HOW BABY FACE WAS BORN...
9. On to Kiscom

Dear PrillyCharmin,

As you're reading all those little Outer Space Men stories I "wrote" 30 years ago I'd like to admit that I'm rather fond of them. I remember, as if it were yesterday, whipping them out in a very short time and laughing to myself about them. I adored the corny puns that appeared under the photos in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, Things like a photo of a "Morlock" from the movie "The Time Machine" being menaced by a torch. The caption read "You're Fired!"

My little stories had a lot of that in them. They were so full of Cliches. Take the Cyclops for instance, He came from a "place too vast to even have a name" Simply, Because I had Run Out Of Places, and couldn't think up a name! "Seeking More than Meets the Eye" I laughed that I could dare to be so "tongue in cheek"! And at the same time I could see its bigger meaning, and it would actually send shivers down my spine. Even reading them years later the almost embarrassing cliches seem to mask a poignancy that makes me feel undecided weather I want to Laugh Or Cry.

Of course, you realize, I believe it's all true! And I feel sad for the civilization that cowers beneath the sands of the dying planet, Mars, and Wonder at the Venusian cloud-ships that float unnoticed above our world.

Well, there were lots and lots of products that we (Kiscom) shopped into the ground and couldn't sell, and lots that we sold or optioned, and even a few that actually, got manufactured and saw the light of day! I'll skip over all that! Suffice it to say that Toy Inventing is one of the toughest professions there is. There are hundreds of "Inventors" out there who do what's called "service work" for a living. That's design and model making, etc., that they are hired to do, "freelance", on a fee basis. No royalties involved. Then they try to invent and sell product on the side.

There's a much smaller group, that either dare, or have been successful enough, to be able to take a chance, put all their eggs in one basket, and do nothing but "Invent". Then there are Several large "Inventor Groups", with staffs of up to 50 full time designers. All are trying to sell toy ideas to an ever shrinking hand-full of toy companies. To place a product is a BIG DEAL! And an inventor who can sell one a year is doing better than 95% of the inventing community!

Late in 1988 Andy and I were on the phone, discussing product ideas as usual. We were on the phone because "Kiscom" is 60 miles away in NJ just across the George Washington Bridge from NYC. I had been inflicting an idea on him, for what seemed like years, but somehow it never seemed to grab him. I wanted to do a "Fashion Baby Doll" a tentative or "working title" would be "Oh Baby" and it would be to Baby Dolls, what Barbie is to Teen-age Dolls. Sort of a baby Barbie but not tiny, like an in scale baby Barbie would be, but a larger doll.

On this occasion Andy asked, "Well, how big do you see the doll being" And I answered "11 inches". Suddenly the "Penny Dropped", and Andy got Excited, and no one can get more Excited than Andy, when he gets EXCITED!

Inside the industry, Barbie falls into a category (let's face it she IS the category) referred to as "11 inch Fashion Dolls"! "Oh Baby" Would Be a Whole New Category of 11" fashion Baby doll!! Andy and I agreed "It's a wrap! Just DO IT!" and I DID!

Well, you're probably thinking that Baby Face is Bigger than 11 inches! What Happened?" I'll get to that! You shall know all!

I now set out to sculpt Baby Face!, but first I need to explain a little about my history, or lack thereof, as a "sculptor", and secondly I need to talk a little about Comic Characters. I attended Pratt Institute in NY for Two years, after one year at U of M, and before living in France for a year, etc. At Pratt I had a terrific figure drawing teacher, who had some very revolutionary ideas about how to teach life drawing. So in what was, my second year there, he introduced a class in sculpting the figure, which traditionally would have no place in an illustration curriculum. His theory was that it would help us better understand the forms, and therefore, be able to draw them better.

To make a long story short, I could DO IT! Although I had never touched a piece of clay since grade school, I proved to be a "born" [or Reborn] Sculptor.. Whenever the class was held, crowds of students and teachers would throng, at break time to see what I had done. They were Amazed, But No One was more Amazed than Me! My Teacher Insisted I had to become a sculptor!

Alas, I never attempted to sculpt anything at all again, except a lousy little 4" tall dancing Poodle, Boutique Fantastique made for Henri Bendell eight years later and the insignificant skull, three years after that, and the outer space men a good twelve years after I left Pratt. Then came a period of Fifteen more Sculpt-Free years with Colorforms.

This picture shows The POODLE that we made for Henri Bendel. They sold for $150. and in 1966 that was a lot of money. We got half of that for it, and when I figured out how much work went into it, We must have been earning 25 cents an hour! The absurd thing about this was, that they ran an ad in the Sunday, NY Times that included a drawing of our poodle music box, and people were buying them as Christmas gifts for their DOGS! Honest! Doing a poodle music box wasn't my idea by the way, Bendels suggested it!

This photo is one tiny corner of a big showcase and a big photo! It's Amazing how I was able to blow this tiny section up on the computer! At the back you can see a cut out photo on wood, that was so popular at the time, that my parents had made of 3 or 4 year old "Little MELVYN" in his Sailor Suit, also popular at the time... Me and Donald Duck! Also there's a tiny bisque doll that bore an uncanny resemblance to little Melvyn that Big Melvyn found years later and dressed in a tiny sailor suit as a Christmas present for Eunice!

Well ... I did a few small projects with Kiscom that involved small Super Sculpy models. One was a series of little collectible babies called "Oodles". I did 50 Sculpy sketches for that. I should say a little more about those, I guess, as they led to The "Magic Diaper Babies", which were "my" item, but Thank God, I didn't have to sculpt them, But they were packaged (in the USA) under the Baby Face name!

Now THIRTY years later I purchased the "same" clay I had used at Pratt, "Plastalina". It still felt "friendly", after all that time! And I began to create "Oh Baby" Soon to be renamed "Baby Face."

Best, Mel


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