Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of FRIENDZ N' FAMILY, ACORN FAMILY, PLAY ALONG CLUB
and other Products and Images created by Mel Birnkrant are Copyright
(c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB

 
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    Everything, well almost Everything, You Need to Know about FRIENDZ

Please excuse the length of this document. I will attempt to go over every element of the FRIENDZ dolls, and share with you everything I can think of, at the moment, that might be helpful to you in producing the dolls, and maintaining their look. I don't expect anyone to sit down and read ALL of this, but I hope, for the people, who take on the job of actually developing the dolls, it will provide a good start.

To begin with, I believe I should introduce myself, and explain what I am all about, and what, I believe FRIENDZ are all about, basically a "LOOK", and what I can offer you in terms of achieving and maintaining it. Of course, FRIENDZ are also about Concept, Fashion, and Marketing Position, but I will concentrate only on the dolls, here.

Anything and Everything that I can convey in Words or Drawings, will be Unlimited and FREE. You can access my input, anytime, by E-mail, phone or FedEx, and I will get back to you immediately. My phone number is; ------------. Please hang on and identify yourself, after the message, as I screen my calls.

My shipping address is:

MEL BIRNKRANT
----------------------------
BEACON, NY 12508

As Creative Director of Colorforms, for 20 years, I was responsible for creating, coordinating, and art directing their entire product line, some 30 to 50 products a year.
I did this all from my home, via phone, Fax, and messenger. Colorforms had no in-house art department. I was it. The artists and suppliers I worked with were located all over the country. So, I am comfortable and capable of interacting and working effectively from my home. I urge you not to hesitate to run things by me. For the cost of a round trip carrier you can get my immediate input, overnight. Many a costly mistake could have been prevented, in the past, if only the manufacturer had asked me to look at something, early on, before it was too late

After a lifetime of working in a variety of styles, and trying to please a multitude of Licensors, or contriving, as an inventor, to fill one gap or another in the market, I decided, for once, to do my own thing. The result is FRIENDZ, an uncompromising attempt to simply make the best dolls I could.

Thus, FRIENDZ are very dear to my heart. So, whatever I can do to help, just let me know, and I will give you my undivided attention and top priority. I believe you will find

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my generosity with regards to my time to be unlimited.  On the other hand, I must charge a fee for one thing only, and that is actual "Service Work" such as sculpting, refining "Sculpy" master models, finishing waxes, setting eyes and sculpting additional heads. I can do this, as you chose, either on an hourly basis, or set a piece rate. The fees will be consistent with what I received in the past. Well, a little lower, actually, saving you a handling fee, as I would be billing you direct, rather than through Kiscom. Incidentally, I do service work, Only, on my own products.

I have played this role, on several other doll projects, most notably, Galoob's "Baby Face". I did all the sculpting, while an outside shop was provided by the manufacturer, to cast my original Sculpy models and pour wax heads, which I finished and refined. The model shop, working in conjunction with the mold maker, also supplied the necessary fittings, eye plugs rods, etc., which I, then, installed.

Positioning and focusing the eyes and installing the eye plugs is a critical step, I have developed a method of getting the position just right, then replacing the eyes with the brass plugs and rods in exactly the same position for the mold maker. I will gladly explain, how it is done, to anyone you choose, although, I highly recommend that you choose me to do it.

In other words, I can supply the skill necessary to do the Creative part, sculpting and finishing the waxes, but I do not have the shop facilities to do the manual labor involved in molding and casting in RTV and Wax. I will elaborate on this process more fully, as I go along.

If you look up my name on "Google" or any search engine, you will soon learn more about me than you would ever want to know. All entrees for my name or for Baby Face, eventually, link to me and my Collection. Or you can begin on my E-Bay "ME" page, and follow the links at the bottom of the page:

http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/ugotemel/

For now, let me explain myself, briefly, and in so doing, I hope you will gain insights into the LOOK of FRIENDZ.

I am, first and foremost, a Collector. On the surface, my house appears to be a museum, showcasing the ultimate collection of Vintage Mickey Mouse, and the history of Licensed Characters from their beginnings, at the turn of the century, through their Golden Age.

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But what my collection is really about, is the History and Mystery of stylized, images, dolls and inanimate objects that LOOK ALIVE.

That is my area of Expertise! Based on a lifetime of immersion in this little understood subject, I can instantly recognize the elusive Life Force that appears to exist in certain objects. And, I know how to consciously and intuitively manipulate the elements necessary to endow a doll with the Gift of Life. And the FRIENDZ dolls embody the sum total of all my skills and knowledge in that area.

The Look of FRIENDZ is what made YOU want them. So lets do all we can to embrace the Look and not lose it, bit by bit, as the dolls travel from prototype to reality.

. Before I begin addressing those elements, roughly in order of their intrinsic importance, I would also like to mention another unique aspect of the dolls, their Articulation and Poseability. To the best of my knowledge, which, as a collector, extends back several hundred years, there has never been a soft doll that was both Poseable and Soft Bendable. The Jointed limbs combined with Bendability is Unique, and produces a doll with unique play value. There are several ways that the look and feel and poseability of the prototypes can be achieved, other than the way I did it, and I will discuss what I did, as well some of the other possibilities.

Please forgive me, if I refer to Baby Face, throughout the following notes. Galoob and I developed certain groundbreaking techniques in the process of creating Baby Face, that had never been attempted, before, or since. And some of the same techniques will, by necessity, apply to the production of FRIENDZ. If you need to purchase any Baby Face dolls to dissect and examine, The person who is the ultimate source and Expert on Baby Face is Cynthia [Cyndy] Stevens, her Email address is:
Cstevens@citicom.com <mailto:Cstevens@citicom.com >
Cyndy can get you anything you might need and she can explain how they are strung etc. It was Cyndy who helped me find a source for joints [Doll joints]. She has also created "my" many websites, which are really hers, not mine. Her websites are listed under her cat's name: Prilly Charmin

http://www.prillycharmin.com/

The Story of How Baby Face was born, which is posted on one of her sites offers details of the process of sculpting and creating the Baby Face heads, and some of the problems we encountered, and how we solved them. If we follow essentially the same paths outlined there, and adopt the same solutions, all the problems can, hopefully, be avoided.

