As a result I acquired a lot of practical experience across categories, but never accepted the full-time position that was eventually offered. By then I already had plans to move my family back to the Chicago area.
.. Cut to 2015: After 20+ years at the drawing board in my home studio, and starting to feel like I was repeating myself, I pursued an open position at Tomy International, who's US offices are within commuting distance from me, in Oakbrook, Il.
Tomy was rapidly expanding at the time and looking to hire, also their newer VP of product development was an old friend and colleague. It was a perfect storm of sorts and the timing felt right. Unfortunately, as all storms pass, Tomy had a course change and I became part of a downsizing.
So I hung my shingle back up and have been back at my own drawing board since, .. though finally upgrading onto a nice new Cintiq.
In spite of my years I fully embrace this digital era.
.. Meanwhile; having been hired to manage projects for the feature animation team, including Disney & Pixar movies, was a daunting undertaking. I had spent the majority of my career as an outside consultant, being called on more surgically. But I took on the challenge, spending most of my time bringing many of the Zootopia toys to the shelves.
I certainly didn't do it alone, working with an amazing team of designers. I learned a lot from them in spite of my own mine of experience. Among the learning curves I surmounted while at Tomy was working directly with model makers and engineers, revising and approving everything down to tooling and production. It was something newer to me, and deeply fascinating.
Probably the most consuming of the Zootopia line of product, for me, was a police station playset.
It was to be the TV driver in the line, with a higher price point, but loaded with features and play action for the figures.
When I was brought on staff there actually was an early foam model of the playset, which was used in the pitch to Pixar when securing the license. While it captured its essence it needed to be redesigned and turned into actual product. I took things from there, fleshing out all the features, mechanisms, and electronics, which were somewhat complex to execute. I generated mugshots of the villains for a small projection feature. I even created the flowchart for the sound board and wrote the script, which was concatenated to deliver potentially dozens of dispatches and alerts tailored to the play.
.. Ironically, I have so little of the preliminary work to share here, because everything I did was in-house on company computers. I did save some jpegs of the grey models produced, for reference, but no drawings or renderings ever made it to my home hard drive. For much of the development phase the only exterior reference I had to work with was this inspiring screen capture provided by Disney;
Still, it was a sheer joy to be such an integral part of creating the Zootopia toys, especially the big playset. My tenure at Tomy International, short as it was, will always have a fond place in my heart.
Here is what imagery I do have of the actual products. The quality on the figures, from sculpt to spray ops, is impressive. Great toys, Tomy!
Be sure to watch the TV commercial to check out the cool features!