Working at the Marvin Glass Studio
Recollections of former employee; Erick Erickson

This is Marvin himself with the specs, the story goes Marvin was at a party one time and he was talking to a self-absorbed bore.   He stopped listening to what the person was saying and in his mind the persons glasses just kept getting bigger and bigger...

"Working for Marvin Glass was wild... The atmosphere was a cross between James Bond & the Playboy mansion."

In a fortress built at LaSalle Street and Chicago Avenue in Chicago were employed about 75 people, 6 partners, designers, artists, model makers, a patent artist, a lawyer, and Pauline the receptionist.   Oh yeah - and an oriental chef; Poy Tom, who cooked the executives' lunches.   The Marvin Glass studio was amazingly prolific, their wide range of toys changed all of our lives. They were the Walt Disney of the toy biz.

Mr. Glass started in 1949 his first inventions were a pocket theater, Yakity-Yak teeth, and a little chicken you pushed down and it laid a gumball.   Remember that one?

For a long period of time the Marvin Glass logo was proudly displayed on the boxes of the toys, this was the only company to get such credit on manufactured items. I think this policy ended after Marvin's death.   A great number of toys would hit the market out of the studio.   The toy biz is like show biz - not all toys are a big hit.    So it was the management's idea to remove the logo because they did not want to take credit for the flops... I think it was a bad idea to retract it.

Here is a list of just some of the toys that Marvin Glass designed in the 60's.   Some of the 70's toys he designed are interesting also.

1960 Mr machine
61 robot commando
62 king zor
62 odd ogg
62 haunted house
62 gaylord
62 golferino
63 mouse trap
63 jungle hunt
63 king of the hill
63 penny the poodle
63 dandy the lion
65 mystery date
64 clancy the chimp
64 smarty bird
64 hands down
64 time bomb
64 rock'em sock'em robots
65 operation
65 tipit
66 mosquito game
67 koo koo choo choo
67 clean sweep
1967 fang bang
67 lite bright
67 tha kid
1968 little lost baby
68 bucket of fun
68 recall68 tight squeeze
68 sand lot slugger
68 doodle light
68 hip flip
68 situation 4
69 limbo legs
69 oh nuts
69 sketch a toon
69 humor rumor
69 magic lite
69 kooky carnival
69 toss across
69 astro lite
69 astro sound
69 finders keepers
69 dynamite shack
69 ants in the pants
70 ssp

Marvin's Security Issues

Security at Marvin Glass was more hoopla than anything else. It made for good publicity and Marvin loved it.   Marvin's office was double-walled and set to the inside of the building so that "spies" could not eavesdrop from the moody bible institute across the street.   This kind of industrial spying just never happened.   But because Marvin promoted it they made several episodes of TV series about wacky toy designers protecting their ideas with their lives.

Marvin also installed 2 giant room sized safes, like bank vaults.  There he would insist that the model makers put the toy models in for the night.   When Marvin was gone the items stayed at the workers' benches and the vaults were never used again.

To get in the front door Pauline would see you on a TV , she would see you from the second level.   In those days it was like something out of a movie, now it is commonplace.   The customers from all the great toy companies of the world would enter past bronze nudes and climb a spectacular staircase where the lovely Pauline would greet them.

About stolen ideas - ideas are cheap - its pulling it off that's the hard part.   The work of the execution of the idea in a marketable way is what gives the reward and Marvin Glass and Associates was set up to do that .   They also had the respect of the manufacturers so they always had an audience. Many times toys were parallel invented, that is to say that the same concept was developed independently in two different places.   When both showed up at the toy show in February it would be a shock.   I think this happened because the time was just right for a particular item, influenced by the evolutionary progress of toys plus the cultural complexion of the day.  But there was no spying or theft of ideas.

Marvin died about 1975, two years before I worked there.    I never met him, but dug out all the stories from those who knew him.    Marvin did not kill himself as is widely reported. He died naturally.    He was at the top when he died, he built an empire, his life was great, there was a photo spread in Playboy at his mansion.   He loved women.    In fact he was married to a vibrant and beautiful young woman from Puerto Rico when he died.

1970's Marvin Glass designs:

which witch 1970 Milton Bradley
rattle battle 1970 Parker Brothers
Quick shot 1970 Ideal
mind maze 1970 Parker brothers
mr. Mad 1970 Ideal
Masterpiece 1971 Parker Brothers
smash up derby 1971 Kenner
Gnip Gnop 1971 parker brothers
inch worm 1971
stay alive 1971 Milton Bradley
dont blow your top 1972 Schoper
super sunday football 1973
snap bowling 1973 Ideal
evel knievel 1973 Ideal
ricochet racers 1974
tug boat 1974 parker Brothers
jack be nimble 1974 schoper
trip hamer 1974 Milton Bradley
the tiny tim of beautiful things 1970
twiddler 1970 Parker brothers
the wall walkers 1970
snoopy and the red baron 1970 milton bradley
mad marbles 1970 lakeside
horsin around 1970
sure shot games Ideal 1970
brink ball 1970 lakeside

Marvin, the Man

Fishlove was the premiere joke and gag manufacturer of the times and they were a client of Marvin Glass [ yakity-yak teeth & super specs ].   Marvin was preparing a presentation of new items.   A designer (I wish I remembered his name) came up with the totally original idea of fake vomit.   He showed it to Marvin and Marvin hated it.   "That's disgusting, you're sick, there is nothing funny about it." shouted Marvin Glass.

The presentation with Fishlove was not going anywhere.  Several items were met with polite interest but nothing more.  The fake vomit designer then burst through the conference room door and slapped the PUKE squarely on the table in front of the client.   You can imagine Marvin's face.    Fishlove was laughing hysterically and clearly loved it. Marvin immediately piped up; "Yes this is great! That's why we saved it for last.  We love it!", and Marvin sold it to the client like it was the greatest thing ever.

One of the secrets to Marvin Glass' success is that he never expected his clients to have any imagination.   He presented to them a prototype that was totally complete and as close to a production piece as possible.    The models were fully functional complete with artwork and theme .  The client had to ask himself just one question, "Could I sell this item?"    The production art work and sculpting was shared between the client and the Marvin Glass studios.   Usually the studio just assisted with the art work when asked by the client because they were rapidly approaching the toy fair deadline.    The sculptings were most always used original casts made by Lyle Conway pre 1976 and then John Balough.   After that were sent to the factories to be mass produced. The box artwork was virtually never done by the Marvin Glass studio.

Click Here to GO TO PAGE 2 of Marvin Glass for more photos from Erick's collection

Erick Erickson - eeerickson@verizon.net

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