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Moishe Prototype from "Where the Wild Things Are"


Toy designer Mel Birnkrant recorded the story of creating character products based on Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are," of which this Moishe prototype is one. Birnkrant wrote on his website, "Harry hired the best image maker in the business, an amazing young lady named, Bonnie Erickson. Bonnie had formerly worked with Henson Associates, where she created Miss Piggy, as well as many other leading Muppet characters. Now, she and her husband, Wade Harrison had gone into business together. And within a few short years, Harrison Erickson designed the characters and costumes of some of the most famous sports mascots in America. These were exciting days. Maurice and I met with Bonnie and her crew of craftsmen several times, in her studio in Manhattan. Each time, a lavish lunch was offered. The first visit was to get acquainted and discuss the dolls, their construction, and the various fabrics that would be required. At this point, we made some important decisions. I had visualized Max as being smaller than the Wild Things, as he appears in the book. Now, his size was debated, and we unanimously agreed that it would be better merchandising to make him nearly the same size as the others, so, all the dolls could sell for the same price. Several days later, there was another meeting at Bonnie’s studio. On this momentous occasion, she submitted the final samples with all the fabrics we had chosen. They were met with unanimous approval, and I took these precious objects home with me. Now, came the moment of truth. This was one of the scariest things I ever dared to do, to take up pen in hand and draw right on the one and only final set, in a do or die attempt to emulate the look and feel of Maurice’s inimitable linework. I lightly penciled in the eyes, then, set right in, using a thin marking pen. For once in my life, Fate was being kind. With the Wild Things book, open before me, my heart was beating madly, as I boldly inked in one line at a time. Swept up in an aura of fantasy, I felt as if some unknown force was guiding me. To my astonishment, and grateful for the help I seemed to be receiving, I watched as every line, every crosshatch, every delicate detail, from the Main Guy’s fierce but friendly grin, to the subtle look of mischief on Max’s bold, but simple face was taking shape, quite perfectly. Finally, when the final line was penned, I felt, as if I had been blessed. I felt, as if I’d passed a test, or maybe, won the gold in an Olympic event. It was all smooth sailing from then on, as I worked late into the night, carefully applying the subtle colors in the form of Magic Markers, which happened to be a medium I had mastered, doing countless comps for Colorforms. As the hours ticked by, I colored the bulls entire body to get the shade of the blue just right, and I even lavished flesh on parts of Max that would never be seen, unless he were undressed. And when the job was done, even though, it was the middle of the night, I shot some instant Polaroids. My favorite Wild Thing looked exactly like the illustrations in the book."

  • Artist: Maurice Sendak | Mel Birnkrant
  • Designer: Bonnie Erickson
  • Material: fabric | synthetic hair
  • Origin: USA
  • Style: pattern
  • Object ID: 116.7007
  • Credit Line: Gift of Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison
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