After twenty years as Colorform’s Creative director, I secretly went into business with the owner’s sons, Andy and Adam Kislevitz. They called their product development company, “KISCOM,” which stood for Kislevitz and Communications. This was one of our first inventions. We called it “Brainiacs”
Brainiacs was intended to be a new kind of toy concept, part action figure, part electronic construction set. It was an attempt to identify the basic elements of simple electrical devices, and give each one a unique look and personality. Unfortunately, the basic technology it personified was already outdated, in 1989. But it seemed like a good idea at the time. Our Product Description stated it, like this:
“Brainiacs are wacky, zany, crazy characters that bring the World of Electronics to life! Each Brainiac is an individual component in a system with endless possibilities. When Brainiacs get together, they can become anything from a radio to a radio controlled vehicle. Mr. Power has what it takes to run any electrical device. from a flashlight to an electric toothbrush. When he teams up with his pal, Switch Guy, they really turn the Brainiacs on! There’s lots of other Brainiac buddies, each one with his own special job to perform. Start with something simple, like a Brainiacs flashlight; then move up to the Brainiacs FM Radio; add Woofer for stereo sound, and Tweeter for surround sound. Once you get started, you’re bound to become a Brainiac Maniac!” Let’s meet some of the characters in the World of Brainiacs, beginning with the main man: “Mr. Power.” Mr. Power is energy personified, and the driving force behind all the Brainiacs projects. Inside his massive body, is a battery, or perhaps, a whole battery of batteries. And to tap into his energy, all one has to do is hold his hands.
Next in line is “Switch Guy.” He and his friends keep Mr. Power in check. With a flick of his switch, he can turn everybody on, and off again. Just patch him into any circuit and he will take control. Everyone is in safe hands with Switch Guy in command!
Here’s “Radio Man!” If there is music in the air, Radio Man will find it there. He also has a nose for news! So whatever it might be you may want to listen to, Radio Man will tune it in for you. He'll transmit all your favorite stations, with a little help from his friends
“Mr. Speaker” is always ready to sound off. He can be soft spoken, or a total loud mouth, depending on how you adjust Radio Man’s volume.
Mr. Speakers best friend, “Woofer” is always eager to join in and compliment his master’s voice. So, if you want to hear full stereophonic sound, make sure Woofer is around.
And, here is the Brainiacs Video, an effort so rough and clunky that it might have been made by Brainiacs! Back in those times, all video editing had to be done by hand, using two VCRs. So, all things considered, perhaps it’s not so bad. The voice over is my partner, Adam. The fumbling hands are mine. Andy, Adam’s brother was behind the camera. For the sake of brevity, I reedited the video recently. Thus, a long segment showing many drawings, one after another, has been eliminated.
Last of all, if you wish to make the sounds you hear extra loud and clear, then add “Antenna Man.” He’ll stick his neck out to help you pull in distant signals, and boost your quality of sound.
Here is the cast of basic Brainiac characters, ready to make beautiful music together. Well, actually, that’s just an expression; the sound quality, as the following video reveals was really pretty crappy! Nonetheless, the crazy combinations and accessories that one might invasion, would have been a lot of fun. I got more than a little carried away, thinking them up, as our original write-up went on to suggest. “Brainiacs love to get together to help you perform everyday tasks, by becoming such things as: an Electric Toothbrush, Alarm Clocks, Doorbells, Intercoms, Pencil Sharpeners, Calculators, and they can even become a Home Security Alarm System to protect all of the above. Brainiacs can also team up to enhance your leisure hours by becoming the ultimate Home Entertainment System, starring: Brainiac Tape Recorders , Music Synthesizers, and TVs.”
The drawings, below, are most of those cut from the video. These images have been photocopied many times, and many subtleties are gone. They suggest some of the things a kid might do with Brainiacs.
This second group of drawings were done a few days later, just for fun. These too were added into the video, which became unbearably long. Last week, I found most of the original drawings. I rather like them. They carry me back to the days when images, flowed from my pencil, spontaneously, without the need for preliminary roughs or overlays.
The first toy company that displayed a serious interest in Brainiacs, in 1989, was “WOW,” which stands for Worlds of Wonder. They manufactured a talking bear called “Teddy Ruxpin.” They held our concept for a long time. Eventually, they sent it back, and we submitted it to Fisher Price. Fisher Price did not do electronic products, then. After that, we submitted it to Nasta Industries, who purchased our concept “Sound Wear,” instead.
All the photographs on this site were shot as Ektachrome slides, in 1989. All, that is, except the image, below. I captured it, just an hour ago. It shows the Brainiacs as they exist today, essentially, unchanged. If any high school kid were to bring this suitcase full of anthropomorphic technology to science class in this day and age, it would definitely NOT be mistaken for a bomb. Nevertheless, this innocently well-intentioned concept bombed, anyway. So here the Brainiacs lie; and here they will remain, sleeping in their little briefcase, for a brief time that might become Eternity. May they Rest In Peace.