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A few minutes wandering around some of these websites, will, I believe, give you an understanding and confidence in what I can offer, in the realization of the FRIENDZ project, and a pretty good idea what I can do. 

Having said that, now, let me take a minute to tell you what I cannot do. Essential to the Baby Face Project was Judy Albert and her design staff. Galoob hired the Alberts to coordinate the project, which as you might know, is the same role they played in the creation of Cabbage Patch.

I created the initial Baby Face dolls and sculpted all the heads, but Judy and her group did the rest. By "the rest", I am thinking of two areas, in particular, Fashions and Hairstyles. I will touch on these specifically, when I get to them, but, for now, I believe that there needs to be a strong overriding Fashion and Hair design coordinator. Perhaps, you already, have this person on your staff. Perhaps, it is you! But, there must be someone who can supply an exciting contemporary and coordinated design vision for the all-important Fashions. The play of Friends is, after all, going to be largely, Fashion play. Real Clothes, the kind Real Kids really wear, Maybe even with Real Brand Names.

For the sake of making what is to follow easier to understand, I am going to assume a parallel between Friendz and Cabbage Patch. They do have a lot in common. One might say they play in the same sandbox.

If one keeps the yarn hair, for the initial presentation, which would urge you to do, then one might study the repertoire of Cabbage Patch hairstyles and rooting patterns, to expand the repertoire of Friendz Hairstyles. You really need someone who knows the ins and outs of rooting and styling yarn hair.  Friends dolls also have the potential of expanding and developing in much the way that Cabbage patch did, and Rooted vinyl hair with short-flocked dolls, mechanisms in the bodies, etc., etc., are all directions that could be taken, in the future. But, for now, I will proceed on the premise that you desire to capture the Look and Appeal of the existing prototypes.

Apart from the abstract STYLING, the appeal of Friends lies, essentially, in the EYES, and the ILLUSION of Softness, the intriguing mixture of diverse mediums, under a warm unifying blanket of flock. So I will address those subjects, first.

THE EYES.

This is the key element in the Look! If you lose the eyes, or replace them with something else, you lose the Magic of the dolls. These are the same eyes that were used for Baby Face. And they will be an element that will assert itself throughout the entire head making process. Fortunately, all the problems and pitfalls they presented in Baby Face

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were tackled and solved, at the time, and they should not present any difficulties for Friendz.

The eye is a 20 mm "acrylic" plastic eye, consisting of three parts: two half balls, front and back, of white styrene, that fit together snugly, and stay put, without glue, and a clear lens that snaps flush into an indentation in the front white half ball. The back white eyeball piece has a protrusion that, for our purposes, is the means, by which the eye is keyed into place, in its correct pre-molded position. Behind the lens, a colored decal or sticker is applied. This creates the pupil and iris and determines the color of the eye. The clear lens is slightly convex and magnifies the decal, behind it, to create the illusion of a realistic eye.

These eyes were quite expensive, in the days of Baby face, and although, the prices have come down considerably, since then, I believe that you should do what Galoob did and replicate them exactly, yourself. Because this will require steel molds, the eyes are one of the first things you might consider putting into the works.

For samples, I have been using the real things, as I did on Baby Face. They are obtainable from many suppliers, but I have been ordering them retail from:

Subj: Your Mini World Order
Date: 08/28/2002 11:31:42 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: webmaster@miniworlddolls.com


Thank you for shopping at Mini World.
If you have any questions regarding your order, please email
us at query@miniworlddolls.com or telephone toll-free at
1-800-762-3318. Your order will be shipped within the next 1 to 4
business days.

Our policy on Returns and Shipping can be found on our website at
http://www.miniworlddolls.com/H-Order.htm or by clicking
on the Order & Ship Info button on the menu bar from any page on our website.

If you wish to have your orders shipped by a method not listed on
our online order form, please let us know at query@miniworlddolls.com
or call us at 1-800-762-3318 if you have any questions about your order.

Thanks once again for shopping with us and come back and visit again!
---- Pat, Paul, Devin, Ruby, Jackie, and Susan -- The Folks at Mini World

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Code           Name                                    Quantity     Price/Ea.         Total
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RA20           Round Acrylic Eyes 20mm                        4         $1.35         $5.40
               Color: Blue                                                                
RA20           Round Acrylic Eyes 20mm                        4         $1.35         $5.40
               Color: DkBrown                                                             
RA20           Round Acrylic Eyes 20mm                        4         $1.35         $5.40
               Color: Lavender                                                            
RA20           Round Acrylic Eyes 20mm                        3         $1.35         $4.05
               Color: LtBrown                                                             
                            Shipping: USPS Priority (US only - up to 5 Lbs ):         $5.45
                                                                   Sales Tax:         $0.00
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Total:        $25.70

Ten years ago these eyes cost about $3.50 a pair, now they are down to $1.35, Perhaps you could even make some quantity arrangement to get them from the manufacturer. But, to really get the price down, you should make them yourself, as did Galoob.

Galoob made two mistakes in replicating the eyes, one minor, and one major.

First the white halves were duplicated exactly, but, when the lens was copied, the mold maker flattened it out slightly. I am sure this was not intentional, simply, lack of careful observation, and thus much of the magical magnifying quality of the lens was lost. I suppose no one noticed, but me, but doing it correctly would have cost no more.

Secondly, although, the artist, who re-created the iris pattern of the original eyes, copied the design perfectly, he matched the color of the decals badly, making the colored

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portion much too light and choosing strange colors. The iris color must be quite dark, as in the originals. If the iris color is too light the Black pupil becomes too dominant and takes on a life of its own. The resulting effect resembles the last scene of a horror movie, when the camera pans in on the baby to disclose its spacey eyes, which tell us that it is Not of This Earth. So, the first two hundred thousand Baby Face dolls did not look like the picture on the box, for which the original eyes were used, but rather, like eerie little lavender, lime green and baby blue eyed monsters from the Village of the Dammed. A running change was made.

