All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
This concept was called, “Baby Buds.” I really liked the large drawing that is so badly reproduced, at the bottom of this page. The original may, or may not be lost, forever. Possibly it is just misplaced, tucked away somewhere in this enormous schoolhouse. There are cubby holes, here, that I have not explored for years. Fortunately, some almost adequate images of the art remain, beginning with the original pencil drawings that I rediscovered, just the other day. They capture the very moment that this piece of art, and the concept that it represents were created, spontaneously.
One of the adventures of being a toy inventor is never knowing what direction a pencil might travel, when it first touches down, upon a sheet of paper. In this case, the concept began, one day, when my partners Adam, Andy, and maybe, Noah were visiting for one of our weekly meetings. I happened to have a large drawing pad, resting open on my lap. It was one of the large bond pads that I once used for figure drawing. As we were talking, I idly drew a tiny doll in the upper left hand corner. She was just a doodle. Nonetheless, this doodle was the first appearance of a new and slightly different styling. This tiny drawing would become the inspiration for many lines of dolls to follow. If anyone happens to know what my various dolls looked like, over the years, they would recognize in this, the germ of many products to come, from Baby Buttons to, ultimately, Friendz ‘n Family. But at this moment, I showed drawing to my partners, and together we thought up names, “Boots,” Booties,” and forgive me... here I pun again: “Boot-y-ful Babies!” I wrote the names beside her on the page, and continued:
Next, I drew her sitting down. But, when I added a back view, her bonnet surprised me, by becoming a flower. And so it was that, by the time I filled the page, a new look and concept had been born. And the master drawing that would convey that concept was pretty much planned out.
These little flower children might have gone through many names, but they ended up being called, “Baby Buds.” They even had some product features. These are best explained, in terms both short and sweet, in this excerpt from a letter that Andy wrote to Carol Snyder of Fisher Price, on March 9,1992.
Baby Buds was one of four large product boards we sent her as a sort of made to order set. What happened then, was totally insane! But I will convey that in a minute. For now, here is the description of Baby Buds at the bottom of the page. “Soft dolls with flower theming that could be SCENTED! Flower petals with soft wire stiffener close up to cover doll’s face when she is asleep. When she wakes up, she “Blooms!”
And here is the next step, the actual pencil sketch, from which the final art was generated. Because the final presentation board was big, I enlarged Minolta copies of the various elements of this drawing, colored them with marking pens and colored pencils, then, cut them out with an Xacto blade, and mounted them to a large white illustration board.
This final art was sent to Carol Snyder, along with three other large drawings. This, and one other, will be included, here, in the Land of lost Toys. It is a miracle that anything survived. A short time after Fisher Price received the drawings, they notified KISCOM that the building they they had stored them in had been flooded. And my four presentation boards, along with a lot of other inventors submissions had been damaged. Therefore, they threw them ALL away!
Fortunately, two pale impressions of the final drawing remained. The first is this slightly blurry colored slide that aided by Photoshop, I did my best to save.
This second copy of the same artwork was scanned many years before, from a small colored photo. What seemed like high resolution when it was scanned is miniscule today, so, the quality of this copy, too, is low. I leave it up to you to decide which version is the better of the two. How different they both look! It’s hard to believe that they are the same piece of art
Eventually, the original art came back to me. Apparently, the damaged boards were returned to KISCOM, after all. But my partners neglected to inform me. Years later, when they were cleaning out their storage area in New Jersey, they sent much of my early artwork back to me. The damaged drawings were among it. Although, the boards are badly warped, the images can still be scanned. But Baby Buds is still missing. The original art is either lost, or hiding here, somewhere. If it ever reappears, I will post it here.
Over the years, I did a lot of artwork that was intended to sell a product, and please somebody other than myself. Baby buds happened to be one of the exceptions, a drawing that genuinely pleased me. It was more than just a drawing; it conveyed the essence of a concept, in a way that almost made actual porotypes of the dolls unnecessary. If this art had not been lost, we would have, surely, shown the concept to other manufacturers. I might have even taken Baby Buds one step farther, and made a set of prototypes. But Fate decided otherwise, and a line of dolls that might have been was, forgive the pun, nipped in the bud.