Thursday, August 19, 2010


Back in the 90s Tyco Toys called on me to do some conceptual work for their plush line.

The pitch was simple; They're plush animals that are round bouncy balls. (Ah, minimalism!)  
The real task was in making them cute, fun, and marketable, like Beanie Babies (which were HUGE at the time). ..In fact, the price point and consumer niche was geared to compete with the Ty Toys phenomenon. 

Really, there was nothing that was not fun about this project.  I was given free reign regarding what animals to caricaturize, and no limit in the number generated.  It was 'blue-sky' concept work, so I had a good time seeing what I could come up with.
There was some back-and-forth of sketches and ultimately the creatives at Tyco whittled it down to 18 different character balls.  Most of them ended up being designs of mine, with about 5 of them being done internally (which they had me redesign for the sake of consistency).

..And they now had a name:   


Another great thing about this project was that what I initially came up with was pretty much what ended up on the toy shelves.  A rare occurrence, as typically other designers and/or marketing people will add their own tweaks along the way. I guess everyone thought what I came up with was dandy enough.  ..Though, as mentioned, there were a handful that never made the cut. these poor orphans;

The ones that did make it through the gauntlet needed final renderings for presentation and manufacturing purposes.  There were no Zooball prototypes in existence and these were going to be fabricated overseas, so they needed some solid reference material.  Tyco asked me to generate 2 views of each Zooball character to send to Hong Kong.  'Mugshots' ..if you will.
Here are examples of just some of them;

..for the record? No; I didn't actually pick the names for these guys.

That was someone else's lucky job.


Lactose Intoler-Art said...

Hi there! Just wanted to say I stumbled upon your blog after searching for a mosquito "Zooballs" toy I used to own in the 90s as a kid. I'm an artist as well and I was actually looking for a proper product image to share on my tumblr as inspiration! Just wanted to say hello and thanks for making a childhood toy that I played with and bounced around the house! Haha.

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

I can't believe I found this. I nearly had a heart attack when I Google searched for Zooballs Walrus and lo and behold there was a cartoon concept piece of it! My walrus Zooball has been my favourite possession since I had him bought me as a gift by my grandmother back in 1996. She passed away back in March. His name is Wal and he's spawned many stories and art. I love him to bits, despite his tatty appearance. Thank you for designing such a cutie.