Rest In Peace
Mel Birnkrant presents:
XTRA SPECIAL FX
Up-date: April 2014. I’ve watched with interest, over the years, since this webpage first appeared, as viewers who have seen it agreed that Maxx FX was a concept that deserved to succeed. If it had, my life would certainly have turned out differently; maybe yours would have changed as well. But it’s all water under the dam, by now, and I am too old to give a damn! Nonetheless, I’m grateful for your appreciation for this “concept that might have been.” Therefore, I would like to share with you a few X-tra fragments of the story that I've rediscovered recently.
Over the past half Century, I've occasionally been blessed by being able to work with people vastly more intelligent and talented than myself. And then, there were the rest! Experience has taught me that God’s great gift to the truly stupid is the inability to conceive of anybody being more intelligent than they see themselves to be. And, by the same token, those who are truly brilliant give most of mankind more credit than they merit. Meanwhile, I landed somewhere in the middle. And for reasons I cannot explain, Fate gave me a seat right on the 50 yard line, where I could observe both sides in the game.
Watching Matchbox mishandle Maxx, proved to be a pain in the neck, from having to look only downward to the left. That’s where ALL the action was taking place. While on the bright side of the middle line, the kingdom where intellect reigns, the playing field was empty. And more terrifying than any of the monster outfits, hanging neatly on the little plastic coat hangers that Matchbox proposed supplying in the wardrobe closet of their Maxx FX play set, was the Cloak of Mediocrity, worn by everybody in the Matchbox Company.
Nevertheless, encouraged by my partner Andy, who, being a former captain of the Brown University Soccer Team, had a “never give up” attitude, I continued to generate ideas, and fire them off to Matchbox, even though, it had become clear to us that they were in the process of minimizing Maxx FX.
The other day, I discovered a handful of those drawings. They are just a few of many, with which we continued to bombard Matchbox, daily. Obviously we had bigger plans in mind for the future of Maxx FX than they did. On the road to creating “Maxx FX, Master of Makeup and Special Effects,” we had made up much of the makeup, but we were just getting started on the “Special FX!” I’ll present these quick sketches, which were held together by a paperclip, in the order that I found them.
The one on top appears to be a way to add a voice and sound effects to a deluxe version of a “Talking” Maxx. The basic speaker and sound unit would be built into his body, while each individual voice would be incorporated in some article of makeup, here shown as a chest piece that would contain a voice chip that plugged in. Thus, with each new disguise, Maxx could assume both the appearance and the Voice of each new character.
Ironically, this might have been the inspiration that led Matchbox to commit marketing suicide, by creating a talking Freddy Krueger Doll, instead. Freddy took Maxx down with him, in the end.
Double click to edit
Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of MAX FX and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright
(c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
The second sound unit, illustrated here, was even more complex. It’s basically a self-contained stereo tape player. A single wire leads from it to a second speaker attached to Maxx, himself. The main sound unit plays the story, music, and scary sound effects: like gunshots, thunder, screams, whatever, while Maxx, on the second channel, speaks, howls, or roars, on cue, depending what the script suggests.
This pint-sized cameraman is MAXx’s sidekick and assistant. Armed with his combination movie camera and weapon, he records all of MAXx’s actual crime-fighting exploits, and later edits them into feature films. No wonder the special effects look so real! Mini-Cam is a master of make-up in his own right and often gets into the action when fantastic creatures of small stature are needed.
Of course, any toy inventor sees their toy as more than just “an item;” they hope that it will become “a property.” Thus, some of these drawings suggested makeup designs for Maxx’s proposed side kick, “Mini-Cam.” A few were designed to be worn by both of them at once.”
Here is a costume suggestion for Mini-Cam. In retrospect, I realize that this hairy beast was, most likely, inspired by the “Monkey Thing” a creature that I encountered on a deserted highway in the middle of one terrifying night, then, not so many years before. Although, it has, now, been thirty years ago, the memory of that hideous sight still haunts me, every time I hear strange screams, in the surrounding woods, at night.
And here is another costume sketch designed to fit the little guy. This one suggests that it might have light up eyes.
This drawing indicates a sort of flight pack that travels up a string. It features a pair of flapping wings!
Another substance that could be utilized is “Slime,” of which, the toy industry had plenty, on the ready. And thus, this creature was designed to spew out vast quantities of Slime.
Now, we are getting outrageously complex. This makeup is designed to incorporate both Maxx and Mini-Cam combined.
And this one, which recycles a drawing that I did before, is an extraterrestrial dinosaur.
One invention we envisioned was disappearing blood, red when wet, invisible when dry. I’m not sure how this could be done, but it sure would have avoided a mess, while experiencing all the fun of fresh red blood! This temporarily bright red liquid could have been dispensed through a simple pump. So, getting mired deep in gore, we find fresh bullet wounds, dripping blood, and a bloody hatchet in the head.
This is disgusting! Enough said!
And, here are three effects in one, a wagging air powered tongue, puffs of talcum powder smoke, and fangs that drip blood!
And, last of all, a tour de force, this spectacularly exploding head!
That’s enough for one day, an eye popping display!
I guess, these drawings, spontaneously created in a single afternoon, while basking in the momentary illusion that Maxx FX was succeeding, illustrate the brief, but elusive, moments of fun that can happen, from time to time, when one devotes their life to toy design.