Philip Lee is an ad man, a great admirer of vintage Macs and a lifelong collector of toy robots. From those three pieces of Lee’s life comes Classicbot, a line of designer toys that turns historic replica Apple hardware and desktop icons into adorable characters.
His first, the Classic, looks like the original Macintosh computer except with a friendly face, arms and legs. There’s even a cute mouse, a Font Suitcase that fits in the toy bot’s hand and a cardboard box reminiscent of the original packaging.
Lee’s instincts from a career in advertising guided him to connect emotionally with an audience. The Classic was an immediate hit with nostalgic Apple fans. A line of classic desktop icons, led by a happy Trashcan, followed and fans can expect a tangerine and bondi blue iBot later this summer.
“I have fun with it,” Lee, 46, told Cult of Mac. “When I do my ad presentation to a client, they either like it or not like it. When people see my toys, they always have a smile on their face. People are loving this. It’s very meaningful to them.”
Many toy designers use a vinyl substance to create whimsical characters in small batches. But vinyl would not allow Lee to incorporate many of the tiny details and sharp lines, so he instead turned to a more precise injection molding. It is more expensive and toys need to be produced in larger quantities, but Lee says he has had no problems with excess inventory.
The Classic stands 10 cm high with arms and legs attached with magnets in case a buyer wants to eliminate the toy factor. It is available on the Classicbot website for $29.
The Trashbot stands tallest in a series called Trashbot & Friends. The friends are Errorbot, and plastic icons representing Mail, Folder, and Disk. The set runs $32.
An online store featured in DesignTAXI also carries Classicbot creations.
In August, he will offer for pre-sale two colors of the iMac G3 with some of the other colors to follow.
Lee feels he has more material in classic Apple devices, like the iPod or Newton, for toy bots. His first computer was the Apple IIe and a toy bot tribute is on his drawing board. He said he may also explore other 80s and 90s tech, like the first Sony Walkman.
“The (classic machines) have a lot of volume and so you can create characters,” he said. “It’s difficult with the latest generation of Macs. There’s not a lot of character or volume. Everything is thin.”