Tag Archives: PEZ Museum

World’s Largest PEZ? Museum owner braces for bittersweet fight

PEZ Sexual Reassignment Surgery: Black market “fantasy” KISS dispensers made from modified Wonder Women dispensers. PEZ eventually offered a licensed official KISS set due to the popularity of the bootlegs.

By Darren Garnick
The Boston Herald
Original Publication Date: July 29, 2009
Museum curator Gary Doss doesn’t anticipate his front door being demolished by bulldozer or chainsaw, but he’s taking the threat to behead his most popular exhibit seriously.

Doss runs the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia in California, boasting a display of every cartoon candy dispenser manufactured since 1952.  His centerpiece is a 7-foot-10-inch tall plastic snowman that was immortalized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Candy Dispenser. More than 20 times the size of a traditional dispenser, the giant snowman gives customers a snowman PEZ when its head is tilted back.

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose last month, the PEZ company wants the snowman “destroyed” and demands that the museum pay unspecified damages for trademark violations.

“Their intention is to shut me down,” says Doss. “The big question is why. We consider this a work of art and we don’t need permission to make a work of art. It’s a one-of-a-kind item and it’s not for sale.”

“If they had any American in them, they would just build a larger dispenser and settle everything right there,” he adds, referring to the Connecticut-based PEZ’s ownership by a Swiss parent company.

“You can’t claim to have the ‘World’s Largest Coke Bottle’ if Coca Cola is not involved,” counters attorney Alan Behr, who represents PEZ in the suit.  “If you don’t protect your trademark rights, you’ll lose them.”

Doss has done the copyright dance with PEZ since he opened his museum and gift shop 14 years ago. The business used to be a computer store that was decorated with PEZ dispensers, but made the switch when more customers asked about collectibles than software.

The shop was originally named the PEZ Museum but was changed to the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia to avoid the perception of being officially sanctioned. Doss also changed the “World’s Largest PEZ Dispenser” designation to the “World’s Largest Dispenser of PEZ.”

The World’s Largest Dispenser of PEZ in Burlingame, California.

Now, the PEZ company is challenging Doss’ right to repackage smiley face dispensers with his museum’s name on it and a 2008 election promotion that put Barack Obama and John McCain stickers on “PEZident” tractor trailer trucks.  The lawsuit demands that sales figures for these repackaged figures be accounted for to determine damages.

PEZ company CEO Joe Vittoria promises to donate those “unauthorized” profits to charity.

“We don’t care about the money,” he says. “With the giant PEZ dispenser, what would happen if someone put their hand in there and got hurt?  Who’s going to get all the complaints?”

Vittoria says he has similar concerns with the safety of the paint used on so-called “fantasy” dispensers which are made by collectors from PEZ products.  He admits to admiring the artwork on unauthorized KISS rock star dispensers which are made from PEZ Wonder Woman heads* (widely available on eBay), but says his company is going after anyone who mass produces them.

Doss, meanwhile, refuses to budge.

“Once you own something, you can do what you want with it. It’s the same thing as customizing your car. If you want to paint your car purple, add flames to it, put a ‘Save the Whales’ sticker on it and then resell it, you have the right to do it,” he says.

“Up until the last few weeks, I’ve had the best job in the world,” Doss adds. “But PEZ isn’t going to convince me to give up. I’m not going away.”


*Note: Artists have been selling “fantasy” Michael Jackson dispensers also crafted from the Wonder Woman heads. The “King of Pop” must have been flattered.

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Candy Wars: Toymaker hopes to behead PEZ

Herobuilders once promised to do to PEZ what Bratz dolls (temporarily) did to Barbie, starting with this presidential “Candy Date” dispenser of Republican Rudy Guiliani. Herobuilders, under pressure from PEZ lawyers, stopped using PEZ bodies and designed their own mechanism for delivering treats.

By Darren Garnick
The Boston Herald
Original Publication Date: January 27, 2010
Of all the possible reasons to enter the candy business, vengeance doesn’t immediately come to mind.

But for a toy manufacturer best known for its “good guy” action figures of U.S. presidents and its “bad guy” figures of America’s enemies, perhaps it’s not so strange that the war metaphor would apply to its latest product launch, too.

Emil Vicale, CEO of Connecticut-based Herobuilders.com, ambitiously aims to behead PEZ Candy, the iconic company that’s been making plastic cartoon and animal characters for its sugary pellets since the 1950s.

Herobuilders’ new “Head Candy” dispensers will be available this summer as both mass-produced licensed characters and as personalized novelty toys that put a customer’s face on the body of a superhero or a business executive. Vicale is now taking orders for the customized candy dispensers, which cost $299.99 for the first one and $29.95 for duplicates. The price point for the cartoon dispensers, which will go head-to-head with $1.50 packages of PEZ, has not been announced.

Vicale has been making hand-sculpted customized toys for more than a decade. His upcoming Don Quixote-esque retail battle stems from a conflict last year over his practice of selling Herobuilder heads on PEZ bodies.  PEZ threatened legal action against Vicale if he did not stop producing so-called “fantasy” dispensers.  The company is also suing the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia in California for putting its name on smiley face PEZ and other alleged trademark infractions. The case is expected to go to trial in November.

Both Herobuilders and the Burlingame Museum insist they have the legal right to modify any product and resell it, just like a garage that customizes souped-up motorcycles or cars. But Vicale has since stopped using rectangular PEZ bodies and has designed his own cylinder-shaped dispenser instead. His candies, featuring bright-colored “over the top” flavors such as “Extreme Cherry,” and “Crazy Strawberry,” will be round — and the spring-loaded mechanisms will also hold Sweet Tarts and Spree brand candies.

Vicale dismissively calls Pez candies “chalk,” and predicts a loyal following because his dispensers will be “made in America, by Americans for Americans” at his Connecticut facility. Although PEZ candy itself is made in Orange, Conn., most dispensers are imported from China and Eastern Europe.

The most obvious difference between the two products is what’s underneath their candy-spouting necks. PEZ characters famously sport stick figures with no arms or legs. Vicale gives “Head Candy” dispensers full bodies, hoping children will play with them like they do with action figures. “We’re going to take over this market just like Bratz took down Barbie and took over the entire doll world,” he says.

Want to see yourself immortalized as a candy dispenser? Herobuilders CEO Emil Vicale did.

Repeated efforts to interview PEZ CEO Joe Vittoria about his upcoming competition were unsuccessful. But chances are, he is not losing any sleep over it. According to the official PEZ Web site, Americans currently consume three billion pellets each year. And their market dominance even extends into the Vicale household.

“Whenever my daughter sees a frickin’ Pez, I have to buy one,” Vicale admits. “I have them all over my house.”

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