All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
How deep into the distant past can this journey travel? The answer is, no farther than this. “The Men in the Moon” was a totally bizarre toy concept that I came up with when my future business partners, Andy and Adam were still kids. The year was 1964. Their father, Harry Kislevitz and I had just made contact. It would be many years before we actually met. Nonetheless, we instantly became the best of friends, over the telephone, chatting for hours, nearly every day, for the next four years. When Harry suggested that I try my hand at toy inventing, I thought that he was kidding. When I stopped laughing, this bizarre item was one of the first that I came up with.
Believe it or not, Harry liked it, and vowed to produce it. With that in mind, I actually sculpted the little men, Men in the Moon! Miraculously a few of them remain. Here they are, much larger than life size:
A spinning top, in the form of a flying saucer, could be used to bowl the little Moon Men over. And one could keep score.
Nonetheless, Men in the Moon was, foremost, a balancing game, in which each player took turns stacking and balancing the tiny figures atop the moon. As the number of moon men grew, one man to many would cause the game to crater, and the player who put the last man on the moon, toppling the whole thing over, was eliminated. Many years later, I would come up with several balancing games, quite similar to this, called, “Don’t Tip The Waiter,” and “Tummy Ache.” They could trace their primitive beginning to this, The Men in the Moon.
An additional feature involved a tiny catapult, that served to send the tiny moon men, flying, nose first, into a series of target holes.
According to the rambling write-up, the first I ever did, this was intended to be both a bowling and a balancing game. I have no idea who typed this thing. It, more or less, explains everything, including how the games were played.
And these drawings were diagrams intended to go to a model shop that Harry planned to hire to make perfect working prototypes. This never happened.
At the time all this was happening , this guy was still hanging around, wondering how he could be used. One possibility that occurred to us was packaging him inside a moon.
The Moon was on our menu, big time in 1965. Here's another sketch that was preserved in the group. That pictures the same funny little figure with a gyroscope in his tummy, balancing atop the moon.
The closest that this loony lunar concept came to happening was when we packed Silly Putty in a plastic moon, a few years later.
The fact is, the only reason that I can remember this entire project is because the small figures of the moon men stand on a shelf beside a multitude of Mickey Mouse collectibles. But, if I was looking for these drawings, I would have had no idea where to begin. They are only included here because I stumbled over them, quite by accident, last week. They were folded up, and stuffed in a manila envelope marked “Moon. This envelope and many others were sealed in a box of ancient bits and pieces of our life in New York City,” a box that has not been opened, since we moved to the country, forty-six years ago.
Also included in this group, was an exceedingly rough suggestion for a counter top display. This was all new territory to me, the first faltering steps on what was destined to become a lifelong journey.
Here’s a variation, in which the moon men are self-propelled. A hidden spring enables them to launch themselves.
These drawings, as you can see, were quick and crude, rendered with a clumsy marking pen. I’ve traveled a long way, since then. As time went by, the Men in the Moon became less interesting to Harry and I. And they were eventually abandoned, for the sake of more exciting things. But they were not forgotten; the seeds of an idea had been sewn. And, over time, they grew. Until, one day, in 1968, this long forgotten lunar concept , buried several years, burst forth and bloomed! Behold: The Outer Space Men!