FUZZY BUZZIES and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are
Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
Working with Playmates, Spider Lady, and later, when Spider Lady was on maternity leave, her boss, Ryan Slate, proved to be maddeningly frustrating. Everything about their attitude was Secret. My generosity in plying them with drawings and answering their frequent questions was strictly a one way street. There was scant little information coming back to me. Even a year later, when we finally saw our Fuzzy Buzzies at Toy Fair 1999, Playmates refused to give us a catalogue. We were not even permitted to peek at the pages picturing our license. How secretive and stingy could they be?
In spite of this lopsided situation, over time, Spider Lady and Ryan came to depend on me. Although, Playmates had kept me in the dark, and offered me no chance to participate in the initial group of products, which they considered the Spring Line, all at once, they did a turnabout and hired me to supply all the blueprints, diagrams, and working drawings for the additional products they planned to add to the Fall Line These would be introduced at Toy Fair, in the spring of 1999. In the process, I kept careful track of every hour, diligently and honestly. Because it was a lot of labor, it amounted to a considerable fee.
Meanwhile, nothing was easy for me, as I was still battling Lyme disease. And my partners were not happy that I was spending so much of my limited energy helping Playmates, rather than creating new ideas for them to peddle. Thus, they penalized me, and lined their pockets, by insisting that I give them twenty percent of the hourly fee that Playmates was paying me.
Now, Spider Lady sent me the official plan. It listed all the items Playmates had developed on their own, and the perameters for the yet undefined items they were hiring me to supply.
Along with this menu, Spider Lady also sent me a bunch of bits and pieces of mechanisms that they had developed already. Yikes! I have photographed a group of these, standing on my desk, atop the pile of drawings that I Faxed to Playmates. The larger drawings had to be divided into smaller sheets, so, everything could be sent to Playmates, one page at a time, by Fax machine.
As soon as I got these fragments, I jumped into action and tried to save the Fuzzy Buzzies. If only they had involved me sooner, I believe I could have averted what I considered to be some serious mistakes. Errors that I believed would make the difference between success and disaster. There were three major problems! I spelled them out in the following letter, offering simple solutions.
Unfortunately, I might even say "tragically," none of the above corrections were put into effect. The wings continued to break off easily. Many of the toys continued to appear inoperative, right out of the package. And the individual figures continued to be nearly impossible to stand up. As all the legs were identical, a single change to just one mold could have saved them all. Were sales effected? I feel certain that if these small changes had been made, Fuzzy Buzzies would have managed to succeed. In my opinion, because of these mistakes, their doom was sealed, before they ever saw the light of day.
But this unhappy destiny lay ahead. For now, I continued to have faith, and hope that the small, but all important fixes I had suggested were being seriously addressed. Therefore, I focused my efforts at coming up with new ideas that fulfilled Spider Lady’s requests. Here are a few drawings that were not chosen, followed by the ones that were, and the mechanical drawings for each one, presented as a slide show. Accompanying each of these, were voluminous handwritten notes. I've omitted those.
All of the new drawings that were actually turned into products for the Fall Line were new concepts, with the sole exception of this one, The Roly Poly Baby Buggies. For the sake of continuity, here they are again!
April Showers, was one of Spider Lady’s choices. She wrote on the top, “Moth.” This would require a longer tail and a new posture. So far, all the basic body parts had remained the same.
This Ballerina Butterfly was more complex that met the eye. Spider Lady requested that she be turned into a moth or a dragonfly.
Bizzy Bee is busy sweeping. I can’t make out what Spider Lady wrote at the top.
When this firefly’s tail lights up it is so bright that he has to wear his sunglasses. This item had no windup mechanism.
Next came a pair of what Spider Lady referred to as “Two Packs.” This one proved to be beyond the comprehension of the engineers who were working on this series. I thought that they would never get this right.
Two Lady Bugs on a See-Saw was another one that taxed the abilities of the people Spider Lady was working with. They had a terrible time trying to understand this. It is exceedingly complex.
This Two Pack got added to the mix. It began as a simple item, and then, it got complex. A bigger bug soon came along and started pulling the ring that operated the swing.
This one strained my credulity. Spider Lady needed another vehicle concept. So, she chose this horse, and decided to stand it on a vehicle, the same crayon box that was used in the Spring Line. Here it is, a horse on top of a wheeled box. Can anyone explain the logic of this to me?
Last of all, we come to the carrying case. All the drawings here are actual size when viewed on a 24” screen, but this one is way to large. So here it is much smaller than in reality, the one that Playmates chose. A snail on a roller-skate!
When the first model of the above product that Spider Lady’s engineers created came back to me, I was furious and mortified. But I certainly wasn’t speechless. I didn’t pull any punches. Here is the first page of my over the top reply. In the end, I had to construct a working model myself, before they got it right.