All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
Toy inventing isn’t easy. For someone who needs to make a living, indulging in it can be a luxury. And for armatures, like my partners and myself, when we were just beginning, small mediocrities and modest triumphs were exciting. Clip ‘n’ Sip was such a product.
The category of children’s eating gimmicks seemed to be wide open. It was not a place where toy inventors were inclined to go. The subject came up as a possibility in one of our weekly meetings, and, somehow, we began grasping at straws, drinking straws, that is. What a boring category! Nonetheless, we tried to infuse it with excitement.
Actually, the first ideas we came up with were exciting. At least, they excited me. As we explored the category, I got some way out concepts off my chest. A case in point is the wildly impractical object below. In those days, nothing thrilled me quite as much as the thought of a new Mickey Mouse, even if I had to make it myself. Thanks to my perhaps misplaced efforts at Colorforms, the Classic 1930s image of Mickey Mouse was coming back again. And soon, the entire world would be introduced to an extraordinary object, the Mickey Mouse Telephone. While they waited five more years for that, I hoped to offer them a Mickey Mouse combination straw and drinking glass?
Of course, I wasn’t thinking about the difficulty of washing this impractical object. Getting it clean after each use might prove to be a daunting feat! The top of mickey’s head came off to fill his body with a beverage. And his tail served as the straw. I rendered this Mickey Sippy with a degree of care that I hadn’t lavished on any of the product sketches that I did before. Wow! The name "Mickey Sippy," just occurred to me! It’s really not so bad!
From here, the ideas became more practical and realistic. Moving right along I explored the possibility of a variety of animated drinking straws, based on objects that would float on, or just below, the surface of the beverage, and descend, by riding down the straw. My favorite was this Mickey standing on a life preserver. This is the first and only remaining sketch. The final drawings of all of these were every bit as carefully rendered as the Mickey Sippy, above. Unfortunately, all of them are lost. That is one of the side effects of selling an item. The company that buys it, usually keeps the presentation.
These other fragments are all that still exists of this curious presentation. They give a glimpse into our thinking. Of course, I didn’t realize, at the time, that these were just an amusing way to say unsanitary. These ideas are more complex than meets the eye. They were required to float on top of the liquid or halfway, as, sip by sip, they descended into the drink.
This first rough sketch of Garfield is all that remains of the product that we actually sold. I did a whole series of these drawings. They pictured a variety of licensed characters that clipped onto the outer edge of the glass and held the straw in place.
HG Toys was a small toy company, as unremarkable as its name. How do you say third rate? They disappeared within a few years of producing this concept, which they called, “Clip ‘n’ Sip.” I don’t think it sold well. But HG made an honest effort to assure success by licensing “My Little Pony.” This was a sincere try. It told us that they took this product line seriously. Sadly, both the products and their packaging were hideously ugly.
For thirty years now, whenever I visited the storage room in the farthest reaches of our basement, I would see these few samples of Clip ‘n’ Sip, lying on a shelf. It’s quite amazing that they remained so clean, seeing that I made no effort to protect them, and was never tempted to carry them upstairs.
HG also licensed “Glo Worm.” The fact that there are two different Glow Worm designs, indicates that Clip ‘n’ Sip must have stayed alive, and remained in the line for, at least, two years. The second year, they upgraded the design and changed the recommended age from three to five.
Last of all, I remember these Masters of the Universe Clip 'n' Sips. But I had no samples of them in the cellar. I found these two phototographs on eBay.
Revisiting these humble products, reminds me that our beginning in the world of toy inventing was a modest one. Although, my partners and I were selling huge ill-fated concepts, like the Weenies and Sleep Stars; concepts that advanced us meaningful amounts of money, they, ultimately, were never made. Therefore, it became the more minor products, like Clip ‘n’ Sip, and other tiny concepts that were actually manufactured that gave us cause to hope for better days. Now thirty years have all too quickly sped by, and these few unopened Clip ‘n’ Sips have somehow managed to survive. Miraculously, so have I.