Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of INVASION EARTH and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright
(c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB

CHARACTER DEVELOPEMENT

       
A few days after Tyco optioned Invasion Earth my partners, Andy, Adam, Noah and I attended a product meeting at their headquarters in Pennsylvania.  We were pleased to discover that everybody there loved Invasion Earth, everybody, who had seen it, that is, which meant everybody but the president of the company.  The staff always carried a project out to perfection before they presented it to him for final approval.  Meanwhile, the similarity of Invasion Earth to Dino Riders had not escaped them, which made them like it all the more.  Dino Riders had sold something like 20 to 30 million dollars a year in the two years since it began.  Tyco saw Invasion Earth as the logical companion and follow up to Dino Riders.

        Dino Riders came packaged with a video and later became a TV show.  Thus, Tyco felt Invasion Earth needed a cast of characters suitable for TV.  And they needed it in one month exactly.  Therefore, they hired me.  Gulp! Furthermore, the product manager had expressed his feeling that my half hearted attempt at military vehicles left something to be desired.  I, of course, agreed.  Now he asked me to also take a second pass at them with a little more enthusiasm.  He also wanted two more mid-priced creatures.

          I navigated the long drive home through a raging sea of mixed emotions.  Of course, I was excited that Tyco intended this to be their major introduction for 1990. In fact, they let it slip that they were so sure they were doing “Invasion Earth” that they had already negotiated with  Product Dynamics, who did both Animax and Dino Riders, to commit their fill time and facilities to working on nothing but Invasion Earth the following year.  At the same time, I was awed and overwhelmed by the daunting challenge that lay ahead: Characters and Story, new Vehicles and more Creatures all in one months time.  It seemed to be an impossible task, one month to weave straw into gold.

            So began a marathon of working day and night,  punctuated only by time off to meet with Andy on the phone and in person to write the Story.  The United Earth Forces turned out to be easy, I soon discovered that my head was full of international stereotypes that appeared with astonishing facility.  They sort of grew out of the paper, a team of military heroes representing the best Earth had to offer.  Andy and I named them later.
            The Aliens were a bigger challenge.  I had hoped to get away with standard gray, everyone identical.  But now I had to come up with distinct characters, each with a unique look and personality, related to the basic grays, but unique and different, and decidedly more evil.  Thus I turned to my standard recipe for making anything more evil.  When an alien is ordinary, how can you make it extraordinary?  Just spice it up by adding FANGS!
            I was particularly fond of this guy, being totally hooked on the concept of an all seeing eye.  The Cyclops in the second series of The Outer Space Men had one as well.  Was I in a rut, or what?
          When I was a little kid, there were OZ books in our cellar.  My father got them at the "Good Will", but because they frightened me, he stored them down there in a cupboard, waiting for me to get older.  On rare occasions I would work up the courage to sneak down the basement stairs and peek between the covers.  The awesome illustrations were deliciously terrifying.  The Scoodlers with their two hideous faces, and Princess Languidere, who casually balanced a different head atop her cleanly severed neck each day, were better than a nightmare.  But scariest of all was the Nome King with his wild and wooly whiskers.  I studied him with fascination as long as I dared, then hurriedly scurried up the stairs.  Oblivion clearly harkens back to that unruly ruler with a passing nod to the floating head of the Great OZ in the 1939 movie.   
           When all the drawings were done I captured a fleeting video record of them.  I didn’t know if I would ever see them again, and there was no time to spare for laser copies.  As it turned out , I did see them again, but I lost them in the end.  Thus, many of the images that you see here were reconstructed from slides and laser copies.
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