All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
Teeny Boppers was a fairly major project, and an early one. It took place back in the days when I didn’t bother to do preliminary drawings, or, in this case, any drawings. I just picked up a few ounces of Super Sculpey and began sculpting, from scratch. As often happens, I found myself watching, as a passive uninvolved observer, while forces, beyond my conscious mind, took over my hands, and, from out of nowhere, images began appearing, forming, as if by magic, in three dimensional space.
A little while before this, I had worked on a product called Oodles that eventually consisted of some fifty tiny babies that I went about creating in exactly the same way that I was now addressing teens. My intention was to make a working model of a disco-tech, complete with collectible animated figures of teenagers, that came to life, and danced, when the entire disco dance floor vibrated unperceptively.
I readily admit that I’ve referred to reference material, when necessary, and on occasion, I’ve been known to borrow imagery for inspiration. But, on the other hand, whenever I can, I try to rely, first, on the secret reservoir of information and imagery that I’ve amassed unconsciously, throughout my lifetime. And I have often been surprised to discover that in some dark corner of my mind, there is more information on a subject than I would be inclined to know is there. Therefore, whenever I’m faced with a new challenge, I never make a beeline to a known source of information. Instead, I tap into the cache of trivia in my mind. Sometimes, I am surprised by what I find.
This is exactly what was happening. I found myself creating images of a subject, of which I had no conscious knowledge, teenaged girls and teenaged fashions. As they began to overrun my desk, it felt like I was finding buried treasure, and I couldn’t stop digging it up! When I finally said, “enough,” there, before me, were twice as many Teeny Boppers than I intended to create. Once again, I overdid a task at hand, and ended up with way too many tiny teens than were required to convey the theme.
Then, I got out the Liquitex, and painted them. Thinking that, when my partners sold the concept, I would never see my little friends again, I took a bunch of photographs. Alas, like many a teenager, today, thirty years later, they are still living here.
By the way, these photographs are much larger than life. To better judge the actual size, just keep in mind that when I was sculpting the above figures, their temporary bases were actually quarters. Also, none of these prototypes were intended to be even close to finished sculptures. They are merely sketches, created to convey the concept.
Each figure was separated at the head and waist, and those body parts were balanced on wiggly springs. So, when the figures vibrated, undulated, and gyrated on their disk shaped bases, they would, hopefully, appear to be “bopping”.
It was our intention that the figures would be merchandised individually, or sold in sets, as a new kind of girl’s collectible.
The bottom of the bases were slightly rounded to encourage a rocking motion, and the arms were moveable. As a result of this nuancing, when the disco-tech stage was set to vibrating, the figures created the impression that they were dancing.
The Disco Base and Dancefloor was actually quite simple, but stunningly effective. It stood on four spring legs. The raised portion in the middle, housed a small battery operated vibration motor. That was all that was required, to set the dancers into motion.
The magic of the dramatic lighting was simply embossed holographic plastic. Ordinary lighting created a blaze of psychedelic color that changed and transformed, with every minute variation in viewing angle. The effect was dazzling and magical.
Last of all, the entire presentation fit perfectly into its custom fitted case. The individual figures were cradled and displayed in perfectly formed compartments, lined in silver lame.
Today, I have no memory of what happened to this concept. But Bottom line, I know what didn’t. The showcase fit perfectly on one of the unused steps on the back stairway. It fit there, perfectly, for thirty years. And that's where it remains, today.