All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
“Baby Happy/Sad” I just now made up that not so clever name. The fact is, this doll and concept never had one. Its presentation board has hung around here for many years, always in the way. In my efforts to be clever and at the same time get away with murder, I built a mechanism on the back, and thus, the board would not lie flat.
This concept originated at the Bil Baird auction. There was a puppet there that captured my attention. I wondered if I took a photo of it. So, I got out the slide projector yesterday to look at the carousel tray with slides of the auction, and could not find a photo there. But I did find several photos that I didn’t know I had, including Loudmouths, and some other things that I forgot I ever made. So I will proceed without a photo, and simply try to describe what this marionette did. He was a sort of clown, and on his face was a huge grin. The surface of his lower chin was actually a rotating disk, a perfect circle set into his face. On the disk, was a huge smile. But, with a single pull of a string, the disk rotated 180 degrees, and the smile instantly turned upside down to become a frown! I wondered if I could do the same thing with a doll. And would it be effective, or just weird?
I came to the conclusion that I could find out, and create a presentation at the same time, in the form of an animated drawing, without needing to actually sculpt a doll. So, that is what I did! The drawing answered the question: Weird won out! Nonetheless, my partners showed it around. I gather the reaction pretty much echoed my own, judging from the fact I got it back, again, slightly beaten up.
This is what I did: From the front, it’s almost impossible to detect the rotating disk, set into the art, and turning just behind the cheeks and nose. On the back, there was a mechanism, engineered, through a series of gears, to quickly rotate the disk one half turn, every time the board (or the doll) was tilted to one side or the other, slightly. Because of its upside down manner of construction, the rotation occurred quickly and completely, when the drawing was tipped only slightly. Alas, it was not fast enough to suit me.
This transition works fine with the two phase animation, here online. One cannot see what takes place, between the two extremes of the animation. But, in reality, no matter how fast it happens, the transition is annoying.
I imagine that Bil Baird’s marionette required a little masterful articulation to pull off the illusion. If the puppets hand simply passed before his face for a split second, in that time the change could have taken place, and the effect would have been amazing. But in the case of Baby Happy/Sad, the effect is unconvincing.
As for the actual drawing, I never cared for it that much. But, looking at it, now, on the computer screen, I realize that it’s not that bad, except for her right hand. And, suddenly, it dawns on me: I had trouble drawing anything that had one finger more than Mickey! I’m only comfortable with three!