The secret of pre-posing the eyes is known by few, we invented it, the hard way, by trial and error. I wish I could tell you who the Baby Face mold maker was, but I don't know that. Perhaps Judy Albert's son, Ross would know. The company that I worked with, and who cast the heads in Excellent wax of their own secret formula, [I wish I knew that formula], was Paramount, in Pa. I forget the town, but it is where the Sesame Street Theme park is located.

They cast my original Sculpy heads in wax, which I then finished. They also fabricated the brass eye plugs with polished steel rods that were used to position the eyes. They also supplied carefully drilled plastic eyes with a perfectly centered hole in the pupil to insert the rod, that they used in casting the wax heads.  I also used them in positioning the eyes.

Most vinyl dolls stare forward. Some bisque dolls, from bygone days, and expensive doll artist dolls, today, have eyes that look to one side or the other. In these instances the eyes are set in place, by hand, from the inside. It is critical that the eyes be positioned with care and intuitive skill. If they eyes are off, and fail to focus, by even a fraction, the effect is disturbing. 

With Baby Face, we developed a method, in which I set the position of the eyes in the wax stage. Then, the eye sockets became part of the vinyl head with the eye position pre-determined and keyed by the protruding piece on the back of the eye. After the head was molded it was pulled out of the mold still warm and thus the eye plugs that were part of the mold came out easily. I believe when the eyes were, later, inserted, the eye area of the mold might have been heated again, and then, when the plastic eyes were popped in, from the front, they fell into exactly the right position.

The acrylic plastic eyes are intended to replicate the full round form of blown glass eyes with a stem. We take advantage of the stem as a keying device and the fact that the eye is full round makes it easier to insert in the vinyl socket, from the front. But, there is a possibility that, perhaps, the back half of the eyeball could be eliminated. I believe the scary crystal weirdo eyes that Playmates uses in many of their dolls might be only half

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eyes. Half eyes might be less expensive, but harder to insert. I also wonder if the sharp half ball edge might damage the flock around the narrow edge around the eyes while inserting them?  I guess, it could be rounded off in the design of the half eye.

I can go into detail about how the eye plugs need to be cast in the wax and what is needed to position the eyes, but I will do that, later, if asked.
Final thoughts on the Eyes, or why they make the dolls look alive:

Here is an insight that I hope will tune you into my world. I have always marveled at Disney's Pinocchio. He is a character, masterfully designed, with delicacy and subtle nuance. The look, we see in the film, has never been captured in any of the toys and figures, sculpted in his image. I know, because I have most of them, in my collection.

When we first see him, we immediately recognize the fact that he is merely a puppet, primarily, because of his blank straightforward "doll-like" stare. Then there is that wonderful moment when Gepetto forms his mouth with two simple well-placed strokes of his brush. Next, he operates the marionette, making it move and dance, but it still remains a lifeless puppet. Later, when Pinocchio comes to life, what happens that makes this work for us? Its all in the eyes, the blank stare disappears, now he looks, always to one side, or the other. So, it is, with FRIENDZ. Posing the eyes, so they do not, merely, stare straight ahead is essential.

Eventually, Pinocchio becomes "a Real Boy". And, suddenly, he is no longer of any interest to us. He has slipped, from the extraordinary, into the ordinary, just a pretty face. The abstract qualities that brought him to life, for us, are gone. It is no mystery, why no one ever attempted to make a doll or product depicting Pinocchio, once he became REAL-istic. Yet most dolls, in the real world, strive to look like, either, lifeless dolls, or dull reality. FRIENDZ, like Pinocchio, live, somewhere, in-between, where inanimate objects posses a form of Life!

THE FLOCKING.

I realize that Flocking is an issue that will raise in-house controversy and debate, as there are many myths and misconceptions about it, and manufacturers are often tempted to eliminate it, to save expense. But, Flocking, in the case of Friendz, is not just added eyewash and cost. It is a crucial part of the doll's appeal. The dead-on perfect match in color and texture, between the molded elements and the velour, accounts for the illusion that these are soft dolls. Soft and inviting. I would also use the softest vinyl you dare, to retain the cuddly feel.

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Searching the Internet I discovered that there are huge companies in the Orient that specialize in flocking, and some here, as well. I also learned that the misconception that Flock rubs off is only a myth. In fact, tests have proven that flocked surfaces are many times more durable than any known fabric, provided the right adhesive is used.
Flock is a material that has advanced to a spectacular level, and is used extensively in the automotive industry, as well as in fabrics, Many warm and comfy blankets, these days, are actually just a piece of foam with lush flocking applied, and they are virtually indestructible.

The method of Flocking has also changed. It is now applied in mass production, by static electricity. I did the dolls with an old hand pumped spray gun that blows the flock through the air. Each tiny particle travels like a miniature spear and imbeds itself in the adhesive. This is a messy process. But hand held electrostatic flocking devices are now available. And, for samples, if you want to experiment with them, yourself, you might consider investing in one for around $500. It is a neat [not messy] process, in which, one connects a battery clip to the wet adhesive on the object and holds it over a tray of flock. The tiny particles jump invisibly off the dish and onto the object, each one perfectly placed, without any mess or stray flock, flying around.

Flocking consists of two elements, the flock and the adhesive. Most suppliers in the US are big industrial concerns, and one must deal with two separate entities, getting the flock from one, and the adhesive from another.

There has, for years, been only one small company, DonJer, that sells flock [no flesh color] and flocking kits to the general pubic. The lady that owns it is extremely helpful. But their adhesive was always like thick old-fashioned colored enamel that took 24 hours to dry. I used it on my prototypes for a project called My Very Own Puppy that Mattel produced, with the entire dog flocked. With the proper adhesive Flock can very successfully be used on Vinyl.

