But Andy and Adam had a different vision, one that never occurred to me: “The WEENIES” as a licensed property! WOW! What a GREAT Idea!
And thus, began a Great Adventure. We were operating on all cylinders as together we mined this mother lode of hot dog humor for every pun and innuendo we could discover. There was an air of excitement at our weekly brainstorming sessions as we discussed the possibilities for different characters, their personalities, and stories. We even had a Weenie Wanguage, which would be politically incorrect today. Weenies, weplaced their “Rs and Ls” with Ws. Controversial even then; we dropped it later on.
Of course, we realized that the name “Weenies” was not only funny, but it was also a little naughty, even daring. How daring did we dare to be? Very! We pulled no punches and named our main character Willie, “Willie Weenie!” His dog would be “Hot Doggie. ” His girlfriend was called “Wilhemina Weenie,” and his best buddy was “Joe Boloney.” By the time our story was complete, there was not a “W” word in the dictionary that we did not incorporate. And all the Weenies lived happily together in a charming little town called “Bunville”
Looking back over my years in Toyland, I believe the times I relished most were those golden days and fun filled meetings when Andy, Adam, and I together followed the Yellow Mustard Road to Bunville, and brought to life the World of “Weenies.”
In the process, we developed a way of working together that came about naturally, and continued on, project after project, decades into the future. Andy’s first job, right out of college had been an unconventional one. He became a “secretary” for an ad agency in Atlanta Georgia. He had mastered perfect grammar and could spell unerringly. He could also take high speed dictation without missing a beat. So he recorded every word we said; every word that he considered worth recording that is. He happened to be an instant critic of impeccable selectivity. Thus, I could always tell when Andy didn’t care for an idea, simply because his pen wasn’t moving. But when we were really grooving, his fingers flew with lightning speed, filling notebook after notebook with anything he felt might be worth saving. Afterwards, he would type up complete notes of every meeting, and that’s where we would begin next time, perfecting everything we’d done so far and proceeding from there.
On the few rare occasions when Andy missed a meeting, Adam who was equally sharp and very intuitive took on the task of doing the same thing. In later years, some of our best concepts, like “Animax” and “Invasion Earth” were generated on days that just Adam and I worked together.
So, week after week, we three met and worked on Weenies, creating them, naming them, profiling their personalities, and suggesting storylines. We took our time, savoring each moment of spontaneous creativity, and by the time Andy’s typewritten pages were ready, we’d come to know the Weenies intimately. They’d become real to us. And we were having so much fun. We loved what we were doing, and we “weally wuved” the Weenies.
Thinking back on that delightful time, it occurs to me that our weekly meetings might have been very much like story sessions at the Disney Studios used to be; those inspiring occasions when story men and animators got together to share gags and ideas as they contributed to creating the great Disney Classics.
Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of WEENIES and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant and Mike Strouth are Copyright (c) KISCOM/ The OBB
With the plastic wrapper removed, plug-in plastic body parts could be inserted in the clay to make ”Weenie People” In the tradition of “Mr. Potato Head”.
There could even be a whole Plasticine Weenie Set with everything a kid would need to make Weenie people and even a vehicle.
Sometimes, when things are looking bleakest, through the darkness shines a beacon. And so it was that after a thoroughly horrible night, the following morning, I got a call from Adam and Andy, asking if they could drive up for a visit. Of course, I answered, “Absolutely!” About an hour later, they arrived for what would be the first of many meetings that would take place here at the schoolhouse once a week for many years thereafter as we began a whole new life together.
Thinking back on that occasion, I realize that Andy and Adam must have been preparing for this possibility for some time. Surely, they couldn’t have come up with such a well-developed plan of action overnight.
Their intention was to start their own toy development and licensing organization, and they invited me to join them. I eagerly agreed. And thus, we have remained both friends and business partners to this day. Meanwhile, for the time being our partnership would remain a secret. And as I worked at home unseen, I could still continue to fulfill my commitment to Colorforms and begin a new career at the same time.
They called the company “Kiss Communications”, referring to “Kislevitz” plus Communications, or “KISCOM,” for short.
The most amazing aspect of this irresistible invitation was the fact that my new partners already had a Project in mind. And when they presented the concept to me, I was absolutely flabbergasted. The utter brilliance of it stunned me! I was even more surprised to realize that the name and concept were actually my own creation. Andy and Adam had derived their inspiration from a few rough product sketches that I had shown them nearly a year before. The idea was immediately rejected for the purpose it was intended, and I instantly forgot about it. But Andy and Adam didn’t forget it, and now they threw the concept back at me with a whole new spin on it! But before I reveal its identity, as if you didn’t know already, let me turn the clock back momentarily.
Sometime in the days of yore, a small container of marzipan made its way to our refrigerator. It was packaged in a plastic sleeve and tied off at each end to form a sausage shape about the size of an average knockwurst. I believe it was imported from Germany. On the package was a drawing of a teddy bear. Every time I opened the refrigerator door, I would see it there eye level in the butter tray, and vow to open it, and make that teddy bear one day. It remained there for many years, as things in our refrigerator have been known to do. There are secret places way down below that have never seen the light of day. To explore what is buried there would constitute an archeological dig. But that marzipan was always in my face, and never went away. Therefore, while working on Plasticine, the possibility of packaging it like that marzipan sausage came to mind. The drawing below illustrates several variations of a proposed label design.