Author Topic: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein  (Read 13937 times)

roheimiana

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Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« on: January 11, 2008, 02:54:21 PM »
A quick explanation, folks – this discussion began on another thread with the following comment by EYE OF KHARIS:

"Bill Lemon was quoted that he was given "a Frankenstein toy" to base his acetate sculpture on for the Aurora kit - some have speculated it was the Marx windup Frankie, but that didn't come out until 1963. The first Aurora longbox Frankie kit came out in 1961, so what was the toy Lemon was given?"

What ensues has now been moved here:


The notion that Bill Lemon used an existing Frankenstein toy to design the Aurora kit seems most unlikely. This argument surfaced on a thread at CHFB a while ago and was based on claims by the toy historian, Thomas Graham. After considerable discussion, it was concluded that Graham’s speculation was founded more on a desire to embellish the story he was telling than on any actual evidence.

You can check the details here:

http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/topic/777

« Last Edit: January 11, 2008, 05:54:49 PM by roheimiana »

Eye of Kharis

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Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2008, 04:21:11 PM »
The notion that Bill Lemon used an existing Frankenstein toy to design the Aurora kit seems most unlikely.



Thanx for the link, very interesting thread but... hmmm, I dunno. I was referring to this article that's basically an interview with Lemon himself, in which he seems pretty lucid regarding details:

http://img508.imageshack.us/my.php?image=scan0008tk4.jpg
http://img508.imageshack.us/my.php?image=scan0009ti4.jpg

While yes, it is Graham's speculation the toy was the Frankie windup, it's Lemon himself who sez he was given a toy. He's pretty specific on other details in the article, so why doubt the validity of that particular claim?

Plus, think about it, isn't it unlikely as an artist Lemon would say he copied a design if he did not do so...?

My best guess after reading the CHFB thread (and especially considering Ted Newsom's 1961 correspondence with Marx stating that a windup was already being developed) is that there was a prototype already done for the Marx windup and that's what Lemon was given. The toy just wasn't officially released until 1963.

Further thoughts and speculations?
« Last Edit: January 11, 2008, 04:38:23 PM by Eye of Kharis »
"There's a curse upon it - it means death to whoever breaks that seal..."- heard whenever my kids want to open my shrinkwrapped vintage Auroras

roheimiana

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2008, 05:36:31 PM »
EYE OF KHARIS, thanks so much for your link in return! I’ve been trying to get a copy of the Lemon interview for ages and now I have it. This has truly made my day. ;D

A couple of quick reactions.

First, the discussion at the CHFB was based on Graham’s comments in his Aurora book(s), not on direct statements from Lemon himself, so this article potentially casts a different light on things. Nevertheless, I’m still concerned about the fact that Graham seems to be a rather sloppy scholar and I wonder how much editing, interpolation, and even interpretation went on with the interview material presented. Unfortunately, this problem is at its greatest when it comes to the claim about the Marx walker. This statement appears in brackets (the only ones in the article!) and I doubt Mr. Lemon was talking in brackets… so I assume this is Graham’s own addition, perhaps even one of his own pet theories. If so, for the extensive reasons offered at the CHFB, the notion appears to be a pretty shaky one.

Second, the Aurora Frankie existed as a dummy box well before Lemon made the kit prototype. Is it possible he was following the graphic on the box, rather than an actual toy? I don’t know but this seems so much more likely to me, particularly when there were so many IMAGES of the Frankenstein monster circulating at the time, thanks to Shock, Famous Monsters, Universal publicity and the like.

Third and most important, no one here seems to know anything about a Frankenstein toy which existed prior to the Aurora model. So what in the world could it have been? Is Ray Castile or some other major collector hiding something from us which would be as rare and valuable as the missing footage from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man? (Just a joke, Ray... unless you really do have something in one of those boxes!)

It’s too bad Bill Lemon died in 1994 and, to the best of my knowledge, only did interviews with Graham during his lifetime. Otherwise, we’d be a lot closer to an answer here….




Toy Ranch

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2008, 06:13:00 PM »
Memories tend to meld together, especially things that don't seem important at the time...  we're talking about the recollection of an elderly fellow thinking back on something he'd done 30+ years earlier to earn a paycheck.  30 years ago, I got my first job, at Six Flags Over Texas.  If you ask me today which attractions I worked on, I could tell you some of them, and perhaps relate a few anecdotes, but I wouldn't swear that any of it was accurate.  What were you doing at your job 30 years ago? 

