Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of INVASION EARTH and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
We met the deadline right on time, and met again at Tyco for the presentation. Again, everyone except the President was there, and everyone there loved it. The product manager still felt the Earth vehicles could be improved on, but not to worry as Product Dynamics would take care of that. All in all, they were thrilled with the presentation, and we left showered with congratulations and assurance that Invasion Earth was a sure thing.
Soon after we got the news that president of Tyco, who ruled the roost there, loved it too. And Kiscom’s lawyer began preparing a contract. At Toy Fair that February we were welcomed at Tyco’s showroom like visiting royalty. And when the product manager showed us the latest Dino Riders, in my mind I saw Invasion Earth instead. That year Dino Riders had no Dinosaurs in it. They called the line “The Ice Age”. There was a mastodon and a saber tooth tiger. What! No new Dinos in Dino Riders? That was a Big Mistake
Shortly after Toy Fair, the verdict came in on Dino Riders. Based on the previous two years sales they had been projected to do 30 million again. But now that toy Fair was over, their sales department crunched the numbers and came up with bad news. Rather than 30 million, they were told to expect 3 million instead. Holy Ice Age! That was Chilling!
On the very day we were due to receive the finalized contract, Tyco called us. To everyone’s amazement the all powerful President of Tyco, due to the abysmal projections for Dino Riders, overrode the unanimous vote of his entire staff, and pulled the plug on Invasion Earth. The Rider had toppled off the Dino and landed on his head. Therefore, Invasion earth, as well, was dead! The entire staff was shocked and distraught. They never saw it coming, and thought they had their project for next year in the bag.
Of course, we were devastated, but not inordinately so. Bad breaks and disappointments are all part of the toy inventing game. The definition of a successful toy invention, as someone once aptly stated, is one that finds a buyer after a hundred other manufacturers have turned it down. So Kiscom, undaunted, picked up the pieces, and before the month was over, Noah had optioned Invasion Earth to Hasbro.
Hasbro’s intention was to combine Invasion Earth with G.I. Joe. Thus, the United Earth Force would join Joe's ranks to fight the Alien Invasion together. The problem of creating our own Military Force that could compete with G.I. Joe was over. We were all on the same side.
Giant toy companies like Hasbro operate in utmost secrecy. We knew little of what was going on inside. But over the next two years they paid us a generous option fee and offered us an occasional crumb or two of information. In the first year they informed us that Invasion Earth was going to be the biggest G.I. Joe introduction ever. Normally a new line would be introduced in the USA first and in Europe a year later. But Invasion Earth was going to be Joe’s first International Introduction, the first time a new Joe line would be introduced Worldwide.
Meanwhile, they welcomed any product ideas and innovation we could offer. Andy and I prepared a package of some 48 idea sketches and wrote up detailed descriptions of how they operated. One idea that we felt had great potential, really needed to be demonstrated. So I made up working models illustrating three variations. We referred to the concept as “Inverters”. It was based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. I shot some video of it twenty years ago, just for the record, and edited the still raw footage, just the other day.
Over the next few years Invasion Earth had its ups and downs. Hasbro’s management was ever changing, and with each new head of boy’s toys hired, our fate was altered. By the end of the first year Hasbro renewed their option for a second. But by the end of the second year we expected Invasion Earth would be returned to us. Work on it appeared to be slowing. Therefore we were amazed when they optioned Invasion Earth for yet a third year. We were informed that a new person had come on board and enthusiasm was once again renewed.
Then half way through the year Invasion Earth was returned to us, with the explanation that something so exciting had walked through the door of Hasbro that when we learned what it was we would understand why they had thrown everything, including Invasion Earth, aside to rush it out for Toy Fair. It was even suggested that we should be proud and humbled by the honor of being bested by such an awesome opponent. So everything was returned to us, including, no doubt unintentionally, this model, which shows the way Hasbro’s design department was adapting “Inverters”.
Many years later, in 2017 my friend Blake Wright produced an amazing book called “Toys That Time Forgot.” It chronicles the histories of well-intentioned toys that almost happened, but for various reasons, did not. I feel like I could fill the pages of that volume singlehandedly. Among the many well documented stories of toys that never made it to production, he included the saga of Invasion Earth. I was astonished to see two incredibly complex drawings that Hasbro’s product department generated in their quest to figure out what to do with Invasion Earth. These “top secret” concept drawings offer insight into what Hasbro was up to during the three years that the held the property, a tantalizing glimpse at what might have been.