Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of INVASION EARTH and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright
(c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
Toy Inventing is a lot like Politics. Sooner or later, every product idea becomes a candidate in some sort of election. And each starts out by competing against the other ideas in your head to become the one you chose to work on next.
If you feel an idea is a modest one, suitable to run for a position in the toy store the equivalent of president of the PTA or dog catcher, you work on it a little. If you think it has a chance to compete for even higher office, you work on it a lot. And if you think your product idea has the potential to compete for the toy equivalent of Mr. President, or Miss America, you “knock yourself out”. I knocked myself out a lot over the years.
When your presentation is ready, it enters the primaries. Even to get that far, it helps to know somebody. Many toy companies wont accept submissions from anyone they don’t know already. They fear that an amateur inventor with a gadget in a shoebox, might come back years later, if they ever manufacture anything remotely similar, claiming they stole his idea. Meanwhile if your candidate is lucky enough to survive the primaries, it might, eventually, find itself competing for the highest office a toy company has to offer, the lead product introduction in a category.
A number of our products won the race for dog catcher, and a few did even better. But I’d be hard pressed to remember any that had a bigger impact in the quest for higher office than the one that I am about to disclose now. No product we worked on ever climbed higher on the ladder of success than this one. It made it to the top in, not just one, but three Major Elections. We called it,” INVASION EARTH”.
“Invasion Earth” was optioned, first, by Tyco in 1988, to follow in the footsteps of Dino Riders as their major boys introduction of 1990. Then it was picked up by Hasbro, who wanted to team it up with G.I. Joe, intending it to be the biggest G.I. Joe introduction ever. Hasbro held it for two years; then renewed the option for a third. And finally, in 1995 Invasion Earth was acquired by the animation studio, “Film Roman” to become a primetime TV series for the following year. Alas, none of this potential was ever realized, nor will it ever be. Fate, is one candidate that’s tough to beat.
Like “ANIMAX”, before it, I attribute the origin of “Invasion Earth” to my partner Adam Kislevitz. In 1983, he and his brother Andy divorced themselves from their father Harry’s company, Colorforms, to form their own toy inventing and licensing group, called Kiscom, which stood for “Kiss (Kislevitz) Communications”. They were later joined by their youngest brother, Noah. I partnered with them right from the beginning, some 25 years ago, up to this very day.
One afternoon late in 1988 Adam phoned me and suggested that we do an action figure concept in which Earth’s military would battle Aliens. At first I didn’t get it. “You mean like “The War of the Worlds”? “Exactly!” I thought about it for a minute. Yes! Although, it had been done before, beginning with the original book in 1898 by H. G. Wells, followed by the fabled Radio Broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938, and last of all, the somewhat mediocre movie by George Pal in 1953. It had never been a toy. Wow! What a Great Idea!
Now the question was, what could we do to make the story Fresh and New? That one was easy for me, a no-brainer really. I turned to my standard recipe for making anything interesting. When something is dull and ordinary, how can you make it exciting and extraordinary? Just spice it up by adding CREATURES! I recalled my frustration as a kid, watching the George Pal production of War of the Worlds. The Martian was only glimpsed for a split second. I had to see the film ten times to finally realize it was just a piece of liver with an eye that was a Color TV logo. This would be my chance to improve upon it. Yes! There would be Creatures!
And so the simple paragraph that would be prominently printed on the top of the prototype package was composed right there on the telephone. It said it all, succinctly.
On the following pages you will see all that remains of a once big project that seemed destined for success. All the pieces fell so easily into place each step along the way. But the project proved ill fated in the end, when our little War of the Worlds crashed, head on, with the World of Hollywood. And we learned that Fate is not your Pal when Worlds Collide.