Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wheelies: Radiator Springs Playset

I've always loved working with the folks at Fisher-Price, both FP Brands in NYC and their home base, still located in East Aurora.  I've been fortunate enough to work with a number of their designers on scores of toys over the past 20+ years, and in the process cultivating some long professional relationships.
So much so, that I've seen a few retire after they've dedicated their entire adult life to creating great play, and it's always a bittersweet farewell.
One of the last projects I worked on with one such designer there was the Radiator Springs playset for Pixar's CARS.  This was one of a number of licensed sets in Fisher-Price's 'Wheelies' line.  It was a textbook case of fun and one of the key reasons I love doing what I do.

The parameters were pretty straightforward;  come up with a compact version of the town of Radiator Springs that offered some fun gravity-driven track play, something simple, self-contained, and cost-effective.
Here are the initial sketches exploring what this set could be;

There was enough going on with B and C to have another pass at each, fleshing out the play and design a little more;

The 2nd pass at C really defined the set enough to go to final line-art and rendering for presentation;

This was another one of those rarities where the final toy really came close to my hand in the project.

.. I still miss working with this guy,  I always enjoyed his wry wit.  I hope his well-earned retired life is full of fun and relaxation.  Hats off to ya, Larry!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

from the flat file archives: plush baby monsters

Some random hairy little fellows inspired by the troll dolls of yesteryear.  Hope you like:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mickey's Clubhouse: Motorhome Camper

The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse toys have been in the Fisher-Price catalog for years now, and I always enjoy working on items for their line.  I posted the train set for Mickey I designed a while back.   ..And there's been a lot more in the line, most of it making it to the toy stores I'm glad to say.

Among many toys I got to work on was this camper motorhome play set for Mickey and friends.
I recall at the time there were a number of other concepts being pitched internally and to Disney, this was part of a batch.  As a result there weren't a lot of iterations going in, they just knew they wanted a motorhome that expanded into a fun play environment.
I went with a retro body style, working with the shows' motif but inspired by reference I found from old Disney cartoons and my affection for old teardrop campers from the 1940s.
The rest was taking these basics and blowing it out into something theme appropriate, play interactive, and very 'Mickey'.  The vertical climbing wall roof feature was the only stretch, conceptually,  I had also considered a rooftop deck.

.. anyway, here are the concept drawings as pitched;

I didn't find out the ultimate fate of this particular concept for a few years,  it being among several that were developed further internally using my work as a springboard of sorts.  I almost forgot about it until I came across the renderings in my files and Googled for it.

Here is how Mickey's Camper looked when it came out.
It's clear the size and features went through some minor changes, but the exterior is virtually identical to my design.
..I do like the added pull out awning;

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Playskool's Cool Crew vacuum

Some years back I had the pleasure of working on Hasbro's 'Yard Crew' and 'Cool Crew' toys.  These anthropomorphized role-play tools were a successful line for Playskool, and I had a lot of fun coming up with ways to style common objects like flashlights, leaf blowers, and lawnmowers into animated characters.

One of the many items in the line was a vacuum cleaner.  At that point there was nothing defined so I explored a handful of looks and types of vacuums, providing some range from which to choose.  The important features required were common throughout the designs;

Taking the best elements of the upright style and making some tweaks to the characters' faces I generated a tighter version which was rendered for presentation;

Here is the vacuum as it was produced by Playskool.  Since then it has gone through a couple of color changes, even being completely redesigned for newer generations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Doc McStuffins 'Doc Is In' talking playset

In an October 2014 TIME article covering the 13 most influential toys of All Time, Disney's Doc McStuffins toys were listed among the perennial classics. Somewhat surprising, considering the other toys listed.

While the relatively recent character of Doc McStuffins may not be as indelibly etched in our pop culture as Disney's Winnie the Pooh (yet), or the toy line as iconic and generation-spanning as Barbie, the children's show has still made a tremendous impact on its audience and the widely popular toys have become big sellers.
One of the major producers of the Doc McStuffins line of toys for Disney is Just Play, and a few years ago I was called in to help them create their 'Doc Is In' playset.
For what it's worth, in instances like this I'm usually provided a starting list of features to be included, and/or some basic play pattern.  More specifically style guide reference helps get the character figures right, and lots of screen captures of the shows' backgrounds were essential in getting those details integrated into the design. 

Anyway, here's where it all started, with 3/4 view pencil roughs of the interior and exterior;

Here are the cleaned up versions;

After reviewing the initial pass, various changes were discussed and quickly handled with some patches;

... The doctor bag elevator idea was nixed for a more typical balcony lift.

 The 'hot spot' where either the exam table or bed plugged in changed from wood texture to the puzzle cut.

The reception desk changed to a more curvy design. ...

Having all changes done and everything approved, the exterior view was revised accordingly and both were rendered up for presentation.
Here is how those turned out;

Here is the actual playset as produced by the people at Just Play toys;

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mickey and Minnie Hot Rods

A while back the folks at Kid Trax were working on a 6V ride-on quad for Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  They sought to create something beyond a standard children's ride-on, something clearly reflecting a classic Mickey aesthetic and not something adapted from generic design, like a lunch box with a sticker.  I was called in by the creatives at Disney Consumer Products to help them from the ground up in creating the look.   

Right from the start I was leaning toward a retro feel,  taking cues from the 1950s coupes and souped up 40s models. Something that echoed the era of classic core Disney characters. .. Still, it wasn't a car in which to sit but a straddle rider, so the overall configuration would still resemble a typical modern quad.  It offered some aesthetic challenges in exploring a range of looks from which to choose.

Here are the initial rough sketches of some possibilities I came up with. The perennial Mickey ears are already apparent in the design, the 'gears' motif intentionally tying into the 'Mickey's Clubhouse' show aesthetic, a very popular Disney show at the time;

They did like the old hot rod coupe look, leaning toward C and D the most, C being the final choice.
The next step was to tighten it up and create the Minnie version.
.. Ending up with this;

In this post-modern era of 26" rims and thin rubber, I found myself reveling in the notion of big fat white-walls and chrome hubs.
Decidedly old school.

.. This is another one of those cool projects where the final product ended up looking virtually identical to my work (Well done, Kid Trax!).  Again, it's uncommon, as often so many hands are involved in creating and producing toys,  so it's very satisfying and I take it as a complement. On a more practical and professional level I view these as an example of design efficacy and good communication.
Hopefully my colleagues and contacts see it as another good reason to call on me.