HOW BABY FACE WAS BORN...
7. Colorforms

Dear PrillyCharmin,

Now stuck 60 miles up the Hudson from NYC It seemed like the best thing I could do was continue with
Colorforms. I contributed more and more items to the line, until eventually instead of getting a royalty on just "my" items I was made responsible for and given an adjusted royalty on the entire line. Harry cooked up the title "Creative Director." What it meant, exactly, I never did figure out. But Part of what I did was: Innovate New products, Art Direct those and All traditional products, Hire and schedule artists, Create the annual Catalogue and setup the photos and write the copy for it, Design and decorate the New York Showroom each year for Toy Fair Etc. Colorforms never had an in-house art department, which is ironic, as more than any other toy company, I can think of, in a Colorforms "Stick-On", The Art Is the Toy!

The Colorforms logo was designed by a very famous designer, Paul Rand! It was simply a triangle sitting above a circle above a pink square with a C on it! Naturally, I turned it into a Comic Character, a la Mr. Peanut! Heres a catalogue cover I drew in 1981, that was the year Colorforms acquired a product called Shrinky Dinks, The smaller cover was actually a small catalogue attached to the large one with the SD line shown in it! The art on the cover of the little catalogue continued to diminish. the scan makes this look like one piece of art but it is actually two pieces glued together! This catalog cover is a RARE artifact that will attract the notice of Colorforms oriented viewers!

Eventually, All Colorforms product originated through my house. Some 30 to 50 items a year; 90% were "licensed" and each had to capture the style of, and meet the standards of the individual licensor. In other words Disney items had to look like Disney did them, Peanuts look like Schultz did them etc. I would create "comps" of most of the products. And I had the pleasure of working with two of the MOST talented artists I've ever known, and I've known a LOT of talented artists. I would do the comps and then Bill Basso and Mike Strouth would carry the comps forward and do the finished art. The three of us would do it all.

We were able to work in all styles, and in most cases what we produced was better than the original licensor was capable of producing. Mike Strouth, who Colorforms moved from Kansas City, where he worked for Hallmark, to this area to work full time with me, became so adept at doing Sesame Street, that he's now an art director there.

If you're going to show illustrations of Colorforms toys, they might as well be some that I did! This Puppetforms was the first project I did for Colorforms! It was also the FIRST product to use the "OLD" Mickey image since 1939, when it changed for the Worse, and the year, beyond which, my interest in collecting MM comes to a screeching Halt. Because It was MM I did the finished art myself. Ordinarily I would only do a comp and someone else would do the time consuming job of finished art! I could do comps very quickly, that doesn't mean they were rough- In fact the artists who would do the finished art would, usually, use only my comps as reference.

Harry, who is one of the most intelligent-- one might say Brilliant-- and unconventional people I've ever known, always ran Colorforms from his home. And he made it possible for me to work from mine. This was Perfect for me as I never sought a so-called "career". The very word was never even in my vocabulary! In place of "Career" just substitute "Avoidance of Pain." That describes what I pursued instead of a "career", that and All the Amazing Comic Character and Interestingly Stylized Images and Icons I could Collect!

Harry had five sons and a daughter. I watched them grow up, and they all turned out to be Great kids. Eventually Andy, the eldest and Adam were employed by their dad to run Colorforms. And I enjoyed working with for several years. The Business prospered, with them at the helm. Nonetheless they left Colorforms in 1982 to start their own business (Which they called KISCOM, Kiss as in Kislevitz and Com as in communications), inventing and selling toy products. I "went" with them as the Inventing part of the picture, while at the same time, I continued to be the Creative Director of Colorforms for two more years. Then I left Colorforms, to devote all my time to Toy Inventing.

I worked most closely with Andy. We would get together at my house, several days a week and discuss ideas. When we both agreed on one, I would "do" it. Whatever it took to best present the idea. Sometimes a few drawings would suffice. Other Presentations required Drawings, Models, Prototypes, and Video tapes. Then Kiscom would take it out and try to "Sell"it!


 

 

Here's me on the cover of Americana magazine, with the Mickey image that represents My Collecting activities.

I think it's "break time", so I'm going to send this now, so I can stop worrying about losing it, and continue soon.

Best Regards, till then, Mel

 

 


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