June 3, 2007

"You Oobi, Huh? I Design Your Eyes."

bladerunner_oobi.jpg

Except that his creation hasn't come back to slaughter him--yet--Hobey Ford is Dr. Hannibal Chew to Oobi's Roy.

The North Carolina puppeteer was issued a design patent in 1996 for Finger Puppets, the bulging eyes-on-ring device that turns a bare hand into a creature. Yet it appears that Ford has no connection at all to Oobi the show, which was created by Josh Selig, a former Sesame Street writer-turned-preschool producer [whose other big show, Wonderpets, is equally infectious and sligthly less annoying.]

hobart_ford_design_patent.jpg

Neither Selig's company, nor Noggin, nor its corporate parents Nickelodeon or Viacom, sells Oobi Eyes.

Yet, there's a website called OobiEyes.com which has a wide assortment of eye puppets patterned after the Oobi TV characters. [They also sell "hand wigs"; presumably Senor Wences' patent expired long ago.] The OobiEyes.com people take care to note they are not affiliated with Viacom, et al, but they make no mention of Ford, either.

oobi_eyes_hand_wig.jpg

And yet, Ford sells finger puppets/eye puppets under the brand name Peepers Puppet [or Peeper Puppets, it's both ways on the website.]

Now I'm not saying Selig and Viacom ripped Ford off in creating Oobi; Oobi's annoying personality, syntax, and universe have nothing to do with his eyes. Who knows, maybe Selig even bought some Peepers Puppets to develop the show. [Or maybe Ford just got the patent for a classic puppeteer's device; on a Muppet forum, someone said that Sesame Street auditions can involve just a pair of ping pong balls on a rubber band.]

So what's the point? Nothing really, I just find the situation mildly interesting, and not just because there's rampant and overt infringement of various patents and copyrights going every which way, but yet no one involved seems to mind.

Maybe there was a puppet detente; some puppetworld godfather sat everyone down and said, "No more." Or maybe the Oobi Eye market's not big enough to fight over; people are just hoping to get rid of all those cases of eyes in the garage so they can pay off the home equity loan they financed them with. Or maybe people who express themselves through puppets are not the most assertive or confrontational personalities to begin with, even when they work for giant corporations.

I know one thing, though: I'm going to go get me a patent on hand wigs right now.

Finger Puppet: Hobart Ford, issued 1996 [google patent search]
Previously: Oobi Drive Nail Into Daddy's Brain

4 Comments

"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes."

Best movie ever. However, kind of a strange product this.

Veering even further off topic, have a look at James Hong's IMDB entry. That guy has been working non-stop (312 acting credits!) for over 50 years. Awesome.

[no kidding. good thing he didn't get the Sulu gig; we may never have had Big Trouble In Little China -ed.]

I saw Hobey Ford perform once. He uses the eyeballs in his show, and sells them afterwards. All the kids in the crowd (including mine) see them and say, "Oobie!"

[ouch. -ed.]

How do buy them.

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