great robots & toys
from the space age

Iz and the Zizzles

Above: Three colorful Iz displays. Iz's nose horn changes color to the music when plugged into an iPod or MP3 player. When not plugged in, it flashes to the beat or various patterns. These are random shots from a camera timer. The main other colors are white and red.

What's Up with Iz?
Where did this unique, alien-looking thing come from? Is it electronic? What's it do? Enquiring minds want to know. Iz comes from Hong Kong (although that may just be where he parked his space ship). There's no on-off switch on the back. Touching his tummy turns him on, and touching 9:00 a few times turns him off (think of his belly as a clock). His belly controls his mode and seven beat tracks. Turning his ears controls seven lead and rhythm tracks. But "control" is the wrong word.  The tracks are short sample loops that are varied and mixed together with the various controls, created an Izperience. There's also an Iz radio mode, in which he sounds like a tuning radio, or talks in Iz-speak. If you plug a song into him, he'll talk or make noises. His eyes also bob up and down as his nose horn variously pulsates, flashes, and cycles colors.
Above left: A dad or mom Iz surrounded by lots of little Izes who invaded the world in 2007 in MacDonald's Happy Meals. Above right: most of the mini- Izes did one thing that the big Iz could do. They are suprisingly well- made, each with an on-off switch on the back. There was a very large assortment of color combinations. Most ran some sample music rhythm track when you turned one of their ears. A few, shown above, had nose horns which lit, instead of audio tracks. Those shown on both sides lit when you turned their ears. The one shown in the middle lit momentarily when you pressed its tummy.

Our take on Iz.
Iz is a victim of its own success. It invaded toy departments at a time when they weren't prepared to handle collector quality toys (which is why so few are made). The same thing happened to Trendmaster's Iron Giant and Lost in Space classic toys when the then largest toy chain declined to handle all but the tiniest part of the line. Iz, on the other hand, did exist in stores, but in the wrong department (electronics would be a better area), at a time no one knew what it was, and as a futuristic item with appeal to early adopters. Until you play with one, it's somewhat difficult to figure out what it is or what it does. We got a blue one from a small electronics kiosk in an airport. Here's our take.
Iz looks like it was designed by Apple. It's sleek, simple, beautifully made. And it works with an iPod. It's not primarily an iPod accessory, however, as it runs on four AA batteries, and functions more like a speaker than an amplifier, although there is a volume control feature. Many of the negative reviews on Amazon of Iz (most of them are positive) could refer to lots of other toys/ electronics accessories as well. Someone complained Iz doesn't dance, and they are right. The only movement is its eyes move up and down (and not all the time). But like an eMac or an iBook, Iz looks good off. Also, the only part that lights up is his nose horn. that said, Iz is much more interactive than a toy that merely cycles through lights or sounds when you press a button. Someone complained that Iz annoyingly talks in Iz-speak when they play their iPod through him. Well, don't connect him to your iPod (that advice is free, next time we'll charge for our help desk). Iz is what he is. As Popeye said, "I yam what I yam, and that's all that I am".

The mini-Izes in the snapshot above left aren't dancing; it's merely camera shake that results in this blur of color. We don't want them to dance. They look great just standing around. Their three feet are also slightly poseable, as are their ears. Pulling Iz's top hat (known as his Flicker) also does things on the big Iz and a few of the small ones. There are a lot of Happy Meal toys out there, so small Izes ought to be quite abundant and easily obtained. If you're making dioramas, like the big Iz, they look great just standing around. The big Iz ought to be making a comeback, coming out in various models or a 2.0 upgrade, it seems to us, rather than slipping into collector status. Everything collectible was once retail, though, and that's the best time to get it. This is one of the few items in recent memory where each color was sold separately. Below are a few Amazon links (also see the Robot Store). Note that various colors are available new or used for widely varying prices. "New" on Amazon doesn't necessarily mean "retail": it could also refer to a collectible being sold at a marked up price by what Amazon calls a "seller". There was also a short-lived cartoon that made it to DVD, "Iz and the Zizzles", cleverly playing off the name of the company, Zizzle, that makes Iz. All of which suggests that Iz ought to be poised for another wave of invasion soon.

planet zero