Mel Birnkrant's
          “Exploders” was a masterpiece of terrible timing!  It might even be the worst toy concept I ever did.  I came across it the other day, buried in a drawer beside my desk, and I was shocked to realize that I had erased all memory of this misbegotten project from my head.  It was immediately rejected by every toy company who saw it, twenty five years ago.  I guess it was a bad idea, even then.   Today, on the other hand, it would be an even worse one.  Considering how the World has changed since 9-11, it would be seen as hideously grotesque, and politically incorrect.

And yet, this testimony to my incurable naivety does have some redeeming qualities.  I look at these drawings, now, and they remind me that there was a time when I could articulate a pencil, and make it do anything I wanted it to do with ease.  That ability has grown rusty now, to say the least; but, way back then, I  was able to whip out this entire presentation in less than a week.

Growing up, during the Second World War, all my toys were war toys.  Most of them were made of paper, because, with the exception of lead soldiers, most metal things had gone to war.  There were wooden toys as well.  This wooden machine gun was made by Milton Bradley.  It dates back to World War One, and is a curious example of how things have changed.  If it were manufactured in our era, the maker would certainly update it, and maybe, choose a different name.
         Another wooden toy that began in World War One, and continued pretty much the same, throughout the Second World War as well, was the Schoenhut Exploding Battleship.  The 1940’s version was among my favorite toys.  It consisted of a wooden battleship, assembled like a stack of blocks.  Inside the hull was a genuine mouse trap.  The mechanism was tripped by a direct hit from a wooden torpedo, fired from a toy submarine.  This would snap the trap, and send the wooden pieces flying.  I never tired of this toy.  The illusionary explosion it created was spectacular and satisfying.
          “Exploders” was an attempt to recreate the fun of that early toy, not as a battleship, but as a series of action figures.  I also tried to capture and emulate the look and feeling of the Wartime Era.  The styling paid homage to the kind of caricature that one often saw on Insignia and other popular art, throughout the war.  Each figure and vehicle was spring loaded.  When hit on the Bull’s-eye by another figure’s missile, it exploded. 

  I have occasionally been ahead of the times with certain toy designs.  The Outer Space Men appeared four years before the Mego action figures.  Maxx FX was too early for the continuing monster craze.  And Starship A.R.C. had villains, much too scary, for Mattel, too soon.  But Exploders, was a love letter, written to my wartime childhood, and I sent it, 40 years too late.
Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of LOCK-UPS and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright
Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of EXPLODES and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright
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