I had a small amount of flesh colored flock that had been made for me by a company called Cellusuede, ten years ago. Afraid it was not enough to flock seven dolls, I searched the Internet, to find a source for small quantities of flock and adhesive. I hoped to avoid the big suppliers, because I would have to BS and act like there was potential business in it for them, knowing that any company that bought the dolls would, most likely, do them in the Orient. I discovered that there was no alternative, and contacted Cellusuede, again.

For generous help and the best flock in the US, there is no place like Cellusuede. They are huge, and supply not only most of the flock in the US, but they also manufacture the

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most advanced flocking equipment, from production line setups to hand held electrostatic flocking devices.

They, once again, insisted on mixing me up a batch of flesh, in their lab, free of charge [or obligation] and promised to send it out, within two weeks. On the strength of knowing it was coming, I went ahead and used what I had left of the flock I had from before. To my surprise, it turned out that I had more than enough.
If one keeps gathering up the over spray and using it again, a very little bit of flock goes a very long way. Flesh is not a standard color. It has to be made to order. I don't think they have had many requests for it, over the years, which is good sign that flocked dolls are pretty unusual.

Here is their address:

CELLUSUEDE PRODUCTS, INC.
500 North Madison St. P.O. Box 716 Rockford, IL 61105
Phone: 815-964-8619
Fax: 815-964-7949
Email: info@cellusuede.com
Website:  http://www.cellusuede.com

THE COLOR THEY MADE FOR ME IS:

2131 FLESH WASHFAST RAYON .030-3  LOT # 18062


ADHESIVE

The ADHESIVE is another matter. At Cellusuede's suggestion, that they were the most likely to be helpful, I contacted an adhesive manufacturer called NYATEX.
They couldn't have been nicer. And went out of their way to create a special formula for my needs. They asked me to put those needs in writing which I did and I will attach the E-mail here as it might have more information useful to you in it.

Subj: FLOCKING ADHESIVE FOR BIRNKRANT STUDIO
Date: 09/30/2002
To: nyatex@cac.net

Dear Tom: 

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I added this note to the fax I just sent explain what I need a little better than I could on the questionnaire. As you can receive an Email, I am sending this.

For now, I am looking for a waterborne adhesive that will adhere to latex. This will be for the purpose of prototypes only. If I succeed in selling the product the production pieces would be vinyl rather than latex. All I have to accomplish now is to produce good-looking prototypes that have only enough durability to allow me to handle them in order to root the hair, insert the eyes etc.

I have had some adhesive in the past that has worked well. Fisher Price supplied this to me. I do not know the exact specs of what it was, and my contact there is no longer with the company. But I was told that it was a standard adhesive, not one specially formulated for them. I also believe Henson associates use similar adhesive to adhere flock to the latex foam Muppets

The adhesive I was using was white but air-dried transparent [in about fifteen minutes]. It adhered to the latex very well, and remained flexible. As it was water-based I was able to add a little liquid latex to the adhesive to further encourage bonding to the surface.
I applied it by airbrush, using the widest nozzle, and sprayed the flock on mechanically with a hand pumped flocking gun.

For the purpose of prototypes, drying time is not critical, but it must be air-dry as heat would cause the latex to shrink.

[HERE COMES THE BS]

The project I am working on now is geared to a more specialized upscale toy market, and would, most likely, be manufactured domestically, rather than being imported from the Orient. Thus the sources I research now for flock [Cellusuede] and adhesive [Nyatex?] will most likely be used in the final product.

The proper adhesive for Vinyl will not need to be addressed, until after I place the product. For now, I need only to produce attractive Latex prototypes. About a quart of suitable adhesive should be enough for that purpose.

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----------------------------------------------------
NYATEX address is:

NYATEX
PO Box 124
Howell, MI  48844
(517)546-4046 - nyatex@cac.net

They also indicated it would take two weeks. In the meantime, a friend told me that Donjer, actually, had a new adhesive that was water based and worked on latex. I had never thought to call them. So I did, and discovered that to be the case. I ordered some, and successfully flocked the dolls. A week after I finished flocking them, with DonJer's adhesive, a bottle of adhesive arrived from NYATEX

It looks fairly promising, although a little thick, I never actually tried to use it. But they are definitely a company to work with, in terms of developing the proper adhesive. They can control and make any adjustment needed. The jar they made for me is labeled with the following hand written code number:

NYATEX 20F1472-LV CLEAR FLOCK ADHESIVE.

They explained that it is water resistant, not water proof. But anything desired can be achieved, I had urged them to give me anything that could simply get me past the sample stage on Latex, not vinyl.

DonJer's. Address is:

DonJer Products Corp.
New Location
13142 Murphy Road
Winnebago, IL 61088
(800) 336-6537/(815) 247-8775
fax (815) 247-8644
info@donjer.com

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Call, don't try the website as the proper adhesive is not listed there. It is called Soft Flock and comes in two thicknesses. I used the thinner of the two; the other has to be brushed on. It worked out very well, perfect for samples. The only problem with it is that it happens to be highly water-soluble, DON'T WET MY PROTOTYPES, OR THE FLOCK WILL WASH OFF!

Other than that, I was Amazed how tough it is, You wouldn't believe the handling those samples endured, sewing on the yarn hair, one strand at a time. In the process they got quite dirty. So, I took a little Scotch Tape to them to pick up any lint and dirt and they came up as clean as new.

I left the dolls the natural color of the latex, and before flocking them, painted on the mouth lines, in a rather dark shade of pink, The flock covered the color nicely, allowing a delicate amount to show through. I suppose these areas could also be colored, after the flock has been applied, as I imagine, the eyebrows would be.

Final Thoughts on Flock:

There is shorter flock than the .03. Please don't fall prey to the logical and timid thinking that it would be more like Flesh, and, therefore, opt for it. We are not dealing with logical reality. We are writing a new language for dolls. So let's say what we mean, like we mean it. The long flock works. For one thing, it is a perfect match for the velour. For another, the flock plays against the realistic eyes, and creates a dramatic contrast.

