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Monday, March 11, 2013


Snap-a-Gator (Topps Chewing Gum) 1973

I applied the Mira-Hinge Corp spring hinge technology when creating the Snap-a-Gator, the second container for Topps Chewing Gum.  The kids loved it because they were able to bite each other by snapping the spring loaded alligator jaw with their thumbs.  The teeth were recessed so no one could get hurt.  My son recall a little girl classmate in the 4th grade who walked around the classroom with the Snap-a-Gator in her pocket with the head sticking out.

I started to create the Snap-a-Gator concept by sketching a top loading container.  A few characters of interest were selected but the alligator drew my attention.  I envisioned the Alligator to be the best selection because its jaw opens upward a naturally.  The Spring Hinge Geometry contributed towards a natural fit and became part of the jaw’s rear muscle.  By adding lifelike features and surfaces, the container took on a somewhat realistic appearance.  In order to make a plastic injection mold, the entire container had to be hand carved by a skilled sculptor in the field by the name of Mr. Bob Lemon.  He accepted the challenge and when he finished carving we had a lifelike reproduction of an Alligator body and upper jaw.  The material of choice used to carve the figure was Acetate.

This material carves best and allows minor errors to be quickly corrected by adding a new piece of acetate to the error spot with Acetone then continue carving.  The carving was sent to the caster to begin making a large production mold.  Getting the Snap-a-Gator out to the market was top priority.  Unfortunately, Mr. Shorin refused to wait the required additional week to harden the steel mold and gave the orders to run the unfinished mold and start production.

Although the Snap-a-Gator experienced fantastic sales, production capability was spotty at best.  As a result of running the non-hardened mold, the steel squashed under the great pressure of molding and the critical fit dimensions were lost.  There were many problems that occurred during the life of the mold causing many expensive stop-to-repair periods.  Many of the cavities were no longer operative and eventually the mold destroyed itself and the product ceased to exist.

Special Thanks To Tina D.  for photos of Snap A Gator.  


  1. I'm enjoying the stories behind your work! I missed out on Snap-a-Gator when I was a kid, but I'm sure if it was released a little later I would have snapped 'em up!

  2. I have a toy that is essentially just the head part, reworked to remove the handle part and replace it with wheels set into the bottom. To my recollection, I found it several years after the original was off the market, but I immediately recognized its "family resemblance" to the Snap-A-Gator.

  3. Is it possible that the sculptor was actually BILL Lemon? He's well remembered for sculpting many of the Aurora monster model kits, among many other projects.

  4. I have been able to obtain several on Ebay. Love this toy as a kid and was thrilled to have it again as an adult. Your father will always be remembered by me and I tell the story of this piece to all who visit my home.

  5. I suspect that this “Fritz Bauer” is the likely sculptor in question: