All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
I considered “Penny Whistle, the Whistling Doll,” to be a sound idea. I also really liked her name! And, unlike many of the gimmicks that I previously thought up, this one was not just wishful thinking, or “pie in the sky!,” for the technology to make Penny Whistle whistle, already existed at the time! One example of the principle was something called an Air Flute, a product made by Playtime. In this hand-held device, each button on a simple keypad played a different note of music, recorded by a flute. It also performed a variety of prerecorded tunes. All a manufacturer had to do was replace the notes of the flute, with those of a child whistling, place the mechanism in a doll, and they would have Penny Whistle! And, for a more dramatic effect, Penny’s mouth and cheeks could be made to animate, while her head turned, realistically, from side to side.
The diagram below explains it all. This is followed by KISCOM’s product write-up that attempts to cover all the bases. And then, we meet Penny, herself, as I visualized her
There were also some proposed features that were optional. These took the form of special outfits, incorporating pressure sensitive buttons on the dress that could substitute for the keyboard on her back. Each outfit could be themed and programmed with a new series of related songs.
In an attempt to cover all the bases, I also adapted the concept to Minnie Mouse. It could have, just as easily, been Mickey, or, for that matter, anybody.
Typing up this description, now, I suddenly realized the origin of this concept. I believe that it was born of ancient memories, deeply buried in my childhood. As a kid, some of the most intriguing objects I ever saw were the wondrous woodcarvings of animated whistling drunks, made in Switzerland or Germany. These could be seen, standing alone, or leaning against a wooden lamppost. When the drunkard was wound up, he whistled, and the flashlight bulb in the lamppost lit up, for the duration of the tune. Even though, some of these carvings dated back to the 1920s, the light was powered by a battery. And, as the figure whistled, his head turned from side to side. A series of inner bellows, enabled him to convincingly articulate the tune, “Show me the way to go home.”
Alas, poor Penny Whistle, when all was said and done, she never left the confines of my own.