There is the possibility that, somewhere, down the road, you might want to bring out a variation that features Vinyl Hair Play. That might be the time to go to the shorter flock, which would still retain line consistency, without creating an uncomfortable contrast between the vinyl hair and the longer flock. But, for now, please resist any temptation to use short flock. I have had some here for ten years and I've tested it, but never used it. It simply doesn't work. We need to state our Look clearly. Short flock only whispers it.

Last of all, I have lived at these dolls, intimately, for many months, and I have seen them with and without flock. Without it, they simply look like conventional hard dolls with a somewhat kooky look, and fuzzy arms. FRIENDZ will be expensive to manufacture, with or without flock.  But, while Flock adds to their cost, it also adds many times more than its cost to their feeling of Warmth, Quality, and Perceived Value.
THE MOLDED PIECES, HEADS, HANDS, FEET, BODIES.

I began these dolls seven months ago. Along the way, I ran into many time consuming stumbling blocks. Finding or I should say, Not finding Latex was the worst of them. I

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have worked with Latex, often, in the past, and I love it. It is a natural product that does deteriorate in time, and it also, supposedly, has a limited shelf life. It is not practical for production, but it is perfect for prototypes. In production, it must be replaced by vinyl, which can emulate latex well, and does not deteriorate or discolor with age.

The universal prime source of raw liquid latex in the US for artists and model makers has always been

CHICAGO LATEX PRODUCTS
PO BOX 395, CRYSTAL LAKE,
IL 60039,
815-459-9680

Until now, they supplied two formulas of natural latex casting compound, one was called 720 and is quite firm, though flexible, compared to the other, which is called 563. 563 is very flexible and soft. I always used 720, which I could soften, to whatever degree I wanted by adding small amounts of 563. When I called to order a couple gallons of 720, to cast the dolls, last June or July, Chicago Latex informed me that they no longer make it. They still have the softer 562, which is really too soft for dolls.

They claimed that 720 had been replaced with a new synthetic latex called 613, which comes only in one consistency that they described as similar to 720. So I ordered a gallon of that.  It arrived and it is terrible, sort of a translucent white, material with none of the adding and bonding qualities of the natural latex. I could see, in an instant, that it was, no way, going to work for the dolls. Thus, began a quest that included my calling Chicago latex and begging for either any old stock they had around, or any information they could give me on where I might look for another source. They could offer neither. I found one place in Manhattan that claimed to have natural latex, and looked like my last chance. Several hundred dollars worth later, it turned out to be neither natural nor useable, requiring powder to be added to stiffen it, which in fact, prevented it from stretching, without tearing.
So, bottom line, out of sheer desperation I managed to scrape up every drop of three to seven year old Latex 720 and some 562 and just squeeze out enough to make the heads and parts for seven dolls, and four pairs of shoes. Clearly, the shelf-life factor was kicking in, and it didn't quite react, like fresh latex would. Latex shrinks, considerably, when it dries. But, I believe, this, the last of my latex, shrank more than usual. This, in the end, might prove to be a blessing. If you have worked with vinyl dolls, before, you know that they shrink about 15 % from original to final vinyl. This occurs in a series of steps. First, the original is cast into wax, which accounts for about 3% shrinkage, which is then cast in vinyl, usually twice, with additional shrinkage each time. Although, I

Page 15

believe it is sometimes possible to eliminate one vinyl step, if shrinkage needs to be held to a minimum.


The Story of how Baby Face was Born chronicles some of the details of what we went through with Baby Face, which had to be enlarged, first, in order to shrink back down to the size of my original dolls.

I sculpted the dolls in Plasticine clay. This is a good medium for blocking out, but I have never been able to produce a perfect flawless head in Plasticine. To do that, I would have had to make silicone molds from the Plasticine, and cast wax to be finished perfectly, and then, make plaster molds from the wax, and then cast latex dolls from the new plaster molds. All these steps would have produced latex prototypes more perfect, but smaller than the ones you have. It would have also taken weeks longer.

What I did, instead, was cast plaster molds, directly from my large Plasticine sculptures. They are far from perfect, but I knew that the flock would hide a multitude of sins, and it did.

THE JOINTS

The joints are a unique feature. There are many ways to accomplish what is needed, Whatever way is chosen, in the end, might well be Patentable. The basic requirements are, essentially, two rotating disks. What is different, here, is the fact that a bendable wire is firmly attached to the core of outer disk? This was another difficult element to track down.

I was looking for a standard Hobbyist doll joint. These have been sold in craft stores for years. They are not really intended to be used in commercial doll or Teddy Bear production, but rather for the home craftsman who is attempting to emulate the results of a commercial doll or Teddy Bear joint.

In commercial production, the unit would consist of two pre-attached disks joined in the center and able to rotate. They are usually incorporated in a Teddy Bear or soft toy by sewing around them in production. The top of an arm or leg is gathered around one disk and the other disk might be trapped by and sewn into a seam, on the body.

The hobbyist version is quite cumbersome on the inside, but serves the purpose, and is visually undetectable from the outside. The styrene outer disk has a notched central rod protruding from it, and over that, slips a styrene inner washer of equal diameter, a nylon

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lock washer is then forced down on the rod. Once assembled, the unit cannot be taken apart.

I have used these on many prototypes, in the past, usually to hold heads. In recent days, these units appear to be, more and more often, made entirely of Nylon. The central rods are also much thinner. I used to be able to just run out and purchase all I need of these in any number of places. Now they are all nylon. Glue will not stick to nylon! And I wanted to be able to lock the wire in place with glue. I spent days on the Internet trying to find the units I used to use. Cyndy found them for me:

"Dollspart has joints that are white with a black disc piece as part of the set. I asked them about it this morning and they said they are still selling the same kind. Perhaps this is the company you are looking for, they moved out of New York about a year ago and are in New Jersey now.
Dollspart is online at    www.dollspartsupply.com  
or you can call them at 1-800-336-3655   I really hope those are the right joints for you. They have them in 30mm, 35mm, 45, 55 and 65."

