FUZZY BUZZIES and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
The Spring Line of Fuzzy Buzzies, appeared in toy stores, early in 1999. And the initial reaction to them was fantastic! Even though, only two of the figures had windup wings, all of them were flying off the shelves. The attractive packaging was eye-catching, and the toys were effectively selling themselves. Everyone at Playmates was flying high, as well. Meanwhile, Playmate's product development team was bizzy getting the Fall Line of Fuzzy Buzzies ready to show at the upcoming Toy Fair, which takes place every year in late February.
A few weeks before that, a Fuzzy Buzzy commercial began airing on nationwide TV. I thought the Commercial was terrific. It featured all the Fuzzy Buzzies, each one doing its own thing, and looking both adorable and exciting. To my eyes, the ad was a masterpiece of perfect timing. As the windup motors really didn’t run for long, I knew how difficult it must have been to film. And, the fact that the ad showed so many of the toys in carefully choreographed action, all at the same time, made them look quite alive. On top of that, there was a catchy jingle, good looking happy laughing children, and best of all, a puppy who seemed to be genuinely interested in the toys!
Visiting Playmate's showroom at Toy Fair 1999 remains for me, a kaleidoscopic dream, with just the faintest hint of nightmare. My partners and I arrived prepared to be pleasantly surprised. And we were met with a cornucopia of surprises, most of which were pleasant. The first was, finally, meeting Mendy Cady. She was just as I imagined she would be, young, attractive, and relatively pleased to meet me. Above all, she was proud of Fuzzy Buzzies. They really were her babies. Seeing them succeed would mean far more to her and her career than it would mean to me.
The Fuzzy Buzzy display was utterly amazing! We were, not only, seeing the new items that I’d helped to design, for the first time, but there were other new Fuzzy Buzzy items, revealed as well, things I never knew about. Among them, was an huge elaborate playhouse, a sort of Fuzzy Buzzy Motel that was outrageously spectacular. I thought the whole line was exciting. At least, it excited me. On the other hand, I found some small details disturbing. For one thing, the precarious fragility of the wing attachments remained unchanged, ready to break if bent one time, and this defect was duplicated in every new item in the line. Furthermore, the easy-tip legs were still the same, and they were used on everything.
But I’d had months to swallow these bitter pills, previously. My concern about these defects, that seemed to bother nobody but me, paled in comparison to a puzzling piece of news that Mendy shared with us, quite casually. This tidbit of feedback from Playmates marketing department was far more troubling than the fact that Fuzzy Buzzies broke easily. Perhaps, it was related. Mendy was as mystified as we were. It seems that Fuzzy Buzzies had been selling better, before the commercial was aired. Apparently, kids found Fuzzy Buzzies more appealing, before they saw them on TV. And after Playmates ran the ad, sales slowed down considerably.
This foreboding piece of information was just one small part of the general pandemonium of Toy Fair. We spent no more than half an hour in the Playmates showroom, seeing a few minutes of everything. Now, twenty years later, the five minutes, or so, that we spent actually looking at the Fuzzy Buzzies have faded from my memory, and only a few fleeting impressions of the spectacular display remain.
When we asked for a catalogue, we were assured that they would send us one. Of course, it never came. To this day, I’ve never stopped wondering if there was a page or two, or more, of Fuzzy Buzzies. Did the catalogue I never saw show those half imagined images that I spent a year designing, and glimpsed for just a fleeting moment, in the hectic rush of Toy Fair? Last week, I tried to find a 1999 Playmates catalogue on eBay, to no avail.
I am tucking in this paragraph, several weeks later. This morning, looking through a box of papers that my partners sent me, I discovered two photocopies of what must have been loose leaf pages from Playmate's spring catalogue. Both are right hand pages, therefore, either the originals were blank on the back, like these copies, or there were left hand facing pages that are missing. At any rate, these pages only show the items that we knew about, those that were actually produced. The Toy Fair catalogue would have shown the products they developed for the fall.
What happened to the Fuzzy Buzzies? The answer to that question, and the fact that I never got one is still Bugging me. I suppose it’s something I will never know. If anyone ever explained it to me, that information was either lost, or buried deep in the general fog of three years of fighting Lyme disease. As my father used to say, “All I know is:” sometime after Toy Fair, the Fuzzy Buzzies were exterminated. Their short sweet life, and all the items, new and old, in Playmate’s Fuzzy Buzzy line were terminated, instantly. That’s the bad news!
The good news is that two years after that, my chronic case of Lyme disease came to an end as well. How that came about was something of a Miracle. Our good friend Kenneth Anger stumbled upon an article from a Los Angeles newspaper. It told of a controversial doctor, right here in Dutchess County, who was treating Lyme disease with an obsolete antibiotic called, Metronidazole. I convinced my family doctor to try it on me, and thus, after three years of futility, in which he had previously prescribed every other antibiotic known to man, one at a time, this obscure medication cured me! And so, this tale of Fuzzy Buzzies, which I always associated with Lyme disease, in the long run, ended happily.