There weren't any Frankenstein toys prior to the Aurora Model.  That was the first...

Eye of Kharis

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2008, 06:30:36 PM »
 
There weren't any Frankenstein toys prior to the Aurora Model.  That was the first...

If you mean there weren't any Frankenstein toys released prior to the Aurora Model, I agree.

And that's the whole key right there - the copyright dates on the boxes would correspond to the release year of the toy or model.

Good points all, but it is still very conceivable - and likely - to me that there could have been a prototype pattern for the windup in 1960/61, possibly even done right at HMS where Lemon worked at the time. Especially if it were "already in development" and "would be available soon" as per Ted Newsom's 1961 letter from Marx.

And ROHEIMIANA, I'm very happy I could make your day with the article!

Now, Lemon may no longer be with us, but anyone know who sculpted the Marx Windup or the history of that toy? Was there a delay in getting it released?

« Last Edit: January 11, 2008, 06:37:50 PM by Eye of Kharis »
"There's a curse upon it - it means death to whoever breaks that seal..."- heard whenever my kids want to open my shrinkwrapped vintage Auroras

raycastile

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2008, 06:35:54 PM »
I can't think of what toy Bill Lemon could be talking about...oh wait, I have it!  It must be this rubber Frankie from 1959 which looks exactly like the Aurora Frank!



This is undoubtably the toy in question!  The only markings are a bunny logo on its back.



;)

Raymond Castile

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2008, 06:46:15 PM »
Did the windup predate the batt op???

Toy Ranch

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2008, 07:04:35 PM »
The Frankenstein Robot is based on the chassis for Marx's Mr Mercury Robot, which debuted in 1961.  The 1961 version was blue and had plastic arms.  In 1962, it went to metal arms.  Then in 1963 the paint scheme changed and it was gold colored.

This is the 1961 version:



This is the gold one that came out in 1963:


1963 toy catalog



Sears catalog of 1965 and the gold Mr Mercury is still going strong.



This was not a big design change... they made the chest plain and added a plastic head to an already existing robot.  Garloo's patent number is 3,199,249 and he appeared in the Alden's catalog in 1961.

Eye of Kharis

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2008, 07:05:58 PM »
Did the windup predate the batt op???

Y'know, I wondered that myself... both boxes have a copyright of 1963... and the Aurora kit sure has the straight arms of the batt op instead of the bent arms of the w/u... hmmmmm
"There's a curse upon it - it means death to whoever breaks that seal..."- heard whenever my kids want to open my shrinkwrapped vintage Auroras

roheimiana

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2008, 08:08:30 PM »
First, I’m entirely on the side of the Unbelievers here. Second, I suspect I’m about to offer a real red herring but I’ll risk it anyway. Third, I enjoy science fiction.

A couple of years ago, our own Leader (fmofmpls) posted an article on his website about what is most likely a FAKE Marx prototype, one for a DOCTOR Frankenstein robot. Here’s the link:

http://castlefamous.blogspot.com/2006/08/is-this-doctor-quack.html



…and here’s a picture of the toy in question:



Now, as is pretty obvious, this is nothing more than a repainted b/o Frankie, certainly not the sales sample for a new product it was claimed to be at the time it was auctioned for a pretty penny.

But here’s my question. Wouldn’t an in-house prototype at a ‘60s toy company start out with some simple rejigging of an existing product, much like the above fake? And, since Bobby has pointed out that the Marx Frankie body was based on the 1961 Mr. Mercury, mightn’t someone – again, in-house at Marx – have been playing around with a proto-Frankie design using Mr. Mercury? Might Lemon somehow have seen this… particularly in light of the usually reliable Ted Newsom’s comments on the above thread at the CHFB?

I overwhelmingly doubt it -- but it’s the only hypothesis which somehow reconciles Lemon’s memories (assuming they were not confused by time or fabricated by Graham) with the available evidence. Also, it keeps a small amount of hope alive for our tana-drinking friend, Mr. EYE… and I'm presently in his debt.

« Last Edit: January 11, 2008, 08:40:27 PM by roheimiana »

Eye of Kharis

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2008, 08:57:17 PM »

But here's my question. Wouldn't an in-house prototype at a ‘60s toy company start out with some simple rejigging of an existing product?