I ended up only using the two smaller sizes. I had to trim the disks down to match the size of the upper limbs of the dolls. You can ascertain the various sizes I arrived at by measuring the diameter of the hard disks, right through the fabric. I made the inner washers the same size. But I had to trim them even more, in some cases, as they conflicted with the curvature inside the smaller dolls, and made it difficult to turn the limb. On the very smallest diameters I trimmed down the lock washers too. ALL the central posts are the same, rather wide, diameter.

I drilled two holes, the same diameter as the wire, side by side, down each of the rods. Then, I inserted the wire. I used a single wire for the arms, and a double one for the legs. I pushed the arm wire up through one hole, then bent over the short end that protruded and pulled the wire down so that the bent end entered the other hole locking the wire in place. A drop of glue insured that it stayed there, and the wire could not push up, again.

For the legs, I used a wire twice as long, as the leg and folded it over in the middle. Then I pushed both ends, down one hole, each, from the top, pulled them through, right up to the end, and then, applied a drop of glue to that end.. I then twisted the two wires together, loosely, to create, in effect, a double wire for the legs.

This, of course, will not do, in production! You will need specially made units in various sizes. If the perfect wire is found, you may be able to use the same wire in both the arms and legs, without doubling it in the legs, I will discuss wire soon. The units will have to be crafted with a firm and simple way to hold the wire in place, perhaps it can be looped

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over and inserted in the mold, before the plastic is injected. This would produce an outer disk with the wire, permanently, bonded in it.

ATTACHING THE LIMBS

This is an area that needs some creative thinking. There has to be a better way of attaching the limbs to the body than I used. I finished the legs, stuffed them, attached the hands and feet, and then, inserted the center post into the holes I had cut in the body. I forced the inner washer and lock washer, down, through the neck, and fiddled around with them, through the soft latex, assembling and locking them in place by feel, from the outside, while peeking through the arm or leg holes.

Then, I STUFFED the body, through the neck hole, to give it more stability and make it feel like a stuffed, rather than hollow, doll. I purposely made the bodies less thick, by pouring our the extra latex, before it got as thick as some of the other pieces, in order to achieve that soft feel.

I can offer a few suggestions for avenues that might be pursued.

1. Fabricate pre-assembled double disks with wire anchored into outer disk. Then, simply stretch the body vinyl hole and insert the inner disk, through the hole. It would be easier to get in than out.

2. Create the same unit as above, but make the dolls body out of stuffed velour and trap the disks in the seams before the body is stuffed, More about this in BODY,

3. Fabricate the vinyl body as two separate flocked pieces joined below the waist so full access is available to attach limbs and head from the inside and then glue both halves together, this will leave a seam line below the panty line.

4. In later variations with electronics inside body, the body would be flocked styrene, with battery compartment, etc. It would be split into front and back, and the limbs and head would be along the seam, The front and back could then be attached with screws and the limbs and head would be trapped in place at that time.

5. The pre-assembled joints with wire imbedded in outer disk and shaft might have an inner pre assembled washer unit with a cone shaped inserter, molded on the inside, HEY! I think this is the Solution! Baby face had cone shaped units that were pushed into the limbs to string the doll one joint at a time. When the arm or leg is fully assembled the cone shaped washer is inserted into the body hole. It stretches the hole, as it goes in. When it reaches as far as it will go, the vinyl snaps into the gap between the disks and

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the flat bottom of the cone now acting as the washer locks the unit in place. I might have to draw a diagram of this. I think it will work.

Last of all let me mention that Mattel's MY Child dolls had very interesting joints, They are readily available on E-Bay, just look foe "Mattel's my child doll." That combined with our embedded wire might also be a way to go.

THE NECK JOINT

I will mention this here, while we are on joints. I feel that the tipping head is important, It is one of the reasons why I went with a latex sculpted body, so I could do the tipping head and not have to solve the problem of devising a neck insert, as I would with a sewn soft body.

The heads on Baby Face are attached with some sort of foolproof device, with elastic involved, as it is here. What I used was a ball with a hole in it that widens at the top and is narrow enough to hold a knot at the bottom. One needs space for the elastic to both stretch to get tension, and also space to tip. If narrow hole met narrow hole there would be no tipping. The top piece is an inverted cup with hole, this serves to reinforce and encircle the cup shape molded into the doll's head, There has to be enough space for the elastic to stretch. I then joined the pieces with knotted stretched elastic and pushed the cup up into the head and the ball down through the neck.

The head will need to have a vinyl neck cup shape inserted and molded in by the mold maker. Judy Albert went ahead and got someone to do the BF body, without showing it to me. So there are several flaws, one being the head cup and neck tolerances are not right, there is a ridge in the neck that keeps the head from moving smoothly, It reaches a point and then jumps into a tilt. This joint is pretty critical.  It determines how high or low the heads sit on the body. A pre-crafted joint unit will be needed here. I believe the way BF is done, with flaws corrected, will provide the answer.

A head that merely turns, but does not tilt, is another, less appealing, option, but I cant see that there would be any cost saving over the preferred way. A snap on head neck arrangement as in a conventional vinyl doll would be cheaper, but that would require that a very hard vinyl be used.

THE WIRES
 
There seemed to be so many obstacles cropping up to gathering the right materials, that I just gave up on the wire, and knowingly used the wrong kind. Still it was the best that I

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could find. Please don't play around with the samples any more than necessary, as with enough bending the wire could break.

Bendable dolls and small bendable figures have been around for years, If they use the right wire they can survive thousands of bends. I ended up using very soft aluminum wire intended for wrapping around the thicker wire in armatures to hold the clay in place. It sustains more bending that the wire they sell in craft stores for flower arrangements, so I reluctantly used it. Its not bad in feel in the arms, but even double it is not strong enough for the legs, The large red headed doll with her top-heavy pony tails tends to lose her balance and fall over, easier than the other two big sisters. Stronger wire would cure this. The wire I used is so soft that it can actually bunch up and make the limbs shorter. The proper wire would not do this.

