All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
In my final days at Colorforms, everything was deteriorating. Everyone there, the so-called executives, myself included, were indulging in extracurricular activities. Harry Kislevitz was living in his private dream world, over the rainbow in La La Land. His sons Adam and Andy were no longer with the company. They were developing their own toy development and licensing company, called KISCOM, along with yours truly. And Colorforms was left in the hands of a motley crew, most of whom were up to something sleazy, on the sly.
The charismatic new sales manager, Chuck Cohen was a master wheeler dealer. He had an angle on everything. One of his favorite techniques for pushing sales was bribing toy buyers with pricy presents on Colorform's dime. Chuck, single handedly, kept the toy buyer at Toys-R-Us well attired. He had a taste for expensive tailored pants and Chuck saw to it that he was amply supplied, at all times. I really liked Chuck a lot, but I trusted him, Not!
One day he sidled up to me, in secrecy, and showed me half a rubber ball. It seems that a friend of his had come up with this uninspiring invention. When the half ball was turned inside out, and dropped onto the ground, it would pop up, and fly a few feet high. Chuck asked me to make this into something. He inferred that if I could figure out how to sell this thing, Colorforms might manufacture it, and this would be to the benefit of everybody, including me.
My first step was to paint an iris and a pupil on the half a rubber cup, transforming it into an eyeball. Then, I added some bloodshot veins for a touch of realism, and the “Hoppin’ Poppin’ Eyeball” was born.
Next, I did a couple of quick sketches. Here is the whole process from the first sketch, to when I handed it back to Chuck. It began with these rough drawings. My first impulse was to portray the eyeball as an olive in a monster highball.
“Hoppin’ Poppin' soon led to the lame phrase: “Your eyes will POP, when you see it HOP!”
The next step was to make a tighter rendering. Being terminally naive, I added the Colorforms logo. Little did I realize that this one of those sneaky deals that Chuck did under the table. It had nothing to do with Colorforms at all.
Then I made a more comprehensive drawing. I liked the little one eyed Colorforms logo. Too bad Colorforms never saw it.
Finally, I colored the background black, and handed the whole thing to Chuck. Chuck said: “Thanks,” and never mentioned it again.
Several years later, when my time with Colorforms was over, I stumbled upon the toy, below, in the low end junk aisle of an obscure toy store. Hoppin’ Poppin’ Eyeballs had happened after all. The company was Chuckie’s buddy, Dynatoy International Inc., not exactly Mattel!
Hey, Chuck! Thanks a lot! My eyes did POP, when I eyeballed this piece of Crap! The Dynatoy Company was too damned cheap to paint the eyeball realistically!