”Creatures” and “The Pets of Frankenstein” and all drawings pertaining to them are Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT and KISCOM. “Aahh! Real Monsters” are copyright 1995 Nickelodeon. All Rights Reserved. NICKELODEON, Real Monsters and all related title, logos, and characters are trademarks owned and licensed by Nickelodeon. Characters and storyline created by Klasky-Cuspo Inc. Photography and writing on this website are Copyright Mel Birnkrant.
My journey on the road to Aaahh!!! Real Monsters began with just a single model. It was a crazy creepy creature with a magically magnetic eyeball. What this little monster did was quite clever, if I do say so myself. You will see him in action, in the video at the end of this page. Ironically, this strange entity, who was, most likely, the most clever creature in the whole adventure, was eliminated early on. But, for the time being, he was a Star.
I find it amazing and ironic that Destiny granted me longevity. God knows that I did nothing to deserve it. I’ve been a sedentary fatty, all my life. In spite of that, before the coming month is over, I will be seventy-nine. And in these twilight years, Fate has introduced me to numerous collectors of action figures. These young men, some of whom have become friends, have managed to convince me that the Outer Space Men I designed in 1969 were, truly, years before their time. That came as a surprise to me, for, while I was creating those ancestors of action figures, they seemed quite ordinary. And when Outer Space Men’s brief time in the toy stores of Planet Earth was over, I devoted myself to Colorforms and collecting, and never paid attention to the fact that the OSM had plowed a path that the toy industry would find and follow, five years later, in the form of "Action Figures." Nonetheless, when Action Figures finally became a category, they still had some catching up to do. Although, the OSM were inspired, to some degree, by existing movie mythology, they were, more or less, original. That was not the case with Mego, who’s first figures, five years later, were based on preexisting superheroes. Not only were the OSM the earliest cast of original characters, designed specifically to be a line of toys, the fact that the second series actually had “features” was even more unusual. It would be many years before a new breed of action figures would go beyond just being jointed dolls for boys, and incorporate “features.” But Outer Space Men in the second series, like Metamorpho, with his changing faces, and inferno, who was self- illuminated, as well as Gamma -X who glowed in the dark, had “features,” right from the beginning.
Fourteen years later, in 1993, I found myself designing monsters, and each one had a "feature." Every one of these small creatures did something, beyond just sitting there. My God! How easily these ideas came to me! I took this facile inventiveness for granted in 1993, and it was never a big deal to me. Nonetheless, by then, I did know what a feature was, and so, on the top of every page, I wrote out the words: “Creature Feature!”
I found these formerly missing pencil drawings, just the other day. They are all that remains of the original presentation. Twenty-three years ago, when they were completed, I reproduced them, in black and white, using a Minolta copier. Then, I colored one copy of each with Magic Markers, and mounted it on illustration board. The finished presentation consisted of those thirty colored drawings, two working prototypes, and a video. The colored boards and the working models are gone now, only the recently discovered pencil drawings and a copy of the video remain.
Here are all thirty of the original drawings. Because I am still mourning the loss of the colored versions, I made an attempt to convey what they were like by extracting images from the video, and superimposing them on the matching drawings. Click on any drawing, and you will see a very rough impression of the long-lost colored version. When you move your mouse away, the pencil art will reappear.
The drawing, below, depicts the first model. I can’t remember which came first, the drawing or the creature. The way I used to work, it really didn’t matter. I might have just fabricated the critter, letting it communicate and guide me, and made the drawing later.
Hoping to demonstrate that the concept was not just a one trick pony, I crafted a second character. As before, I let the function dictate the form. This fellow was little naughty, and, to connoisseurs of bathroom humor, like yours truly, exceedingly amusing. You’ll see him do his thing in the video below.
Once I began these drawings, I got carried away. Thirty drawings were definitely too many, but there was no stopping me. I finally called a halt to it, not because I was running out of ideas, but solely because this compulsive outpouring of creativity was not only unnecessary, it was getting embarrassing. And I also knew that the job of coloring them still lay ahead. Otherwise, I could have easily gone on forever.
Because the prototypes and how they worked needed to be explained, I made this video. In it, we see the prototypes demonstrated, and also get a glimpse of each of the presentation boards. This was the final step.