Now that the project promised to become a reality, I pulled out all the stops and bombarded Playschool with drawings, proposing as many variations, and as much enchantment as I could conjure up. Just last week, I came across the original twenty year old pencil sketches for this group of images. At the time, I would transform these kind of drawings into Minolta copies, thickening up the lines to make them look like ink. Then, I'd color them with marking pens. If I messed up, I could make another print, and start again. You will see some of the resulting colored versions on the next page. But, for now, here are the pencil originals, never seen by anyone but me. And I must confess, I like these drawings more today than I did when I created them. In fact, it was finding these old pencil sketches that inspired me to add the story of Fuzzy Buzzies to this already overcrowded website.
Many of these sketches were complicated, but there was nothing here that wasn't possible. Every concept shown was doable.
This Turtle Taxi was one an item that Playmates chose to introduce, right at the beginning. Little did we realize, then, that the beginning would also be the end.
Honey and Bumble in a boat was clearly inspired by a similar sketch that I had done, now, forty years ago, in that first attempt to create licensed characters of my own.
I had a lot of fun creating characters. And sometimes wondered if this concept might have been more viable if it was limited to a series of beautiful moths, butterflies, bees, and dragonflies with multicolored flapping wings. I also liked the invisible windup keys that could be hidden in their tails. As they did their thing, the tails would rotate. The tails were subtly bent, so they would animate.
Playmates did a Ladybug. Eliminating the hat and flower petal skirt, and replacing the high heel shoes with bedroom slippers. Why? Beats me! Unfortunately, the aesthetic decisions were not left up to me. In-house art departments in the toy industry were often breeding grounds for compromise and mediocrity. And Playmate's art department lived up to my worst expectations.
Queenie was a natural. I liked her so much I drew two variations. I’ll put them both together, in a little slide show. If fuzzy Buzzes were a licensed property, she would have been a leading character.
This young lady is on her way to the flea market, the only place that one might find Fuzzy Buzzies, today. Well, there, and eBay!
Playmates was actually working on a watered down version of this drawing. It was intended to be included in the assortment for year two.
FUZZY BUZZIES and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are
Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
A variation on this idea appeared in year one. The matchbox was replaced by a box of crayons, and the mouse was eliminated. I liked that little firefly headlight that was in the drawing only.
A distant variation of the drawing below was proposed for year two, so easy to do!
These Roly Poly Baby Buggies were a natural, so easy to do, and so cute! This was an idea that could have stood alone. I thought they might be too simple to constitute an item, but Mendy chose them for year two.
Here’s a pair of trapeze toys, based on 1930s celluloids. Recycling found objects is a favorite pastime. The safety pins were perfect.
Two ladybugs on a slice of orange, playing catch. This was another natural. One of the factors that makes this and other of these drawings appealing is the fact that the bugs look happy. They have expressions on their faces. The toys that Playmates made used the same mildly passive head on everything! That’s a bit ironic, considering the fact that I created Baby Face, the doll that brought expressions to the modern day toy industry.
The action of the toy above was inspired by a Buster Brown toy that dates from the Turn of the Century.
What bug concept would be complete without a Flea Circus? Needless to say, the matches I use frequently would have to be replaced with Q-tips!
This act is complicated. Incredibly Mendy hired me, in preparation for the second year, to turn this complex concept into reality.
Here’s another concept that nearly became real. The mechanism is simple but effective. I have a 1940s wind up toy that works exactly the same way, a clown, balancing a ball on a spring.
The rowing action is based on a mechanism that powered the 1930s Popeye rowboat.
The two sketches, below, were favorites for me. Playmates did not agree.
Here we see a beautiful moth and a bumblebee, dancing at the "Moth Ball." Waltzing is an activity that windup toys always did well. Nonetheless, the last one I recall was Cinderella and the Prince, manufactured in the 1950s.
Dancing couples were commonplace in the world of celluloid windup toys. Here, the very effective windup mechanism, is hidden beneath Minnie’s dress.
This concept was inspired by the memory of an enchanted night of a thousand fireflies, catching lightening bugs in a jar, in Crawfordsville Indiana, when I was twelve years old.
This drawing was a serious attempt to suggest a Fuzzy Buzzy playset. I invested considerable thought into this. Wishful thinking, that is. Had Fuzzy Buzzies been a big success, Playmates would have introduced items as elaborate as this.
Last of all, is this elaborate drawing. It was based on a similar design that I proposed for Weenies, twenty years before. By this time, drawing insects had become easy, reminding me that at eighteen, I hoped to be an illustrator. Now, at the age of sixty, the past was catching up with me.
On the next page you will get a small idea of what these drawings looked like in full color.