Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of WEENIES and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant and Mike Strouth are Copyright (c) KISCOM/ The OBB
1983 was an exciting time to be in the Toy and Entertainment Industry. Cabbage Patch Kids were sizzling. Strawberry Shortcake was freshly baked, and gobbled up voraciously. The Smurfs had invaded the USA. And one of the most phenomenal movies of all time, “ET” was appearing on a million screens. Colorforms, too, was sitting pretty, blissfully unaware that a Harry-made disaster was about to pull away the chair. Thus, fate decreed that it was time. The planets were all perfectly aligned. The World was ready for “The Weenies!”
How did the Weenie’s come to be? They were unconsciously conceived during the previous year while working on ideas for packaging Plasticine. Their actual birth, which came as a total surprise to me, took place approximately nine months later in 1983, on that terrible day that will always be remembered as “The Day of Blue-Green Algae.”
Little did I suspect, as I drove to Colorforms that morning that a few words spoken in anger, later in the day, were about to turn the World of Colorforms on its head. And from that moment foreword, many lives, including mine, would never be the same again.
Harry Kislevitz was living in California then. His varied interests had led him in many wild directions and further away from Colorforms with each passing day. Moreover, he was utilizing resources for his altruistic projects that should have gone for advertising. Thank God for Harry’s sons, Andy and Adam! Contrary to whatever doubts and preconceptions one might have about offspring who assume the leadership of their father’s business, these guys had proved their mettle, fighting many uphill battles, and leading Colorforms to Victory, time and time again. Under their enthusiastic guidance, business blossomed and the company prospered as it never had in Harry’s day. I prospered too, beyond anybody’s expectations or intentions. And working with them both was fun and exciting.
When I arrived at Colorforms that morning, there was a buzz in the air. Harry had called from California to announce that he had put a woman on a plane the night before who was due to arrive at Colorforms, later that day. He also decreed that when she got there, all work was to stop both in the office and in the factory, and all employees were to gather in the cafeteria to hear this well intentioned lady deliver a lecture on the “Joys of Blue-Green Algae”
In the hour that followed, Adam on the phone with Harry voiced objection to stopping all work at the factory to hear a lecture on blue-green algae, asserting that it was an expensive waste of time. Both he and his father lost their tempers. Meanwhile, a group of us hovered in the hallway outside of Adam’s office, trying in vain to overhear the conversation. All we could make out was a muffled multitude of loudly shouted expletives that shook the floor and rattled the closed office door. And when that door was finally opened, both Adam and Andy’s careers at Colorforms were over.
Later that day, I sat beside them in the cafeteria. All three of us were in a state of shock and disbelief. As the lecturer droned on about how she had been cured of cancer by blue-green algae, the dreamlike world of Colorforms and the once friendly familiar factory that had become a part of my reality was suddenly transformed into a nightmare world of fantasy. Now, looking back, 30 years later, on that surreal series of events, I realize that right there and then, “The Golden Age of Colorforms” came to an end.