The Poop Moose prepares for big-screen debut

Fenton Woods owner Darryl Fenton shows off the pocket-sized Poop Moose he is making for a comedy film called "Bachelorman," which will be shot in Los Angeles next month. At left is shop foreman Stephan Wilson, who supervises a half-dozen people when orders for the wooden novelty candy dispensers peak. The pair expect a spike in Poop Moose sales when the film is released next year. Photo by SCOTT CHRISTIANSEN/Frontiersman.

"There's not a whole lot of room for candy in there. So it's cute but it's not very practical," Darryl Fenton said Wednesday while showing off the newest version of Fenton Woods' most popular product-- a three-inch-long version of the poop moose.

The Original Poop Mooseª is a wooden candy dispenser shaped like a moose. Candy is loaded into a compartment in the moose's body and dispensed out its backside when the moose's head is lifted. The product is marketed on the Internet and at fairs and shows, with light-hearted slogans such as "You ain't seen nuggets yet."

The miniature moose is being made as a prop for a movie that starts production in Los Angeles in December, according to the film's producers.

Darryl Fenton knows demand for the miniature will likely take off, even if they're not practical for dispensing candy and even if his company, Fenton Woods, hasn't worked out a way to produce them at an affordable price.

"They'll want them anyway, so I guess it is practical," Fenton said. Fenton knows the Poop Moose's marketability from experience. Poop Moose appeared solo on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and with Fenton on the syndicated game show, "To Tell the Truth."

Both TV appearances caused sales to spike. The "To Tell the Truth" appearance happened in November 2000 and backed up Christmas orders well into January.

Terry Martin, who markets the moose for Fenton, said Leno's show spawned orders for the most expensive Poop Moose ever -- a model with a walnut body, cherry wood antlers and ebony and antique ivory inlaid eyes that retails for $149.95.

"The one that [Leno] showed was the most expensive model, and that was the model [customers] bought the very next day," Martin said. "We were on that show only a few seconds and [Leno] said something stupid about us. Not really anything nice, or even funny, just something stupid -- even in the darkest light, the Poop Moose always shines bright."

Because the Poop Moose has a Web site, Leno's viewers were able to act on their impulse and buy the product. Fenton expects that kind of reaction with "Bachelorman" as well. "Even if [the movie] goes straight to video, we'll sell more of them," Fenton said.

"Bachelorman" creator Rodney Lee Conover said he's working on distribution for the big screen and prospects look good for a release next summer. Conover is a Los Angeles-based comedy writer who fell under the Poop Moose's candy-dispensing spell when Martin placed ads in Conover's Internet newsletter, "Comedy On Tap."

"Bachelorman" tells the story of a bachelor everyone loves, and who is known for his bachelor savvy.

"One of the ways that he introduces himself to women is that he offers them a poop," Conover said, "He pulls the Poop Moose out of his pocket, and he's very charming and he gets a laugh."

And he gets the girl. Until, of course, "Bachelorman" meets his match, and the plot develops around the one girl he wants but can't have.

Conover's bachelor originally relied on a more famous candy dispenser to break the ice with women, but using it for the film proved impossible.

"It's a brand name and we can't use a brand name because it's an independent film," Conover said.

So the Frontiersman is left with that?

After some urging, Conover spilled.

"For the same reason I can't use Beatles music in my film, I can't use Pez -- just put that," he said.

According to Conover, the actresses in "Bachelorman" react to Poop Moose as if it were something they've known all their lives. They have lines like "Oh, I loved the Poop Moose when I was a kid."

The girls happily accept the candy and the charming bachelor is on his way. This is more than just a one-shot product placement, Conover said -- the gag runs throughout the script. Conover needed a pocket-sized pooper for the gag, so Fenton was busily miniaturizing the Poop Moose last week.

The miniature has thoroughbred lineage, as novelty products go. The Original Poop Moose has spawned a cottage industry since its introduction in 1994. As production peaks this year, Fenton Woods will employ six people to produce the candy dispensers. Two more people work full time at Kindred Concepts, the Wasilla-based marketing company Martin owns.

"A lot of other people ask me to market for them," Martin said, "but I'm so busy with the Poop Moose that it's hard to expand."

Martin hired an office assistant this year, and said she hires her parents when shipping gets busy.

The Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development's Made In Alaska program gave Fenton Woods its Manufacturer of the Year award for 2000. The Made In Alaska newsletter reported growth of 25 to 50 percent each year since the Poop Moose was introduced.

Fenton said those numbers aren't far off the mark. This year he expects to produce between 8,000 and 10,000 candy dispensers. Martin and Fenton set a goal of 20-percent growth for 2001, which they believe is manageable for two home-based businesses. The prospect of growing faster is always out there, and it is sometimes daunting for Fenton -- opportunity knocks often when you have a patented novelty product.

"I get calls all the time from people who say if they can represent my product I'll be a millionaire," he said. "I've heard it so many times I've been getting tired of hearing it."

The Pocket Pooper -- as Conover called it -- takes a long time to make. Fenton said he isn't sure if it will ever go into full production.

So after a couple of small-screen appearances, the Poop Moose is once again cast in a Hollywood production. This time, Poop Moose seems to be saving the day for a big-screen production, and helping the hero get the girl, to boot. Fenton is confident his invention will sell itself even if "Bachelorman" doesn't turn out to be funny.

For his part, Conover assured the Frontiersman that his film is funny, and that Poop Moose's cult popularity will skyrocket when people see the Pocket Pooper in theaters.

"[Fenton] won't be carving them out by hand anymore, let me put it that way," Conover said.

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