All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
Baby City has to be the ugliest baby product I ever played a role in. Galoob had two divisions, the parent company and a small offshoot dedicated to International sales only. The International division, which was called “Toy Boys,” was headed up by Gary Niles, while the main company was led by David Galoob and Saul Jodel. Gary was responsible for our line of Magic Diaper Babies, a concept that grew from one half hour drawing to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. A hugely talented and attractive young lady, Sue Beatrice, was responsible for all the sculptures in the ever-growing line of Magic Diaper Babies.
Eventually, largely due to the success of Magic Diaper Babies in Europe, Gary Niles became the president of the parent company, Galoob. Sometime, during this transition, in 1991-92 we managed to sell Gary another minor concept. This one was called Baby City. The presentation consisted of only seven drawings. I didn’t even need to color them. Baby City envisioned a line of remote controlled babies. These would run on batteries that were contained a baby bottle. A wire connected this battery pack to small motorized babies that performed various activities.
The seven drawings above actually became real products. Alas, I played no part in their realization. Gary and his assistant Cathy Oy, who we knew and liked from Galoob’s Baby Face days, simply sent my drawings to Hong Kong, and craftsmen in the Orient turned them into the real thing, with no input from yours truly, unfortunately! If I had seen the work in progress, I would have let out a scream, audible from clear across the seven seas.
Meanwhile, everyone assumed that Baby City was progressing beautifully, and Gary encouraged me to pump out more ideas. Therefore, I did a series of quick sketches, working with Cathy.
If Cathy liked an idea, she requested that I carry it farther. That is what happened with this carousel. It went through three successive stages, and Gary assured me that he was going to make it.
Gary also encouraged me to envision some larger play sets. These were ambitious flights of fancy. I thought that they were rather exciting, although, somewhat forced, as they would require the inclusion of a new form of figure, not powered by batteries.
Last of all, Gary wanted a playground. So, I undertook the serious attempt you see below.
I also found this catalogue page. It indicates that Galoob began by producing just these four. And they called them, “Baby City!”
From that point on, what happened is a mystery. A search of the internet reveals that Galoob later repackaged the line, and called it “BUSTLIN” BABIES”
I swiped these mediocre photos on line. Keep in mind that this was Galoob’s International Divison, and most of the stuff they produced was pretty crappy. In spite of that, some of the crap that they produced made its way to the USA. The Toys-R-Us price labels, in the upper right hand corner, tell a sad, and almost funny story. One can see that the price started out as $7.99. From there, it was lowered to $2.99. ,And, finally, it was marked down to 90 cents!
Sometime after that, these samples arrived. Naturally, I hated them. But, at that point in time, my partners, KISCOM and I were flying high, and our outlook was so positive that I didn’t even go crazy when I saw the Baby City Babies, or care that they were hideously ugly! Oh Sue, where were you when Baby City needed you? The other day, I found these four, under the floor. I was stunned to realize how unsightly they really were.
The plain gray back of the package indicates that they eventually made all seven of my initial designs. Even the drawings are ugly. And all this ugliness was distributed worldwide.
Here are two small photos, again from the internet, that shows two of the toys, the rocking horse and the dancing couple, as they were sold in Spain. There, they were called “Chiquitines Magicos Baby City”
So, folks, that’s toy design! It has its ups and downs, just like a roller coaster ride. Reaching for success can be an uphill battle. Along the way, one might experience excitement, high hopes, expectation, anticipation, and delicious moments of elation. Then again, there are times when, even though, you've done your very best, your luck might suddenly turn around, and send you crashing to the ground, into a world of deep depression. Nevertheless, when the ride coasts slowly to an end, you’re always ready to begin again.