All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
In 1968, our ambivalent, love/hate relationship, with Gary Niles of Galoob continued. Over the years, Gary managed to ricochet from appearing to be my partners, KISCOM, and my own best friend, to our worst enemy, and back again. Our successful Magic Diaper Babies had made some money, and catapulted Gary, from head of the humble International Division of Galoob to the presidency of the entire company, leaving the two former occupants of that job in his wake. The first decision that Gary made, in that omnipotent new position, was to murder Baby Face! Then, he introduced the Magic Diaper Babies to America, and named them “Baby Face Magic Diaper Babies.” Go figure! Naturally the offspring of a doll that from the uninformed perspective of the toy industry had just suffered an untimely death, was not a great idea. And Baby Face Magic Diaper babies were doomed, right out of the starting gate.
In spite of this recent history, Gary Niles remained KISCOM’s best chance to sell a new item. Therefore, they continued to court his favors. The year before, they had managed to sell him a line of miniature robots, designed by Jerry Wood, who we first met as the product director, competing against the Weenies at Coleco, and later joined KISCOM’s team. Also, Gary had recently added our "National Geographic Collection" to Galoob’s insanely popular line of Micro Machines.
Having managed to get our foot in the door of the exclusive world of Micro Machines, we decided to try for more. Therefore, I threw together the concept you see here, “Monstro-City.” It took only a few days. I entered into the project rather halfheartedly, knowing that Gary was our only customer for this thing. Given our ongoing relationship with Micro Machines, if Gary didn’t like this concept, there would be no other place that we could show it. KISCOM had too much invested in staying on Gary’s good side to endanger that relationship.
Therefore, Monstro-City was intended to be a modest effort, from the get-go. Nonetheless, once I got into it, I focused on the project, with a modicum of enthusiasm. The card was the most fun. It amounted to an exercise in spontaneous creation, which, after all these years, I realize, was the sort of thing that I was good at. First, I sketched out some lettering; then, starting in one corner, I added one creature after another. They appeared instantaneously, with no need to think them up. It was as if they were just waiting for me to open the door and let them all spew forth. The only difficult part of this outpouring was stopping. Even today, there are thousands of these entities, still hiding, up there in my brain, waiting to leap out onto a page. Here is the original pencil sketch:
I borrowed a transparent blister from a package of Micro Machines, and filled it with three quickly sculpted creatures. I painted these in iridescent colors.
Next, I made a lame attempt to relate the Monstro-City concept to Micro Machines, by indicating that there might be vehicles. And I clobbered one together. The fact that it wasn’t all that great really didn’t matter. It was merely an opportunity to indicate a vehicular possibility. It had a moving jaw.
I sketched three more, quickly swiped from the memory of others I had done before. Animax lives again!
When all the elements were put together, the end result was quite convincing. And I am still convinced that if Monstro-City had been produced, it would have sold.
Alas, It didn’t convince Gary. He took one look at this, and instantly pronounced his verdict. He wanted Mirco Machines to be and remain realistic, devoid of any whiff of fantasy. And with that profound dictate, Monstro-City’s fate was sealed. There was no place else that we could show it. So, “Monstro-City” was simply set aside, another concept that never lived, before it died! Ironically, the following year, Gary licensed Star Wars to be applied to Micro Machines. If that isn’t fantasy, I don't know what is. The rest is history.
And here it is, copied, cleaned up, colored in, and brought down in size to match the Micro Machines packaging.