Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Planet Heroes: ground zero

Planet Heroes is a line of toys from Fisher-Price designed for children ages 3-8, depicting various heroic characters each identified with a specific planet. These characters represent their planets in design and features, such as Mercury and Pluto which are very small, while Jupiter is a larger toy.  The toys representing the planets have numbers on them corresponding with the number of planets from the sun they are (Mercury is 1, Venus is 2, Earth is 3, etc.)   Every planet hero action figure comes with a trading card that on the front contain a picture of the character and on the back have facts about the planet and the planet hero.
A few of the planet heroes toys were released in a basic model that comes with a smaller accessory. These include the Earth Ace with Skateboard instead of Go Kart and the Mars Digger with Drill and shield instead of Rumble Rover.

Wiki goes on to reference other items in the Planet Heroes line, including vehicles, playsets, comic books and DVDs.  An overall successful line, and one that wasn't spawned from an existing property.
In other words, the Planet Heroes characters and their world didn't exist until created and introduced by Fisher-Price.  An increasingly rare kind of toy venture in this era of licensed characters, but not unfamiliar to Fisher-Price, who has a track record of creating unique properties like; Rescue Heroes, Great Adventures, and the classic Little People.

All of these original ideas start somewhere. Sometimes they're invented internally, sometimes they're submitted from the outside.  Most of the time their evolution is a combination of the two.  Something submitted might spark internal interest and they'll evolve it into something different, or something sparked internally will get sent outside (to people like me) for its evolution.
The Planet Heroes line was a case of the former, in that it was an outside submission fleshed out internally by the creatives at Fisher-Price.  The part I played in all of this was generating the initial drawings for the outside inventor, based on their description of what they were going for.
I was hired to design the basic Planet Heroes figures as characters with personality, some spherical vehicles, and a larger playset, all to establish and loosely define the potential direction of the line.

Here are the initial drawings that started 'Planet Heroes';

While the above sketches are pretty far from the final product, they were enough to spark interest at Fisher-Price and provided basic direction and inspiration.  Essentially they served as 'springboard' concept drawings, from which some very cool toys evolved internally. Here are just a few;


Planet Heroes - Turbo Shuttle

There are more character figures and accessory sets in the Planet Heroes line. Below is the 'Solar Quarters' playset which, while quite different from my initial concept, retains a few of those same elements and features;

Planet Heroes - Solar Quarters

Solar Quarters - planetarium detail

As is often the case, when something leaves my hands I don't always know what happens to it.  Sometimes these ideas die on the vine, other times they ripen and I don't know about it unless I see it on the store shelf or in a TV spot.
In this context it's a stretch to say I created Planet Heroes since I only played an initial part in a larger process.  I would have loved working more on the line, given the choice. But as a co-creator I find some personal pride in being there at the very beginning, to help spark it all into reality.

Friday, August 19, 2011

more Monopoly

After I was brought in by Hasbro Games to re-design the moving tokens, houses, and hotels for their 70th Anniversary Edition, the creatives there asked me to work on pieces for a couple of other Monopoly games in their catalog.

One was for Hasbro's; Monopoly Junior, which plays younger and features an amusement park theme.  Again, my task was to design the moving tokens as well as little ticket booths, which are used similarly to Monopoly 'houses' in game play.  Monopoly Junior comes with 4 'park ride' tokens; a carousel horse, a roller coaster car,  a bumper car, and a log run boat.  And like the previous Monopoly project, I initially submitted 2 possible options for each piece.
Here are the designs for the moving tokens;


Here are the drawings for the ticket booth design;

Of course these pieces are tiny when actually produced, but the details reduce nicely.  Here is how they look with the rest of the game;


Another spinoff I worked on was Monopoly Tropical Tycoon, which is skewed for an older demographic, comes with an interactive DVD, and has more play pieces.

The 6 themed moving tokens in this version are; a cannon, a sandal, a hat, a scooter, a parrot, and a sailboat.  In this case they wanted more than a couple of options for the hat;


Unlike the single 'ticket booth' in Monopoly Junior, or the basic houses and hotels in the classic version, Monopoly Tropical Tycoon uses a wide variety of themed pieces to populate properties owned; beach houses, resorts, casinos, parks, piers, and restaurants;

Here is how the produced version looks with the parts I designed;