Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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          What happened when a toy company called Colorforms made a Batman Shadow Light that was ready too late to catch the Batman craze?
           They turned it into a Green Hornet Signal Ray!
          What should one do when they have a fully realized Batman Bat-O-Rama zoetrope, ready to go....and it’s too late to show?
          The answers is: Repackage it as THE TIME TUNNEL!

The Time Tunnel had lots of potential.  It was created by Irwin Allen, with music by John Williams, and debuted on ABC in the fall of 1966.  Full of historically incorrect boo boos, it hovered between boring and hysterical.  In a certain sense it was a genuine time machine, as through the miracle of recycling, it brought a lot of old movie clips and ancient outtakes back to the screen again.  Searching You Tube for a typical sample of the show, and hoping to find one that showed the opening and the Time Tunnel, itself, as well as samples of several episodes, the best short video available turned out to be from Germany. 
          Eye-catching and powerful, there was something mesmerizing about the exciting image of The Time Tunnel that appeared to spiral into infinity.  The title object, itself, was far better than the hokey 1960s TV show it stole.  Could this visually exciting icon save the Batman zoetrope?

And, so, I turned the Batman zoetrope on its side, lined its interior with a diminishing spiral, and “Presto Chang-o!  Voila, The Time Tunnel! 
         Even today, this quickly made prototype that I found under the floor last week, has an intriguing quality about it.  The package with the zoetrope inside added up to a unique object, something not quite like anything that the world had ever seen. 
          This mysterious object with its hypnotic spiral was unquestionably compelling.  Something about the total package was attractive.  One might even call it stunning.  But was that enough?
          Unfortunately, like the TV show, itself, my little tabletop Time Tunnel promised more than it delivered.  The back of the box offered a preview peek at what a kid would actually see through the amazing Time Tunnel, formerly known as a zoetrope.  The package would contain twelve strips of paper film.  Here, I used some of the images from the Batman Bat-o-Rama to represent them.  But in the actual toy, the films would include: Monsters prehistorical, Man’s first steps on the surface of the moon, Columbus’s voyage, historical, and many more!  This fantasy of wishful thinking offered its new owner  the opportunity to “travel through time, as the past, present, and future come to life before their very eyes,” twelve times!
         In some respects, the fact that The Time Tunnel existed in the first place was evidence of the lack of exciting content on TV in the 1960s.  The Time Tunnel personified the expression, “slim pickings.”  Both Harry Kislevitz and I realized that we were kidding ourselves that the Time Tunnel and the toy that I came up with was not worth taking a chance on.  For once, we followed our intuition. 

The Time Tunnel lasted just one season.  From my point of view the only interesting aspects of the show were the brief appearances of aliens.  The few you glimpsed in the video above were typical; in other words, they were laughable!  Less than one year later, I would create The Outer Space Men.