Seems plausible - so anyone know when this MARX windup come out?



« Last Edit: January 11, 2008, 09:03:58 PM by Eye of Kharis »
"There's a curse upon it - it means death to whoever breaks that seal..."- heard whenever my kids want to open my shrinkwrapped vintage Auroras

raycastile

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2008, 11:32:02 PM »
Bobby, do you own those catalogs?  I love seeing those pictures of the Kong, Yeti and that hand.  Is that the Cragston hand?

The Frankenstein Robot is based on the chassis for Marx's Mr Mercury Robot, which debuted in 1961.  The 1961 version was blue and had plastic arms.  In 1962, it went to metal arms.  Then in 1963 the paint scheme changed and it was gold colored.

This is the 1961 version:

This is the gold one that came out in 1963:

1963 toy catalog

Sears catalog of 1965 and the gold Mr Mercury is still going strong.

This was not a big design change... they made the chest plain and added a plastic head to an already existing robot.  Garloo's patent number is 3,199,249 and he appeared in the Alden's catalog in 1961.
Raymond Castile

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2008, 12:52:27 AM »
No I don't Raymond.  I used to own copies of those but sold off my toy catalog collection.  I found those pics over at the robot collector group.  Yes, that is the Cragstan Creeping Crawling Hand!


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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2008, 01:03:38 AM »
Well, I don't know about the "Dr Frankenstein" robot.  I've heard all the stories, participated in the discussions, and it could very well be a prototype Dr Frankenstein robot but if it is...  then it was a stupid idea and it's a stupid toy, IMO.  It's no surprise that they didn't build it.  But they did throw-together prototypes...  like the Monster Mansion playset.  They painted up a Robin Hood castle and threw in a bunch of MPC figures and borrowed some accessories from other playsets and modified some of them and they had a prototype.


This isn't something that "might" have been a prototype, it is verified and today lives in the Marx Museum.  They used this cobbled-together set as a sales sample



Marx had amazing playsets and intricate accessories and wonderful figure sculpts that were totally original.  The finished version of this would have been radically different (and even way more wonderful) if they'd made it.  The point is that they made prototypes of stuff all the time, and while there is reason to believe that is a fake...  there's better prototypes someone could fake if they were intent on doing that, and it's not out of bounds for Marx to have picked up a Frankbot and painted it.  My guess is that if it is not a fake, then it was probably made as a gag or something.

Which brings us back around to this Aurora question... 

As far as the goofy frank goes...  dunno what year that was made...  have any idea when this was made?



How about the later version with plastic head and arms, but metal chest? 

It makes sense to me that the 1963 reworking of the Mr Mercury and the 1963 introduction of the Frankenstein Robot are related to one another.

Quote from: Ted Newsom(*at*)CHFB
I know for a fact that after first seeing a TV commercial for "Great Garloo" (which would be 1961, when it came out; I was eight), I wrote a letter to Marx toys complete with a "diagram drawing" saying it would be a great idea if they came out with a toy Frankenstein "... with the same wirring [sic]as Great Garloo." About three weeks later I received a reply from Marx (To "Master Teddy Newsom," no less. One does not forget, Herr Baron, a letter from a big toy company, on letterhead paper, no less) thanking me for my interest and saying they were already in the process of producing such an item, and it should be available soon. I'm not taking credit for them doing it, or suggesting they ripped off a little kid-- but these details stick out in my mind clearly. A couple months later, there it was in the winter/Xmas Sears Catalogue, top-left part of a left-hand page, right next to Great Garloo itself. So logically this would be winter, 1961.


With all due respect to Ted Newsom, whose posts I have read and are very well composed and knowledgable...  the Frankenstein Robot did not appear in the 1961 Sears catalog, it appeared in the 1963 Sears catalog, for the first time.  Garloo was on store shelves for 3 or 4 years at least, and Garloo did debut in 1961.

And once again that memory thing comes into play.  It was a very long time ago.  Memories, even very clear ones, are not that dependable.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2008, 01:05:27 AM by Toy Ranch »

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Re: Bill Lemon's Aurora Frankenstein
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2008, 01:39:06 AM »
These were posted later in the CHFB thread.






 

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