the entire presentation was complete, my
partners, the brothers Kislevitz: Andy,
Adam and Noah, formerly known as
"Kiscom" (now called "The
Obb"), took the dolls out to show
them . It is their role to take
prototypes to companies in an effort to
sell the concept.
what does it do?
If you say to anybody, "I
made a doll", they will inevitably
reply: "Oh! What does it do?"
Everyone expects a gimmick, something no doll has ever
done before. So what chance has an inventor got of
selling a doll that "doesnt do anything"
to toy companies, who have seen everything?
None, I thought, no
chance at all! I think my partners thought so
too, but they were willing to give it a try. For years
they had followed a pattern of showing a project to only
one company at a time. This could be extremely time
consuming, as each would hold it for months before they
made up their mind to reject it; and soon the year was
gone. This time the Obb decided to show the project to
three potential buyers, Mattel, Hasbro and Playmates, all
at the same time. To our Amazement, all three embraced it
Playmates wanted Friendz n"
Family. All the principals of the company agreed. But
they could not make a proposal until the president, who
had the final say, saw the dolls and said "OK".
He was in the Orient at the time and would not return for
several days. So, one of the seven dolls was left with
Playmates, sitting on the Presidents desk, awaiting
his return. The Obb and I had worked with Playmates
before, [Fuzzy Buzzies]. We knew and liked the people
well, and felt for sure we had a sale.
Mattel wanted the dolls too, But! They
adopted the attitude that they needed a
"feature" which Mattel would attempt to come up
with and apply. Thus they would offer only half a royalty
to buy the "look" alone. They had played this
game with us before on "Color Me Cuties". They
promised to supply a "special feature", and
chewed our royalty down. Then no feature appeared. They
produced the product just as we had shown it to them in
the first place, but at a lower royalty rate than it
deserved. So, while once again, arguing the royalty,
negotiations with Mattel continued.
Meanwhile, when the folks at Hasbro
saw Friendz n Family, it was love at first sight!
The head of girls products had
been a veteran of Coleco the year they introduced the
Cabbage Patch Kids. She later told us what it was like
when Cabbage Patch first came to Coleco. She described
groups of people, gathering around to admire the Cabbage
Patch dolls as she carried them down the hall for the
first time. She then compared the reaction to that of
Friendz n' Family. Apparently, the same thing happened
when she took them down the hall to show the president of
the Company, while the Obb, having just shown them,
waited in the next room. That was the moment she decided,
in her mind, that Hasbro Would DO THEM. And she walked
into the president's office, put them on his desk, and
said; "This is what we are doing next
Hasbro put their money on the table,
and in a few days a deal was made. A handsome advance was
agreed upon, and paid.
Playmates and got their one doll back, before the
president of the company ever got a chance to see it.
Playmates was not happy! Mattel, on the other hand, was
angry. So angry, that they did not invite the Obb to a
major inventors meeting the following year. This
was absurd, considering they had been responsible for
Diva Starz, the most successful new doll introduction
Mattel had had in years.
The Hasbro Years
Hasbro told the toy inventing
community not to show them any more doll projects, as
they had their big girls item for the year!
Meanwhile, for the next three years they screwed around
with Friendz n Family. They loved the Look of the
dolls and vowed to reproduce it faithfully. But beyond
that, they really did not know what to do with Friendz
That winter Hasbro held a big
brainstorming session to which we were invited. There
were 20 company officials in attendance. Ideas were
tossed out on the table, suggestions for a gimmick, like
instant magic photos, albums, scrap books, etc. They were
also looking for a marketing direction. Should they
stress Friendz, or should the emphasis be on Family?
Focus groups had been conducted, the results of which
We were informed that thirty-five
dolls were planned for the initial introduction, along
with books, accessories, computer games, a website and a
Meanwhile, they forged ahead, working
on the dolls. They hired me to make final master sculpts
for the hands, feet, heads and bodies, as well as
additional heads with new expressions. That marked the
end of my involvement. The project now went undercover,
deep into the secret realms of Hasbro. It was in their
In big toy companies there are
frequent firings and hirings and employees come and go.
One most dynamic lady, who had worked for years on
Barbie, was hired to be a consultant on this project. She
had dominated the meeting in Pawtucket and was full of
great ideas. But she was released when her brief contract
with Hasbro ended. Several months into the project the
young lady who was acting as Project Manager for Friends
n Family went on maternity leave. More importantly,
at the end of the first year the head of Hasbros
entire girls division left the company. It was she, who
as a veteran of Cabbage Patch, had championed our dolls.
This spelled the doom of Friendz n Family.
The woman, who Hasbro hired to replace
her, took one look at the dolls, which were Hasbros
lead girls item for the following year, and
purportedly proclaimed. "Im not betting my
chances of succeeding here on a doll that doesnt do
anything!" And so she placed the dolls on a back
We were not informed of this decision
until nearly a year later, when our two year contract was
about to expire. At that time this same new Head of Girls
Product, who had managed to weather a lack luster year,
without our Friendz n Family, came to the Obb
apologetically. She confessed that she had been
responsible for putting the dolls on hold. And claimed
that, since then, she had done a complete turnabout and
"Now she got it!" proclaiming herself,
suddenly, a "Friendz n Family Moonie!"
Thus, Hasbro paid us an additional advance and extended
our contract for yet another year. Before that year was
over, they dropped the project. Why?
One thing never changed throughout the
three years Hasbro toyed with Friendz n Family,
they could never quite figure out a merchandising angle.
The dolls had visual appeal and play value, but they
didnt have a "feature" or a gimmick, or
any "pre-sell". The term "Pre-sell"
means a previous history of success that makes a property
instantly familiar. Pre-sell is why everything
"new" today, from toys to movies, is usually a
sequel or reissue of something old that has already been
successful in the past.
So what happened? Through the door
walked "Trollz", the marriage of the ugly, and
once popular, Trolls and the now hot Bratz. Trolls meets
Bratz! Whats not to understand? This, Hasbro could
grasp, they knew the merchandising angle. They thought it
would be an easy sell. So Friendz n Family were
replaced by "Trollz".
I dare say, Hasbro must have,
ultimately, regretted this decision. For Trollz were an
instant disaster and went directly to the close-out
counter, in spite of a TV show.