All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
I was rummaging around my daughters childhood bedroom this afternoon. It has become a storage area with boxes full of history, stacked from floor to ceiling. Hidden in an unmarked carton, I found a smaller one, intended to hold a dozen VSR cassettes, with the word,“Rock Stars” scribbled on the lid. Inside it, I discovered three articulated figures, each, standing on a 3” circular base that resembles a gold record, complete with miniature labels, and realistic grooves.
And, suddenly, the pieces of a mystery fell into place: Several weeks ago, I found a rather messy presentation board, alluding to rock and roll. Not the least bit curious to figure out what it was all about, I cast it aside. I didn’t find it interesting visually. It was just a list of famous musician’s names that, for the moment, made no sense to me. Just now, realizing that it was referring to the figures I just found, I sought it out. And, on the reverse side of the cover sheet, I discovered a page with notes and diagrams that explains it all. Putting these elements together, I understand the concept now.
The product’s name, which at first impression I thought might be “Hit Singles,” on closer scrutiny turns out to be, “Gold Record Hall of Fame.” Talk about a dated name! I guess, when I concocted this, rotating vinyl disks were still on the cutting edge of up to date technology.
“Gold Record Hall of Fame” would be a series of five inch collectible articulated figures. Articulated, in the sense that their head, arms, and waist would be posable. Their lower extremities, on the other hand, were intended to be a single piece, and firmly attached to the circular base. The base, itself, would resemble a Gold Record, and each would contain a music chip. The music would be activated by a light sensor, on the bottom of the base. Thus, whenever the figure was picked up, the music played. The package would also contain an album cover collector card.
I actually built this device, and installed it in Elvis Presley. Incredibly, after all these years, the battery is still alive. Thus, when the disk is lifted off the table, the music begins. In this case, the tune is, “Silent Night.” That’s just for demonstration purposes. Apparently, I couldn’t find a readymade chip of “Love me tender” or for that matter, any of Elvis’s greatest hits. That was part of the idea, both the figure and the music would be collectible. The label on the Golden Record would disclose its title.
This auxiliary diagram describes an alternate possibility. Apparently, back then, there was a product, made by LJN, called, “Talking Baseball Cards” Based on that idea, according to the copy, I visualized a simpler variation, in the form of a self-contained “Sound Stage.” The disks that each of our figures stood on would be recorded on the bottom, at either 33 of 16 RPM. When one of them was placed on the spindle of the sound stage, it would rotate at the proper speed, and the music would play.
In retrospect, I realize that this was a hugely expensive concept. Between the cost of fabricating the figures, engineering the electronics, and negotiating licensing, with all the living and dead artists, or their recording companies, it would cost a fortune to produce. The costs would be enormous, while the collectability of the final product might be minute.
Meanwhile, here are the Super Sculpy figures. It’s hard to believe I actually made these! I can’t imagine anything that might be more non-me. I’m comfortable with sculpting anything, from baby dolls to intergalactic entities. But the thought of yours truly attempting to recreate the deities of Rock n’ Roll, as five inch articulated figures is absolutely crazy. This bow to POPularity, in my never ending attempt to make a living, certainly doesn’t represent my taste in music. Then again, who would want an action figure of Luciano Pavarotti?