All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
By the time I got around to trying my hand at contriving accessories for Barbie, toy inventing was no longer fun for me. Years before, when I first began inventing toys, everybody was looking for the latest thing. Toy buyers wanted to know “What’s New?” And when my partners tried to sell a concept, God forbid, it smacked of deja vu! Thinking up concepts that had never been done before was easy then, because, in spite of hundreds of years of toy history, there were still vast possibilities that remained to be explored.
Sadly, over the 40 years I was inventing toys, the toy industry became transformed. In the final days of my involvement, no one wanted originality any more. Trying to introduce something fresh, new, and never seen before was considered a gamble. At worst, it would be a bad bet, and, at best, an uphill battle. A new expression, “Pre-Sell” entered the world of toys and every form of entertainment as well. That creativity crushing catch phrase became the criteria that any new concept had to meet, in order to be placed. Rather than trying to introduce a toy or property that was new and original, it was far safer to hedge one’s bets, and reintroduce a sequel to a previous well known success. Meanwhile, my partners, who, by then, were pushing products of their own, were finding enough success to manage to keep going by inventing accessories for Barbie. And they suggested that I do the same.
So, even though, the thought of accessorizing Barbie was about as appealing to me as extracting teeth, I wasted a week doing these. What each proposed product did is pretty much self-evident, with explanations on each drawing. But I’ll say a few words about them, anyway.
“Dream Date Barbie.” At this stage of the game, most toys had a computer chip incorporated in their design. So it was not farfetched to visualize, music, twinkling stars, and moonlight, as the swing swings automatically.
“Walkin Talkin Fabulously Fit Barbie” keeps in her inhuman shape by working out on her Action Treadmill. She walks and talks, and even sings!
In “Barbie’s World of Make Believe,” we meet Barbie’s Little Sister Kelly. Here, "Kelly Learns to Skate.” This is an adaptation of one of the tiny items, designed for a line called, “Tiny Tots.” Kelly’s skates are magnetic, and they are controlled by a magnetic wand that operates under the sidewalk. Magnetism also controls Kelly’s toys, who turn their heads to watch her skate.
In this item called, “Kelly’s Kittens,” another magnetic wand, beneath the floor, permits the magnetic kittens to scamper and play. Like any of the items in the line, a sound chip could be added, so the kittens could purrr and meow.
Hold the other end of the rope to help “Barbie and Skipper Jump Rope.” A chip, inside the base, enables Kelly to count aloud as she jumps. A sensor tracks the jumps and speed, and activates appropriate sounds.
In Kelly’s World of Make Believe,” she has a “Let’s Pretend Tea Party.” Her toy’s heads turn automatically, as she lifts her arm to feed to feed each one.
“Beddy-Bye Kelly” is the first element of a concept that could be expanded by the addition of other related items. The basic unit features a light up lamp and other electronics.
The next element, which can also stand on its own is “bedtime Stories and Lullabies Barbie.” The rocking chair can rock automatically or be operated manually, as Barbie reads out loud or sings lullabies to Kelly.
Both units snap together to create the cozy scene below. The electronics join together to interact. I thought this environment was charming. At this point I never dreamed it could get better.
But dreams really do come true, sometimes. Although, this idea was ahead of its time, twenty five years ago, it could easily be done, in this era of tablets and cellphones. Today, it would be easy to follow Barbie and Kelly’s Adventures in Dreamland.” As Kelly falls asleep, story time becomes Dream time. A little girl can not only see, she can actually participate in Kelly’s creams, determining the events, as bedtime stories, lullabies, and dreams come true.
The idea below is Magical, an electronic miracle. Spectacularly attired Barbie becomes a Fortune Teller, and playfully predicts the future electronically, in “Fortune Fun Barbie.” The instructions below are complex but easy, and the glowing crystal and flashing lights combine to weave a spell that is pure Magic!
The concept below was, by far, my favorite. I thought the idea was Amazing, He says without a scrap of modesty! But seriously, as a marketing concept, although, slightly inbred, could have been Humongous! “Barbie Collects Barbie!”
And to house and display her collection, this spectacular “Crystal Palace Showcase,” complete with Rotating Platforms, Lights, and Music!
Nothing came of the above effort. Mattel was not impressed. And so, the sketches were returned to me. As there was no place else to show them, they have remained hidden, until today.
Clearly, doing Barbie accessories was not my cup of tea. Thus, the preceding drawings were my first and last attempt. My partners, on the other hand, kept trying. And, after I retired, they were still doing it, One of their more successful items was Barbie’s Dog that took a crap, a neatly sculpted piece of plastic dog poop. Now why didn’t I think of that? Years after I left the toy industry, accessorizing Barbie and her extended family, was how my partners, Noah, Adam, and Andy, continued to make a living.
WHOA! Hold everything! There’s more! I just discovered that the above drawings were not the only encounter my partners involved me in with Barbie. I just this minute came across a few more drawings. These rekindle a long lost memory of KISCOM, roping me into working on an RC Pony, as an accessory for Barbie. This project involved some back and forth with Mattel. These few drawings are all that remain. I debated whether to include them here or toss them back into oblivion again. Oblivion lost out; so, here they are!
The first sketch depicts just Barbie's pony, with both direct and radio controls. Like Barbie, herself, he’s white with blonde hair. Here, he is shown, with both his western saddle, and the bridle that he wears, when he pulls...
Barbie’s Dreamland Chariot. This elegant carriage is suitable for Princess Barbie, in which to trot around her Kingdom.
It is also perfect for transporting Barbie and Ken, when they go out, together, on a Dream Date. These drawings, too, are but the echoes of a dream, a not so pleasant reverie that faded in the light of day...