Return of the King of Gross: Toymaker Tim Clarke is back in the Boglins Business!

Boglins

The man who worked with Jim Henson on “The Muppets”, “Fraggle Rock” and “The Dark Crystal” is bringing his world famous 80’s monster toys, Boglins, back to slimy life!

Boglins

The phenomenon of “gross out” toys in the mid 1980’s gave us Doctor Dreadful’s Freaky Food Lab, Creepy Crawlers Bug Maker, Garbage Pail Kids, Madballs and, possibly the ultimate 80’s gross out toy creation, Boglins! Riding a wave of popular puppet horror films like “Gremlins”, “Critters” and “Ghoulies”, Boglins made the concept of making a frightening puppet horror blockbuster in your own bedroom a real possibility.

These rubbery, Kraton injection molded swamp dwellers came packaged in their own cage through which kids could insert their hand through a hole in the bottom and puppeteer the critter inside. A fairly sophisticated eye mechanism allowed the puppeteer to move the eyes back and forth to create a very realistic living creature nearly on par with what audiences were seeing on the big screen at the time.

The man responsible for unleashing these slimy buggers on the world is Tim Clarke, who earned the nickname “The King of Gross” for his creepy creations. This week I had the opportunity to chat with him about his early career working with Jim Henson on “The Muppets”, “Fraggle Rock” and “The Dark Crystal”, as well as about the incredible fan demand that resulted in Clarke creating a whole new line of Boglins now for sale on his website at www.totims.com!

“My mom would say my interest in art and fantasy started at birth,” says Clarke. “It was in grammar school, maybe second or third grade, when I first got a strong reaction to something I had built. I made a 12 inch Santa Claus for a Christmas project that my teacher thought was good enough to display behind glass in the school showcase year round.”

Instead of a lemonade stand, Clarke produced neighborhood puppet shows to make money. “I built a haunted house in our garage that I charged 25 cents admission to that scared the hell out of the kids at my school.”

After graduating from the Pratt Institute Art School in Brooklyn, Clarke was offered a job working for his former college teacher and famed Muppets puppet maker, Kermit Love. “I got my start actually painting Kermit’s house,” Clarke admits, “but went on to designing and building puppets for the version of ‘Sesame Street’ airing in Germany, Mexico and Kuwait.” Clarke also built an amazing 24 foot marionette giant for the New York City Ballet’s production of “Don Quixote”.

Boglins

One day Clarke stopped into Kermit Love’s office to ask about work and Love responded, “I’m glad you came by. Jim Henson is starting up a new feature film production and I want you to go interview with him.” The upcoming project was “The Dark Crystal”, and Clarke’s interview with Henson resulted in work as a creature designer/builder on the film.

“I sculpted and built the heads and hands of the Mystics based on the wonderful artwork of Brian Froud,” says Clarke. “I also built the Crystal Bats and many of the Pod People. Every time I submitted a Pod Person sculpt, Brian would say, ‘He looks too sad. They’re supposed to be Happy Potato People, but that’s okay we’ll use this one as a slave.’ The result was that ALL my Pod People ended up as slaves!”

After “The Dark Crystal”, Henson sent Clarke to New York to work on the “Fraggle Rock” TV series where he designed and built a character named Traveling Matt. He also built a chorus of sixteen radio controlled, singing Fraggles that appeared in every episode for the first two seasons.

Clarke’s first professional toy making job was designing Dark Crystal toys for Hasbro, where he built mock-ups for the Mystics, the Garthim and the Landstriders, but the toy line was ultimately dropped before it went into production. However, Clarke teamed up with agent Larry Mass and toy designer Maureen Trotto to sell a line of well-remembered toys called Sectaurs to Coleco which resulted in a short lived animated series and a Marvel comic book.

During this time, Clarke had cooked up the idea for Boglins and ultimately sold it to Mattel in 1987 resulting in a huge hit on store shelves across the world that year. Mattel’s order for a second wave of Boglins birthed the beloved and much coveted Halloween Boglins that can demand large sums on eBay and on the collector market if still in good condition and packaged in their original cage boxes.

“The Halloween Boglins did very well, so I pitched a line of Christmas Boglins, but Mattel declined,” he admits. “Then they dropped the whole line in the US to concentrate on their ‘core business,’ whatever that means. But the line went on to great popularity in England and France where over 100 mini Boglins were produced over the next seven years.”

Boglins

Now Tim Clarke has returned to the 80’s swamp to bring Boglins back to the world. Reintroducing the brand at the 2016 New York Comic Con where he sold out 400 hundred sets of exclusive mini Boglins, Clarke has begun producing brand new Boglins in his garage workshop.

“I’ve been trying to get them back into the market for some time due to the huge fan base,” says Clarke. “After the success at Comic Con, I started to investigate doing it on my own. While researching materials I met a chemist who was a huge Boglins fan and together we experimented until we found just the right, cost effective mixture to best replicate the original Boglins.”

“To date I’ve shipped new Boglins to England, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Australia, Germany and Japan,” says Clarke. “There’s a collector in Japan who has every single Boglin ever made.”

Clarke has been making limited special editions of his new creations in different colors and for holidays like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Not to worry, Halloween fanatics, Clarke is brewing ideas right now for some exclusive Halloween Boglins for 2018.

“Oh yes, I have some big ideas for Halloween,” he confesses. “I’d like to get back to making the larger ones and I’ve redesigned the eye mechanisms for them. I have the designs out to various manufacturers and I’m waiting on pricing to decide the best, most cost effective route to take. I always have people asking me about the unproduced Bat Boglins that we designed years ago, and I’d love to get around to those too.”

To find out more about Tim’s latest creations, order new Boglins or pick up an exclusive Boglins t-shirt check his website at www.totims.com and follow him at Tim (@timclarketoys) on Instagram.

THE DARK CRYSTAL Theatrical Screenings: Fathom Events is bringing “The Dark Crystal” back to movie theaters on Feb. 25 & 28 and March 3 & 6. Locally, tickets are available at Cinemark Mall St. Matthews, Cinemark Tinseltown and Regal New Albany Stadium 16.

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