FUZZY BUZZIES and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are
Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
Now, let’s, once more travel ahead in time to nineteen ninety-eight or nine. I had been inventing toys with Adam, Andy, and Noah Kislevitz, aka KISCOM, for approximately twelve years, by then. And we had several successes behind us, including Baby Face. Sometime in 1998, I came across a windup motor that I could visualize adapting to emulate flapping wings.
So, I undertook a project that was one of my most modest. It consisted of a single windup prototype of a an anthropomorphic butterfly. I made the figure out of Super Sculpey, and the windup motor was incorporated in such a way that it could be wound up by rotating the tail of the butterfly. Her wings were painted on acetate with iridescent paint. They were quite realistic, replicating the magically glowing blue green wings of a Morpho butterfly. And her tail was iridescent olive green.
Her head was hollow, like a cup. Into the top of which I glued a large fuzzy pompom to fill it up and represent her hair. And thus, the first Fuzzy Buzzy was born. As modest as this effort might have been, it, nonetheless, radiated charm, due, in no small part, to the magic of its iridescent paint. To this, I added a few quick sketches, visualizing variations in the form of other characters. I don’t believe I even bothered to color these drawings. And that was the entire presentation. This really was a minor item, so humble that I didn’t photograph it. I just handed it to my partners and they took it out to sell it.
Alas, I never saw my prototype again. I’ve attempted to recreate it in the image below. The figure is the actual toy, as it was later manufactured. The head is identical to my prototype, because it was cast from it directly. The wings are an accurate recreation of the glowing iridescent wings that I believed made the product unique, and I hoped, collectible.
Here are the drawings that went with it. I referenced the drawings that I did years before. The ladybug with a baby carriage is clearly based on to one of those.
Then, my partners, KISCOM, showed this humble presentation to Playmates Toys, and to our amazement, Playmates bought the concept. They offered us a generous advance and an ample guarantee. And then, the fun began.
Large toy companies tend to assign each product line to a product manager. This individual is rarely a high ranking executive, but rather a young person who was formerly a secretary. And so, in this case, the product manager that Playmates chose to be in charge of our project, which, at this point, didn’t have a name, was a young lady named, Mendy Cady. By a fateful stroke of destiny, Mendy was actually a distant relative of the great illustrator, Harrison Cady, who was hugely popular in the first years of the Twentieth Century. His illustrations of Peter Rabbit and forest full of furry friends, including an entire world bugs and insects, were absolutely charming. I actually had a pair of “Cady Bugs” in my collection.
Mendy, alas, had not inherited her ancestor’s knack for insects. Therefore, she prepared herself for the project by purchasing, and becoming fixated on a grotesquely unattractive children’s book called “Miss Spider.” She made color copies of the entire book, and sent them to me, explaining that she intended that the entire project would be decorated in the raw primary colors of the Miss Spider illustrations. I was utterly devastated! The entire book is rendered in the same few basic colors as a standard box of eight Crayola Crayons! So much for the delicate iridescent colors that I visualized as bringing magic and enchantment to our property. And there was no moving Mendy. Later in the project, I literally had to beg her to allow the lady bug to be black and red. What she had in mind was purple and green, instead!
On the other hand, one good element that Playschool contributed to the property was the name “Fuzzy Buzzies.” I thought the name was perfect! It alluded to the buzzing of bees, and the wind up motors that would animate the characters, as well as the fuzzy pompom hair that all the Fuzzy Buzzies shared. They were Buzzy, and they were Fuzzy. They were Fuzzy Buzzies!
Throughout the years of Fuzzy Buzzies, my memory was also fuzzy, as I was coping, rather badly, with a chronic case of Lyme disease. This unpleasant consequence of living in the country, effectively knocked three years of vitality out of my so-called career of toy inventing. Thus, reconstructing the events of Fuzzy Buzzies resembles solving a mystery to me. I feel like a detective, trying to put together this story from the few clues that are remaining. Fortunately, there are lots of drawings, and actual products to jog my memory. In spite of the uphill battle I was fighting, many of these drawings were far more appealing than the products Playmates made. You will see them on the following page.
Therefore, alas, I have no image of the prototype, which I never saw again. But it resembled the actual manufactured product you see below. The face is virtually the same, as it was cast directly from my Super Sculpey prototype. Missing are the fascinating iridescent wings and subtle touches of metallic paint.