All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
When Coleco bought The Weenies,” our first attempt at toy inventing, they were the most dynamic toy company in the nation. Their lead property, the “Cabbage Patch Kids” was making toy history. The product manager that they put in charge of the Weenies project was a man named, Harvey Zelman. Harvey, a great guy, became our friend and champion. He fought for the Weenies, right up to the very bitter end. The Weenies were in competition with another in-house product, called “Sectaurs.” When Coleco’s introduction to computers, a home computer, called the “Adam” bombed, the company was suddenly in trouble. Bankruptcy loomed! And it became clear that they could no longer afford to introduce two boys products in the coming year. Thus, the Weenies and Sectaurs were thrust into a battle for survival. And Harvey, suddenly, found himself, not only fighting for the Weenies, but fighting to save his job as well. Sectaurs won the battle. And the rest, including Harvey’s job, was history!
A year or so later, found Harvey running a small toy company, called “Fleetwood.” I’m not sure if he was the owner, or just the CEO of the company, but I do know that he was in charge of acquiring and developing products that were then, manufactured in Hong Kong. Kiscom and I offered every minor toy idea we came up with to Harvey, without advance or guarantee. And he, more or less, attempted to manufacture everything we offered him. “Toss-Ups” were one such property.
If I’m not mistaken, the entire Toss-Ups presentation consisted of what must have been a single board. The original pencil drawings are below. The first is the initial doodle. A glimmering of what was coming is at the bottom of the page.
The second page is a gathering of small sketches, taped to a single sheet. This page was copied on the Minolta Copier, and then, colored in. That colored drawing was given to Harvey. We never got it back again. Instead, we got two huge boxes of beautifully made prototypes. Those shown on this website are just the contents of one box.
I have to say, Harvey absolutely nailed these. His people in Hong Kong, captured them perfectly, right down to the colors I suggested in that single drawing. I don’t know why these never got made. Apparently, nothing that Harvey’s new company attempted ever did. But they sure made a valid valiant try. Both boxes of Toss-ups ended up with me. I sort of love them!
Toss-Ups are feather light dolls that are also balls. They are intended to be tossed around. And are unlikely to do damage, even when thrown in the house.
They also stack up to make an endless variety of crazy creatures. And are held together, by the miracle of Velcro.
A kid could decorate their bed with these, and even use them as a pillow.
The styling was pure “Mel,” a cross between abstraction and reality.
This humble webpage is the first time that they have ever been seen. Today, they are as fresh, clean, and alive, as the day that they were packed away, in 1985
The impact of a group of these together, is quite colorful and stunning. They appear to emanate from a bizarre, but friendly, dimension, outside the mundane confines of commonplace Time and Space.