I have noticed that on some toys a thick bundled cluster of electrical wire covered in plastic has been used, This I guess is intended to keep things together, if any wire should break, It also tends not to bend much, or hold its position, when bent.
The correct wire is definitely something that needs research, and what it will be must be determined before the molds for joints can be engineered.

THE BODY

I really like the body the way it is, but I must confess that, at one point, I considered sewing it out of velour, instead. I felt that it would prove more difficult for me to create refined patterns with real shape and character. And also, I didn't quite know how best to retain the ability of the neck to rotate and tip, the way it does in latex. So, I chose to sculpt the body. I'm glad I did! But, It would not be the end of the World, if for whatever reason, cost, etc., you opted for a soft sewn body instead.

There are things to be said for either approach. A velour body would allow the back to remain open and all the limbs be attached from the inside and then be stuffed and sewn closed. But it would need some sort of neck insert to retain the head tip and turn. Mattel's my child has a rather formless body full of rings and inserts that make for really smooth joints. But it is stuffed as solid as a brick and is as hard and heavy as a rock. The joints might not work so well, if the doll was soft enough to bend its limbs.

The body I have now is quite fascinating. It is soft and really blurs the line between soft and hard. [I'm talking about the doll's body here] It was my intention to treat it almost like a sewn skin, and then, stuff it. It also works perfectly with the neck head arrangement. And the limbs turn in a pre set and dependable fashion. The present molded body also has great shape and posture, The tummy slightly protruding, the little

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behind, The way the neckline looks with dresses like the one Samantha is wearing. I am already beginning to regret even suggesting a sewn body, the present one is so good.

One possibility I had in mind, when I chose the sculpted body, was the ability, down the road, to replace it with a hollow styrene body, which could house any kind of electronic gimmick we might want and still be flocked to look exactly the same as it does now.

HANDS AND FEET

I sculpted two sets of hands for each size doll; I can make more, variations, if, and as, you need them. One set consists of open hands in the surprise and anticipation position and the other set are disguised as pointing or something, while at the same time, they have been made to be able to grasp and hold something. I call them sets, only because I did them together. Actually I think the hands should be mixed and matched, with, at least, one hand per doll that is able to grasp and hold objects.

I also believe the hands need to be softer than they are here, for some reason they built up quickly in the molds and came out thicker and harder than I would have liked. The ability for them to be more flexible would also make the dolls easier to dress as the hands, particularly the thumb makes putting the hand through a sleeve that is too narrow difficult. We should make sure that the sleeves on the clothing are wide enough and the hands are more flexible, as well.

I toyed with attaching the hands like those on the Color Me Cuties, They have a ridge and a collar sticking up and the hand is attached from inside with a nylon strap. It is a fairly awkward and lumpy situation. The hand is as hard as a rock, so the band won't slip off, and at the same time. I couldn't figure out how to both sew a neat shoulder and insert the wire, with the hand being attached, like that. So I went ahead and cut the wrist and ankle collars off the hands and feet and determined that they would simply Have to Be Glued On. There are such amazing adhesives these days. I used a great one called Fabri-Tac, by Beacon. It worked great to attach the hands and feet and even mess-ups could be immediately picked off. Of course it is not Industrial Strength, but I am sure there are adhesives, that will do the job and pass all pull tests, etc. The gluing solution is responsible for the amazingly soft and seamless transition between the vinyl and velour elements on the dolls.

The feet are simple, only one set for each size and that is all you should ever need.

Having just said that, perhaps I should interject here, that my original concept for the dolls was that they would resemble Real Kids, in that, just like Real Kids, they would come in All Different Sizes, Ages, Shapes, and Colors! I ended up representing

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that, in the form of three distinct sizes and ages. But that does not mean that we are limited to that, if you like, I can do more.

THE ARMS AND LEGS

The arms and legs are little more than simple tubes that taper out at the bottom, and are rounded, at the top. I do have all the patterns, and I will copy them off, and send them to you. My patterns consist of the lines I sewed on. I simply folded the cloth over and traced the outline of one side of the pattern and sewed along the line. Then I trimmed it. The patterns I send will be for the sewing line only. I will leave it to you how large a hem you want.

I think one of my favorite touches on the dolls is the subtle way three simple stitches form the illusion of full sculpting on the knees and elbows. This really helps to blur the line between soft and molded. That's the arms and legs! Not a lot of sewing for a soft doll, is it?

ASSEMBLING THE LIMBS

I sewed each arm, then snipped a tiny hole in center of the body-side upper flat round section, with the seam pointing backwards. Then, I bent the wire for easier insertion and put the joint up the arm, allowing the post to pop through the tiny hole and expand it by stretching it, rather than cutting the hole the same diameter as the post. Then I poked some fiberfill stuffing up the sleeve and sewed the end closed by hand, flat with what I wanted to be the palm of the hand.  I turned up the excess wire that was protruding. In production the wire would be pre cut and looped at the end. And, squirting a liberal amount of adhesive into the hand, I just popped it on, clean as a whistle.

The legs were the same, with one important Difference. Unlike the hands, the feet must be anchored firmly. I imagine you will devise a better way, but here's what I did, I made foot plug or disk, just about the size of the opening in the feet, and just shy of appearing over the ankle, when placed in the foot. There was a hole in the center of each disk, or Plug might be a better word. I made them quickly out of Sculpy. Then, I formed a slot or groove along the half of the bottom of each disk, from the center hole to the front.

