Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fisher-Price: the Fold-n-Go Workbench!

This project brings back memories when I look at it, as do many projects throughout the years.  It may also trigger the memory of some readers, it goes back to when many were just kids.
Often it's the project itself that leaves an impression on me, sometimes it's about other things going on in my life at the time.  In this case, I had just moved to Oak Park, Illinois after spending 9 years living in Philadelphia.  We were also expecting our second child and I was busy trying to get work while settling into my attic studio, then recently completed.  It was a great space, well laid out, and I was champing at the bit to give it a road test.

It was around this time that I started getting work from Fisher-Price in East Aurora.
A few of the designers there started calling on me pretty regularly and I really hit my stride in delivering solid work in a quick fashion.  The Fold-n-Go Workbench was one of those early experiences of a project coming and going fast, with the end product turning out pretty close to my design. Like in most cases, if there wasn't a foam-core model all I had to work with was a thumbnail and a description of the functions. 
If there were any rough passes for this they're long gone.  I don't recall doing anything beyond a couple of clean line drawings followed by a rendering, which at the time would be sent via Fed-Ex.  I had a new Mac G4 but was just starting to scan and email jpegs,  I wasn't fully versed in Photoshop. In fact, the rendering below is a re-render done digitally some time back, since the original was sent off to Fisher-Price.
.. I do remember the original was rendered in marker, something you don't see much anymore.


Here is how it turned out back then when it was produced by Fisher-Price;

.. And as of this writing, my younger of 2 children is on his own and in college.

The years do fly.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Disney: Cinderella Coach Play Tent!

While this may have been another quick job for Disney Consumer Products, it was a load of fun to do.  I've always liked pop-up hoop tents, whether for children's play or adult camping.  I was tapped to bring that feature to a Cinderella pumpkin coach, which did have its challenges.
I didn't necessarily have to design the prototype but it did need to have a degree of plausibility in execution.

Again, this was a quick one.  I had a next-day delivery deadline so not much preliminary exploration was done.  I went from approved rough to renderings.  The figures were added afterward to show some scale.

I came across the above while cleaning through my computer hard drive a couple of years ago. I had neglected to look this one up, to see if it was eventually produced by DCP, and if so; how it turned out.

I think it turned out pretty well, if simplified for cost & function;

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tomy: Zootopia!

In the beginning of my career in toy design I worked as an in-house freelancer at Tyco Toys, then located in Mt. Laurel New Jersey.  As mentioned here previously, I started by lending a hand to the games group, helping to realize their lines to the market.  From there I began working with most of the other managers and directors that needed a skilled designer on hand.  It was my only time working on the inside, so to speak, but it was very formative.
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!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Playskool: 2 in 1 Bounce & Roll!

Beneath the umbrella of companies now with Hasbro is Tiger, who focused a lot on fun games and electronics.  
Clearly inspired by Tiger's successful 'Bulls-Eye Ball' game, Playskool decided to produce a similar skee-ball for their preschool line.  It had the same action and electronic score features as Bulls-Eye Ball, just scaled up and having the additional feature of being either a skee-ball or 'bounce' mode, like the classic. 

The creatives at Playskool tapped me to execute some quick sketches exploring what that might look like.
Here are some passes at styling the overall game as well as exploring the folding and ball return function;


Here is how the final product turned out;


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Playskool: Yard Crew & Cool Crew!

It's always been a blast working with the Playskool division at Hasbro.  Much like the Little People line for Fisher-Price,  having a hand in the history of such perennial favorites, in this case toys like Play-Doh and Mr. Potatohead, will always be a highlight of my career.

One of the on-going lines of which I was fortunate enough to be a part was the Yard Crew and Cool Crew toys.
A while back I posted one of those projects on this blog;  The Cool Crew Vacuum.

The first things I worked on were for the Yard Crew toys, starting with an outdoor grill,  a bench top camping stove, a camping cooler, fishing pole, and camping lantern.
I did a few passes of each item in the line, exploring characterizations and expressions, as well as the styling and accessories included.

We followed up at a later date with the Cool Crew line.
It started simple, with a few gardening tools that talked. From there  I got to explore a range of looks for the leaf blower, chain saw, edge trimmer, and lawn mower characters.

.. is it evident that I had a blast coming up with these?

The mower was a challenge, going through more than a few iterations. Part of it was in trying to achieve a great 'chomping' action without his teeth or jaw looking weird. We ultimately landing with a fun combination and a memorable character.

.. And this is how they turned out;