Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of WEENIES and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant and Mike Strouth are Copyright (c) KISCOM/ The OBB
Now, it’s time to put the Weenies stuff away. It took over and occupied my studio and my mind for
the past two weeks. As I pack and sort this stuff for storage in what will, no doubt, be its final resting place I
will attempt to organize it better than it was before, and in the process retrieve some bits and pieces of odd
stuff that didn’t make it to this website and include them here.
The first item that I believe is worth saving is the Market Testing Summery. I read this with interest
30 years ago essentially to see how the Weenies were received. KISCOM, Mike, and I had every reason
to be pleased! If one reads between the lines, they find that the Weenies were even more clever than we
realized. Compared to Smurfs, for instance, the Weenies proved to be superior. Nonetheless, why would
anybody be interested in reading this today? Actually it is quite fascinating reading for anyone who might
like to see how toys are made. I know first hand that companies like Mattel live and die by tests, like these.
Here are is a bunch of odds and ends, scraps of paper I cannot bring myself to throw away. Some I like, some I hate, but taken all together they shed some light on how the Weenies were made. In the very beginning I often did little drawings of product ideas while our meetings were underway. I took some of these seriously; others were merely tongue in cheek.
We were just getting into story ideas, enjoying the possibilities. This one was just kidding, but while we chatted I sketched it anyway. This represents Weenies in the Bunville Drive In movie. They are watching a horror movie. No wonder they are screaming; just look at the screen! Another scary possibility was the Frank ‘n Bean Monster. This led to the creation of Machiney Weenie.
An early story idea that we liked was Hot Doggie and the Fire Department. This sketch may well be the first appearance of Hot Doggie. Did he start life as a Dalmatian? And the much used mess on the right was the first sketch of the firehouse.
This is just a flight of fancy, a Weenie Nightmare. Poor little Willie has been captured by a giant meat grinder. He is definitely going to be toast!
This is the Wee Weenies Bun Bus. Harvey was actually making this. It is a product that would have
happened. The flashing lights were a unique touch in 1984. An off center axle helped the bus bounce
This is another product that would have happened eventually. Beanie Weenie’s Gas Station. His living quarters are upstairs. It’s origin was a can of beans.
Here are two potential characters that didn’t make the grade. These were the only drawings of either of them. I am trying to remember their names. I guess one must have been called Wonder Weenie. The other never had a name. I believe there was a suggested story line about Rock ‘n Roll. If the Weenies had survived, some version of them both might have appeared someday.
This is drawing of Willie and Wilhemina is incredibly early, incredibly ugly. They had a long way to go. The drawing on the right is still not right, but they were on the road.
Last of all, is a product idea that I did not submit to Coleco, even though, it represents a toy that I would love to see. Unfortunately, objects like this belong to a previous century. On the other hand, if I were ever to craft a Weenies item just for myself, this is a leading candidate for what it might be.
So how does one set about creating a licensed property? The answer lies below. Andy, Adam, and I met every week. Everywhere that Andy went he carried a notebook, and he took voluminous notes at every meeting. Sometimes, so did Adam. Every month or so, they compiled these notes into a memo. The first of these memos is dated March 29, 1983. That does not necessarily mean, as I suggested earlier, that the Weenies began on that date. We may have met three or four times, before the first memo was typed. Reading them now, I find them interesting, although, I must admit that I am the only one on Earth who might. Nonetheless, I have made up my mind to add the first four memos to the addendum of this site. This slice of Weenie History dates from March to July. In July, of 1983, Mike Strouth joined the team. You might also note that by then KISCOM had their own official stationary.
Reading over these, on and in-between the lines, there are many things I find enlightening and amusing: all the crazy names we tried, the ideas that got their beginning here, and those that were rejected, on purpose, or by accident. Perhaps these notes should be forbidden, revealing an act of conception in plain sight for everyone to see. Then again, I might excuse it by rationalizing that they will not be read by anyone but me.
No doubt, more Weenie stuff will turn up throughout the remainder of my lifetime. But for now, I have got to stop somewhere, so it might as well be here. But not before I add one more thing: Thirty years ago in the excitement of creating the Weenies when the 13 character drawings and their captions were finished, but the colors had not yet been worked out, I sent a set of black and white copies to my dear friend Charles Ponstingl in Allentown PA. And that was that! When it became clear that the Weenies were officially dead, Charles had the tact to never mention them again.
A few years ago in 2010, we planned to meet and celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our friendship. Charles let it slip that he was bringing me a gift. He assured me it was something meaningful to me. I lay awake many a night in anticipation, wondering what it might be. But my powers of speculation failed me completely. I never came remotely close to guessing that the gift would be this amazing carving!
When I mailed the drawings to him, I wrote on one of the sheets the optimistic thought that maybe one day he would be doing a carving based on Weenies if they managed to succeed. Charles never forgot that, and the actual note was pasted to the back.
And here they are! Charles had made them happen! The Weenies did not succeed, but he did the carving anyway, and he did it beautifully! He knew from the copy below the drawings that they lived in a town called Bunville, and, by God, with no more of a hint than that, he Created it! And the colors, he had no idea what they were like, but nonetheless he got them right. And so, the Weenies “happened” after all, thanks to my dear friend Charles Ponstingl! What a generous heartfelt gift, his friendship and the carving both.
Here are two unrelated drawings of Willie Weenie. They just happened to be left over. They were not chosen to be last for any reason other than chance. The first is one of my first attempts to visualize a Weenie. The drawing made it graphically clear to me that the hot dog shape needed to be reversed so that his tail was not between his legs.
The second drawing is an obvious demonstration of how I relied on “inspiration” from the great masters of animation. Here we see Willie channeling Jiminy Cricket!
These little “Beanies” were doodled on the same page as the first drawing of Willie Weenie.
And so, that’s it! Or as they say in Hollywood: “That’s all Folks!” The Weenies came and never went. They just hung around my life and house forever reminding me of what might have been. Meanwhile, a little voice inside my head that sounds a lot like Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” keeps whispering to me, “You could have been a contender!”
And I find myself wondering if I ever mustard up as much creative energy again? The answer to that question is and must remain a matter of opinion. Sometimes, on life’s journey, one comes upon a fork in the road. And it was a sad day for me when I was forced by Fate to pick it up and stick in in the Weenies, only to discover that they were “done already!”
Would you believe it’s 3:00 AM, and I can’t sleep. Therefore, I find myself indulging in that unique state of honesty and fantasy that sometimes happens at times like these when one is utterly alone with only memories for company, and all the Earth appears to be asleep. A thousand Weenies are dancing in my head, like sugar plums on Christmas Eve. I guess that is to be expected, for I have done little else but think of them for the past several weeks.
Now, in the middle of the night, 30 years later, I am daring to admit how much the Weenies meant to me. For one thing, they were my chance to play at being Walt Disney and clearly Willie and Wilhemina were Mickey Mouse and Minnie. But on a deeper level, they were a chance to do something I loved. Well, there, I’ve said it; I truly loved the Weenies. They were like children to me. And their demise was painful beyond all imagining.
Among the ruins of illusions that I embraced throughout my lifetime, the youthful certainty that I would live forever was one of the last to fall. And, thus, the time has come for my love affair with the Weenies to be resolved. One thought remains as consolation, perhaps it’s true: “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”