Friday, November 11, 2016

LEON NEON

1986

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     So if you got to this page from Facebook you've already seen this clip. It's from a very funny 'TRIBUTE PAGE' (If you can believe it) that a guy named Matt created to my 1986 Mattel toy...LEON NEON. There's a link later in this blog to his LEON NEON page.

Just so you get a quick idea of how this all worked.: In 1985 my job was to come up with some creative ideas and try to make prototypes any way I could to test and evaluate. Then I'd make a presentation and if the idea was good enough it would be 'taken-over' by engineering and marketing and it'd be out of my hands. I'd go on to other new ideas. Sometimes I'd see bits and pieces, prototype boxes or what have you when I'm walked  thru the building but really I'm out of the loop until one Saturday morning I'm lying in bed watching cartoons when this BLASTS across my tv screen.

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I didn't even know they were making a commercial. It was my first Mattel product and it's on TV. How cool is that. 


It started with this new group I was now in...NBC (New Business Concepts). I thought it would be cool for kids to have something like neon for kids to be able to make themselves.


I gathered that the running joke in the toy business was that you added the glow-in-the-dark feature when product line was on it's last legs. That's one way to think about it but what if you made the glow-in-the-dark THE MAIN feature So my idea was a KID-NEON (I called it that), a 'wire-like toy that any kid could manipulate creatively and see glow. In the biz that's considered an activity toy.

But I had no idea if this could be made, and at what cost and if anybody would even be interested. So I showed my idea to Susannah who sent me down to meet Wally Shapiro, a chemist in Mattel's Chem Lab. A Chem Lab. All this was new to me. Whereas back in New York nobody was ever happy to see you if you needed them to do something, Wally was both a pleasure and a treasure to work with. He reminded me about co-extrusion and suggested we start with an already available electrical wire since their industrial coverings would help us satisfy the wire safety requirements. He sent me off to shop and experiment. I bought and bent many different wires, imagining them surrounded with a layer of glow-in-the-dark soft plastic. I got the wire I liked best from a small hardware store in Long Beach. I gave my wire samples to Wally and a week or so later he's calling me to come down to the Chem Lab and when I do here are these fantastic industrial cardboard reels full of different color and wire KID NEONS. These are like some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. 


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About this time I realized that the name KID-NEON came out sounding too much like KIDNEY-ON and I changed the name to LEON NEON. It really didn't matter what I called it because Mattel had a special group that came up with all the toy names. 

I might have mentioned that our group shared a building with Mattel's A-V group so one day, after practicing all night to get the bending and the timing right, I asked my pal Clark Dugger to leave a camera and lights (and a footswitch) rolling on me while everyone went to lunch. I sat in the empty studio and I think it only took me a half-dozen takes until I got this. 


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And finally the 'PRESENTATION' day. Here's where all the people who'll decide on the fate of your toy will decide on the fate of your toy. And here's where, my friend the reader (you) are going to have to use your imagination. The fact is that Mattel's locked-down cameras at that time (1986) weren't good enough to let you see the 'glowing' part of the action so you'll just have to take my word for it. Also the sounds from the audience should give you a clue as to how it all went. Anyway as the lights went out an 'invisible' black curtain blocked the audience from seeing three 'dancers' (designers on our team) sneak in behind it. The center dancers body and arms were totally covered in LEON-NEON, but the two outer dancers only had one hand each covered with LEON-NEON.  When the black curtain dropped the writhing three dancers appeared to be a single lit-up person (that's the first scream) and then, as the music continues, the hands very slowly move farther away from the body than humanly possible (the second outburst). You'll just have to imagine (but it did look cool!)

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So it was accepted, taken out of my hands and put thru the Mattel machine that made it into a real product line ready for the whole American enterprise system.



Lord, my product even appeared on the back of boxes of Kellogg's Corn Pops. And it don't get much better than that in this U.S.of A! Better believe it!




Oh, by the way the naming group couldn't come up with a better name than LEON-NEON (and they tried) so LEON-NEON it was AND because it was an extrusion (meaning little hand labor), they could and did make it here in America. And since theyb were making it here, somebody from Engineering called me up and wanted to know where the hardware store was where I bought the electrical wire I used.


It made the back end of the toy 'TOP TEN' one month. It wasn't a big deal at Mattel. It was just a novelty item and lasted one year. But still the best, most creative and honest review can only be found at Matt's X-ENTERTAINMENT page here: 



I wasn't sure this was meant for me but it ws laying around so I took it. It's the in-store point-of-purchase display. I couldn't believe this stuff even existed for LEON-NEON.

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And finally, because you never know where this stuff leads you, Mattel gets this letter from a Veternarian asking for samples and info on LEON-NEON because it seems to make good emergency splints for small animals. His letter took it's time getting to me but rest assured his cup runneth over.









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