, Michael Jackson, Sony, etc.), but all couldn't give me the OK. The reason was Yoko Ono; she didn't allow any replica of her husband, John. A few years ago, we were asked by a new licensor to make model kits of The Beatles, but only from the Yellow Submarine comic, but at those figures, nobody was interested.
(About the sculptures which became the molds) The original but necessary bigger scale sculptures had been done in England. The sculptures were shipped to Revell Inc., Venice, U.S.A. And as I know, all the molds from them were made in Canada close to the U.S. border. Today one mold is stored in the U.S.A. and one at Revell in Germany. One mold includes two figures." - Ulli Taubert (Revell employee, 1968-2017)
There were reproductions of these models made from "heavier" resin by a company out of Hong Kong. Many had extra thin plastic hanging from the pieces.
The Revell molds
Revell reports that the original molds for the models (each included two figures) still exist. Stored in Buende, Germany, the molds are in excellent condition, even with their age. The company reports that there are no plans to reissue the original model kits right now. Revell researches the possibilities of bringing them back from time to time, but they are not allowed to run the molds because the iconic "Beatles" and "Fab Four" names have copyright protection.
Revell Industries had its merchandising license included in contracts supplied to Apple Corps Limited on August 8, 1968, by the firm Wright, Webb & Company. The company was named in a NEMS Enterprises, Ltd vs. Seltaeb, Incorporated lawsuit filed in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, First Judicial Department, dated: New York, New York, July 6, 1965. On April 19, 1965, they received a letter (reported by L.C. Schlesinger, an employee of the company) about an “amended complaint” pertaining to the lawsuit.
In addition, Revell (through their attorneys Gladstone & Lowell, Esqs.) requested that they be “held harmless in this matter.”
One of Revell’s attorneys, Stanley H. Lowell (of the law firm Gladstone & Lowell), reported receiving an “amended complaint” letter about the lawsuit. He told Selteab that “…royalty payments due Seltaeb Incorporated would not be released until Seltaeb Incorporated entered into an indemnity agreement with Revell.”