Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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         The drawings that you are about to see are extremely early!  They represent one of my very first fumbling attempts at toy inventing.  The year was 1965, three years before the Outer Space Men.  Still living in New York City, I had just begun playing with my new phone friend, mentor, and coconspirator, Harry Kislevitz.  Meanwhile, I was still devoting the lion’s share of my time and energy to my own modest business, Boutique Fantastique. Thus, I viewed these humble efforts at toy designing with air of levity, never dreaming that I might, someday, actually invent toys for a living.

I scribbled out  the sketches below in a single evening.  I offer them here with an apology.  Working on Boutique Fantastique for the previous four years, I had no need for draftsmanship, and thus, my drawing  skills, if ever I had any, had grown rusty by then, to say the least.  The twelve pages that follow represent a series of twenty-one water guns, with novelty configurations.  My halfhearted attitude in doing these was, clearly, tongue and cheek. The lame gags and punishingly painful puns they represent were even more embarrassing than the drawings!  I prefaced these quickly executed sketches with a full sized cover sheet, proclaiming their proposed name, “Wet and Wild,” in big bold lettering. 

          Although, these ideas seem stupid now, thinking back to those early days, I realize that they did embody a spark of originality.  In 1965 all water guns still looked like guns.  I, for one, had never seen figural water guns like these.  But I did not have long to wait. Just one year later, a series of similar water guns appeared.  The first of these, a 1966 Batman Water Gun has since become a classic. 
          Some of these suggestions were clearly getting too suggestive, and crossed the line, leaving good taste behind.  The worst of these, following a tradition that began in the Garden of Eden, I discreetly covered with a fig leaf.
          The Empire Squirt raised the bar to a whole new level of absurdity.
          Udder Disaster?  I can’t believe I did that!  I was milking this concept for all it was worth!
          I “TUT” I taw a puddy tat!  Groan!  I was hitting a new low!
          This final page, that visualized the “Monster Squirt” saved the day.  Finally, an idea that I dreamed up, actually, became a Reality!  The look and feel of this oversized water gun was really quite audacious.  There was also something audacious about the name.  Any resemblance to a Muppet, by the way, was purely a coincidence.  In 1965, Sesame Street was still several years away.
          I find myself wondering if this really held 600 shots, as the label, that was designed by my, then, new friend, Bill Basso proclaimed.  “The world’s largest supply of water! Squirts over 600 shots!”  Really? I’m trying to recall if I actually tested that assertion before I wrote the copy!  Did I actually test it, filling it up and pulling the trigger to count the times it fired a stream of water?  Maybe! - Maybe not!  That was fifty-three years ago.  I really can't remember.
          Colorforms was slowly moving out of the world of cardboard into the realm of the real toys made in Hong Kong.  Monster Squirt was made real by Gene Rubin.  He was a sort of manufacturer/go-between, who worked with factories in the Orient.  A few years later, it was Gene who made it possible for Colorforms to do the Outer Space Men.
          Last of all, I couldn’t resist including this.  The notorious Batman Water Pistol, immortalized in a hilarious video by the inimitable Mike Mozart.