Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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          “Baby Soft Sips” was an electronic baby doll.  She had a magic baby bottle.  Every time she raised the bottle to her lips, one could hear the soft sound of sips, and see the electric bubbles in the bottle illuminate, sequentially. 

The concept was a simple one, more or less, a throwaway.  That is not to say that I shied away from such minor items.  All too often, I dedicated several weeks to fleshing out an idea, thinking that its execution would help to sell it, only to have it rejected instantly.  On the other hand, the best-selling item we ever did, The Magic Diaper Babies, was nothing more than a single sketch, whipped out in five minutes.  The Magic Diaper Babies went on to sell a hundred million pieces.  And the company in Italy that, eventually, ripped them off completely, even stealing our sculptures, is still selling them successfully, today.

But in the case of Baby Soft Sips, I felt a working prototype would be imperative.  So I bought a doll that I could adapt, with an outfit that was garishly grotesque.  In this case, what we were selling was the feature, so, what she looked like really didn’t matter.  Then, I quickly made a face of Super Sculpey, and rigged up some electronics to demonstrate the principle.  Our target audience was Gary Niles, who did the above mentioned Magic Diaper Babies, based on far less than this.
          Then, I made this quick videotape just to prove it worked effectively, and demonstrate the principle to Gary, because, as I mention in the tape, when I brought the prototype to my partners, it had stopped working, already.  So, this one minute tape was merely an insurance policy.
           At this point in time, Gary Niles was still managing the international division of Galoob.  In those days, he was inclined to try just about anything.  I really have no recollection what happened to Baby Soft Sips.  I know we never saw the prototype again.  I think there is a possibility that Gary actually manufactured her, for sale in Europe only.  I came across the drawing, above, months ago.  At that moment, the thought of posting it online never crossed my mind.   Then, the day before yesterday, I found the few minutes of tape that you just saw.  It was sandwiched between two other clips.  So I extracted it, and  posted it, and I figured that was that. Like Baby Soft Sips, herself, it was short and sweet. 

But wait ! There’s more!  I just discovered the original drawings that were required to produce the doll.  Soft Sips started out as part of a line of dolls called “Sonic Sippers.” This is the pencil sketch that began it all:
          The following four drawings might come as a surprise. They offer  a glimpse into the other side of toy design.  It's not enough to offer just a pretty image; one must also understand what’s going on inside.  This looks complicated, and it is.  But these diagrams explain, in detail, how the doll operates.
          Drawings, like these, exemplify the difference between toy invention and toy design.  Toy designers do the outside!  Toy inventors do the inside!  That dichotomy made yours truly a little bit unique, because I could do them both.  I had to go to art school to learn designing.  But, either due to reincarnation, or evolution, I was born with an intuitive knowledge of how to master the mechanics.  That inbred ability never failed to surprise me.  It was in my DNA!

Surprise!  Will this page ever be finished?  Today, I ventured into the crawl space, beneath the raised floor downstairs.  Among the assorted odds and ends that are stored down there, are boxes that have never been opened, since we moved here forty years ago.  In a box of stuff that KISCOM sent me, years ago, I discovered this doll.  I really didn’t realize she was ever manufactured.  The company that made her, Toy Island, was clearly a modest one, but they spared no expense in creating a package that was over the top.  Baby Soft Sips is shown here, floating on a cloud, somewhere under the rainbow, held aloft by heart shaped balloons, while stars twinkle all around, and the Man in the Moon looks down. 
         The back of the package indicates that there was an entire line of Soft Sips variations, ranging from a mermaid, sipping on a seashell, to a princess who sucks on a pacifier, while the jewels in her tiara twinkle.