All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
When I was 18, and just finishing a freshman year at the University of Michigan, I applied to transfer to Pratt Institute. I didn’t know much about the school, but I knew it was in NYC, and that was good enough for me. As a prerequisite Pratt required me to take an art talent test, designed to assess the level of my art ability, and determine if I had any. Among the challenges that I found particularly uninspiring was a request to draw a kitchen appliance. I rose to the occasion and forced myself to manufacture a meticulous rendering of my mother’s Mix-Master. Based on this masterpiece, Pratt accepted me.
Now, forty years later, I was still trying to make the grade in the elusive field of toy design. And I was, once again, called upon to to try my hand at drawing kitchen appliances. I was scraping rock bottom on the rocky road to toy invention. This has to be one of the most boring ideas I ever came up with, and now I was faced with the excruciating task of executing it. How low was I willing to go in my quest for success?
My partners, KISCOM, at the time, were high on working with Saul Jodel. Saul, who called his company, “The Original San Francisco Toymakers” proved to be responsive to ideas that other larger companies would never consider. So every idea they came up with was shown to him. One product Saul was making that proved to be successful was a line of miniature plastic food, just the right size for plastic fashion dolls to eat. Hoping to get a piece of this product line, I suggested a line of miniature appliances.
These would be exceedingly realistic, even to the point of licensing recognizable brand names. And I called them, “Really Real.” As an added feature, each tiny appliance would appear to operate electrically. They would actually plug into tiny outlets housed in larger accessories with hidden batteries. Some would light up, while others might have tiny motors. Drawing these was agony for me. And even posting these drawings on this website is painfully unexciting. But, in spite of that, I still believe that this was really not a bad idea. Unfortunately, Saul did not agree.
The notes on each drawing are sort of self-explanatory. The toaster lit up red, and after a short while, the toast popped up! Likewise, the Microwave lit up, and the food inside would actually change color to signify that it was done.
Here are four more appliances that actually operate. Maybe, some of this was wishful thinking, but certainly, they would do something.
Each of the smaller items would have a tiny magnet in its base to make sure these small things could sit firmly in place.
The Really Real Refrigerator had lights inside, and a working water dispenser in the door. The shelves would be metal to hold the magnetic food in place.
This eat and work island has plug in outlets and batteries inside to power the appliances. The surface also has a layer of metal underneath it to hold the objects placed on it securely.
The Really Real Oven and Counter unit had a little bit of everything that made Really Real miniature appliances really really great!
And last of all, this drawing that makde it really clear that Really Real was really for Barbie dolls.
When all was said and done, these drawings proved to be a total waste of time. My partners dare not show them to another toy company, as they would be competing with Saul’s miniature food line. And they didn’t want to piss Saul off. To do so would be biting the hand that fed them. So, I got the drawings back again. They have been packed away, unseen, until today.
As I was putting these product boards away, no doubt, never to be seen again, I noticed a Product write-up on the back of first one. This is as good an example as any of how typewritten product descriptions, like this one, served to make a concept seem credible. We would compose these explanations at our weekly meetings. Then, Andy would type them up and include them with the presentation. I should have posted this up front. It would have saved me the trouble of describing the concept. But , as I don’t want to move everything to squeeze it in, I ‘ll tag it on, here, at the end.