Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of R.C. MAN and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
In 1773 Jaquet-Droz and his associate Leschot, a skilled “mechanician”, created a wondrous automaton, known as “The Musician”. When set before an ordinary harpsichord or organ, her hands moved across the keyboard and her fingers pressed the keys while her feet worked the pedals and beat time to the music. The clockwork mechanism was entirely in the figure
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This mechanical marvel was heard in all the Courts of Europe, including those of Louis XV, Louis XVI and King George III of England. People flocked from far and wide to see her. She could play five melodies composed by Jaquet-Droz himself, and finished each one with a charming bow. Lest you think this legendary lady was merely a legend, m she still survives today in the Neuchatel Museum in Switzerland.
Two hundred and fifteen years later, in 1986, R.C. MAN was created in the same tradition.
In the toy industry R.C. stands for Radio Control, and usually signifies a driverless vehicle controlled by radio, and driven from a distance. But in this case, R.C. MAN himself, is under Radio Control. And he, in turn, can drive any number of different vehicles. R.C. MAN literally steers the steering wheel, operates and “gas pedal” and even supplies the power to make them go. The vehicles, on the other hand, are little more than simple shells with a steering wheel and motor but no radio receiver or power supply of their own.
Out of this pile of rumble R.C. MAN was born. His body parts, in the tradition of Dr. Frankenstein, were harvested from the Toy Town Graveyard. A model kit called “The Visible Man” played a major role.
Here he is ready to go. Everything but the kitchen sink was stuffed inside his see through body, a motor to turn his head and arms, a dual track radio receiver, a battery power supply, flashing lights, and bits and pieces of assorted junk to make his guts look technical. There was even a speaker in his chest to broadcast his master’s voice. The simple vehicle beside him, which we referred to as a walker, shades of the “Segway”, yet to come 20 years later, consisted of no more that 4 wheels, two connected to a steering column and two connected to a motor.
Of course, every project we did had to have drawings. These were done after the model was created, as whatever parts were dug up dictated his appearance. Also, like every project, we fantasized that “R.C.MAN” could become a license. So here you see him as a sort of Super Hero along with his potential adversary, the not yet politically incorrect, “Black Star Warrior”.
Along with every presentation, Andy, Adam and I put together a “write-up” that explained everything there was to know about the product, and also answered all the questions one, ultimately, wished they never asked, in too many words, or less.
Last of all, there is the STORY, in which “Joe Ham” a 12 year old in Teaneck New Jersey, builds R.C. MAN in his basement, and, ultimately, is called upon to save the World.
Finally came the Video Tape. This was our first one ever. Also the first time any of us ever used a video camera, and it shows. That’s me behind the shaky image, while Andy and Adam fussed and fumbled with the model. It was a free-for-all with everyone directing and talking, all at the same time. The original tape dragged on for an excruciating eternity. Here it’s mercifully cut down to a barely bearable three and a half minutes.
All of the above efforts, more or less, resulted in “Success”, as we managed to sell the concept to Galoob. What they produced was called “CYBON I”. It was very complex and expensive. Like R.C. MAN, the driver still exerted a measure of control. But Galoob wanted more speed and power in the vehicle than they could get from just the battery in the figure. Therefore, they souped it up with super power. And the vehicle itself took on a wild unruly life all of its own.
Ultimately, this venture hardly set the World on fire, but it opened Galoob's door for Baby Face to enter four years later.