I assembled the legs by inserting the joint on the double wires up the leg with the post out the hole. After I stuffed the leg, I fed the double wires down the center hole of the plug and inserted the plug into the leg, and held it in place with some of the glue. I guess you will want a better method than this, in production. Then, I bent the wire over and fed the end along the grove, snipping off the excess that extended forward beyond the plug. Now I applied ample adhesive to the interior of the foot, and inserted the leg, The wire I

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bent forward was, now, locked in place, I also discovered that depending on where I bent the wire, I could control the length of the leg. On the patterns you will get, the widths are dead-on, but the lengths are ambiguous I just played it by ear and feel, when I assembled them.

Upon further reflection, I believe there should be a foot plug crafted for the legs as follows. The plug should perform the same function as my Sculpy version above. But it would be permanently attached to the wire just as the outer disk portion of the hip joint would be. In other words, the entire joint-wire-plug armature unit would be prefabricated to the exact length with a hip joint on one end and the foot plug on the other.

The length of the velour would also be pre-determined with accuracy, and the bottom of the leg should be hemmed, with a track, through which a small nylon strap could be inserted. This is the way the Cuties arms are made. Around the diameter of the foot plug would be a deep grove, leaving contact area, above and below it. Now the hip joint is inserted up the velour leg. The leg is stuffed and the velour strap is slipped into the grove and tightened, Thus the leg unit is complete.

I then took the three stitches that formed the knee and joint and the legs were done. I just remembered, I believe I have a photo I snapped when I was doing this. When I get your E-mail address, I can send it along. He says, not having the slightest clue, who is reading this.
THE HAIR

I did the best I could, using a variety of methods, some legit, some simply faking it.
I already had and liked some of the burnt orange yarn. I finally tracked down some more yarn of the same color on the Internet, but it was not quite as thick. The yarn on the front of Jessica's head is the better yarn. The fringe on Judy's is the better yarn too, I literally ran out, on the baby, and the fact is, I'm not happy with her hair. It represents, where both my yarn, and my hair styling repertoire, ran out, at the same time.

There are several ways the hair can be done, rooted, as on Betty, Jessica, and Judy. This is the way Cabbage Patch Hair was done. Or sewn onto a wig or scull cap, which is then glued on. I didn't take the time to fashion a scull cap first. I just glued Samantha, Suzie, and Bobby's hair right to their heads. But it is supposed to represent the kind of wigs that Playmates use on many of their dolls, I believe the same thing can be achieved by rooting the yarn, as well.

THE CLOTHES

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I am not a seamstress, but I do know what I like, when I see it. So in an attempt to purchase, rather than sew outfits, I shopped till I dropped a small fortune. In the process, I discovered something interesting. Because of the way the FRIENDZ dolls are proportioned, they appear to be fairly large dolls, but THEY DON'T NEED LARGE CLOTHES. My most successful finds were from TY toy's Beanie Kids and Beanie Boppers. These dolls are less that half the size of FRIENDZ. Samantha's dress is right off a Beanie Kid, which is a 7" doll. Could this mean that clothes for the dolls would not be inordinately expensive? Or doesn't size matter, much, compared to labor, in the area of doll clothes production costs?

The clothes that are created for FRIENDZ need to allow for, and accommodate, their large heads, hands and feet. Thus, Sleeves and Pant Legs must be made wide enough for the hands and feet to pass through, easily. More flexible hands will help. Dresses etc must have as large an opening as possible, in the back. The clothes, in most cases, will have to be stepped into, as pulling clothes over some of the large heads, especially, those with lots of hair, will be difficult. The opening can, then, be closed with Velcro. In fact, the clothes that work out best in terms of easy dressing, especially, for young kids, would be things that open completely in the back [or front]. Suzie's polka dot dress, which opens completely in the back, is fun and easy to play with.

I feel that as the major play for FRIENDZ will be Dress-UP, it would be great, if the package offered some visible promise of more than the clothes on the dolls back..
Sort of like the inviting display of outfits and accessories that tantalize a child in the Bratz doll's packages. It doesn't have to be a lot, just some interchangeable fashion accessories or a spare article of clothes, displayed to look like a lot in the box.
By Fashion I don't mean the Funky Outrageous Hot look of Bratz, but rather Real Clothes that Real Kids would choose, if they could have the clothes, suitable for their age group, they liked best. Brand Named clothes would be exciting. Especially if a little girl could actually go out and get the same outfit as her doll. Which brings me to the…

SHOES.
I really like those flexible latex sneakers. They are so easy to put on and take off, and they look so real. What if they were Real, like real stylized representations of Brand Name Sneakers? Anyway, if you like the sneakers too, I can make you Sculpy impressions of them for you to work from. I don't feel that attempting to sculpt perfect versions of them is the kind of job I would excel at, or want to spend my time on, but I really like the way they work. Because they are so flexible, one shoe forms to fit both feet. Then I inserted foam pads to fill in the thick soles. I think kids really like the freaky way Bratz change their Feet, instead of their shoes, And I bet they would like FRIENDZ unique instant shoes, too, not just sneakers, but other styles, as well.

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EYELASHES
The eyelashes were not easy to get. Brown eyelashes are fairly rare. They have to be special ordered. There are a lot of different shapes and thickness' available, and a lot of latitude is possible. I would just stress that we should stick with Brown, not Black. The black lashes appear too crude. I don’t know exactly how Galoob inserted Baby Face's Lashes, but they sure are impossible to remove. Many of Playthings dolls use eyelashes too. They appear to be glued, just under the eyelids; they can be removed with some care. I wish I had had more time to research a variety of lashes. Still, these look pretty good. I believe you can experiment with cheaper lashes than these. There are some that just come on a long roll. Too faint and delicate will not look good in contrast to the flock, but black ones will look too crude. Just stick with brown, and experiment.

CHEEKS
Last of all, the cheeks need to be ever so slightly airbrushed Pink. I used powdered rouge, instead, which is probably wearing off. I was afraid of messing up, if I attempted to airbrush them, at the very end.

Speaking of the very end, I can't believe we reached the end of this letter! I look forward to helping you any way I can on the FRIENDZ project.

Best Regards,
Mel Birnkrant