Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of WEENIES and other
Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant and Mike Strouth are Copyright (c) KISCOM/ The OBB
LOTS OF PRODUCTS
I simply enlarged the sketch verbatim. Here is the final pencil drawing:
Then, it was colored to represent a line of soft cuddly and Fuzzy Weenies. This and the group of products that follow were used by Coleco for the “Interpretative Summery,” which is a fancy term for Market Testing. The test results were encouraging for these and the whole Weenies concept! We really felt we had a winner!
Here is another version that way back in the days we were still using the Weenies language we called Weenie Wag Dolls. This was a large drawing, difficult to drag around, and I might add, a pain in the “heart shaped tail” to scan.
The presentation board for these basic play figures was even bigger, blown up as was my ego momentarily. The actual pencil drawing was very tiny and done with a level of facility that surprised me. Weeks of working on artificial animation drawings had infused the Weenies into my memory to the point that I was able to just draw the complex scene below, spontaneously, without erasures or overlays. I was briefly enjoying a level of fleeting facility that real animators or artists who draw comic strips must acquiesce in every day.
While I was still in this rare euphoric mood, I whipped out another drawing, direct, and unerringly. These images simply flowed from my pencil with no need for preliminary sketching, tracing, cutting, pasting, or any of the fumbling that inevitably proceeds my usual contrivances. At moments like this, the feeling is almost mystical. Where do these images come from?
I love the experience of being not unlike a radio, receiving signals that come from someplace else, someplace beyond me. If you simply look around my website, you will see for yourself the evidence of the veracity of that, of which I speak. The proof lies in Variety; no one individual could work in so many different styles as I did. From the fantasy of the Outer Space Men to the realism of Baby Face and all stops in-between, this is the work of many. Searching the vastness of I know not where for inspiration, the little receiving set inside my head has changed channels often throughout my career in toy invention.
Oy! Where did that come from? Please forgive this unheralded soliloquy. Getting back to Weenies, these tiny vehicles tested very well. They were sort of a combination of Hot Wheels and Tootsie Toys. By the time I got to the bottom of the page they were beginning to incorperate a touch of animation.
Although I didn’t realize it when I drew these, years later I discovered that there was once a marvelous set of Tootsie Toys, called the the “Tootsietoy Funnies, With Action,” made in the early 1930s, in which each of the characters moved mechanically.
All the product drawings that you have seen up to now along with Joe’s Diner and the other Play Sets were joined by the next seven. All of them were photographed, mounted on boards, and presented to numerous focus groups for market testing.
These Sneaky Weenies tested well. They are just ordinary sneakers with elongated tongues and little Weenie noses.
This “Snuggle Bun,” a Weenie sleeping bag, tested extremely well. The Weenie inside it already is essentially a pillow.
These “Teenie Hoppers” were tiny windup toys.
And these next two drawings represent "giftware." The music box did not test well. Some remarked that (like the stuff that I collect) “It just sits there on a shelf!”
Beginning here, the Product designs you are about to see are all the efforts of Mike Strouth. I believe they will convince you that he is an Amazing artist. I worked with Mike for 13 years, and over that time, I watched him do the art for several hundred projects, and I every one of them was perfect. Alas, Mike did have one annoying habit, a combination of biting off more work than he could chew and, nonetheless, refusing to rush it through, or compromise quality just to meet a deadline. In other words, he was often late. But I learned to work around that annoying trait and put up with this idiosyncrasy gladly, because what Mike delivered, in the end, was always worth the wait. I used to jokingly refer to him as “The Late Great Mike Strouth” because he was always late, but what he did was always great!
I spent the day scanning these product boards and, believe me, it wasn’t easy. Because they are so large, each had to be scanned in three pieces and joined together. The job was work intensive, but I enjoyed every minute of it. This slow process gave me the opportunity to zero in on each of these pieces of art, one at a time, and appreciate the wonder of it.
These are not merely product “sketches,” they are fully developed finished designs a step away from camera ready. The graphics on Mike’s Weenie lunch box, for instance, are amazing, as good as any lunch box I’ve ever seen. And this is not merely pick up art, it’s Mike’s original creation. Any manufacturer who chose to license any of these categories, be it notebooks, school supplies, drinking cups, or stationary, would find the designs were all worked out for them, already.
As you can see we entertained some grand illusions of great things! What could be bigger that Weenies Breakfast Cereal? Little sugar coated Weenie shapes; the perfect mates for Cheerios!
Coming up are a few really boring products. But these are what Cheryl wanted. I don’t know how Mike could stand doing these. But he not only did them, he did them beautifully. Maybe it was his years at Hallmark that gave him the energy to tackle stuff, like ... drinking cups, really? But he even supplied a cute and clever little Hallmark-like Weenie saying on each one.
If that stationary put you to sleep, perhaps you’re ready for “Sweet Dreams” in these clever Weenie sheets.
As you will eventually see, this rendering of “Doggie Warmers” inspired a licensee to create a spectacular line of Weenie Footware.
And here is everything you need to celebrate a Halloweenie Halloween.
And, last, but not least, some notable notebooks made the Product Presentation complete.
Last night, I discovered Andy’s notes of our early meetings. They included a list of things he and Adam believed were necessary to make a convincing presentation. No wonder I felt I needed help.
When Mike Strouth joined the group, his immediate assignment was to concentrate on the big scene of Bunville. I had nearly finished the characters by then. I remember that the first time he and I got together about Weenies, I was asking his advice about their final colors.
Once the thirteen character boards were done, my next task was to work on products, like Joe’s Diner, the Bunville Nursery School, a Bun School Bus, and Willie’s Bungalow, etc. Many of these were added to Mike’s diorama.
After we sold the concept to Coleco, I still continued to create products. Soon, Cheryl Stoebenau provided us with a list of product renderings she wanted. Her list proved to be even longer than Andy’s list had been. Some of the stuff that she requested looked utterly daunting to me. Clothes, school supplies, and party goods were simply not my cup of tea. I figured that’s where Mike could help me.
I will present these products in the approximate order that they were created. When Mike finished the Bunville diorama he had some catching up to do in terms of making a living. Because his freelance work was time consuming, he could not spare any to attend our weekly meetings or participate in the Weenies as fully as I did. On the other hand, he was part of the machinery that kept Colorforms going, and thus, was helping me to meet my obligation. Because he was so busy, his product drawings were added later in the game, too late to be included in the official market testing. This study, by the way, proved fascinating. I will add it to the "Addendum."
Once the various Bunville play sets were out of the way, I addressed myself to dolls or what was called “plush” in those days. This tiny casual pencil sketch at the bottom of the page hit the nail right on the head, “Weenies Huggables!”