When I began freelancing in the toy industry back in 1992-93 I started working exclusively on game concepts for Tyco Toys, based in Mt Laurel New Jersey. Their games director needed some creative hands to handle everything from concept art to inventing, to assembling prototypes. It was more out of necessity than anything that I quickly learned how to wear several hats in developing all kinds of games, and within a few months I was dealing with model makers, licensing departments, marketing executives and engineers. I worked on literally dozens of games and activites over a 2 1/2 year period before eventually being offered the salary position of games maven at Tyco, but by then I had already decided I was moving back to the Chicago area. Also, having worked on games already, I was really interested in designing product for other departments; RC cars, slot racing, action figures, preschool, activities, dolls, everything I could. Tyco needed help visualizing those ideas as well and even the VP of product agreed that I'd be more useful to them as a freelancer.
Over the years I have been able to work in virtually every other category, some more regularly than others, and have even continued developing games of all sorts. I still consider them to be a favorite area of expertise and it's always exciting when something new occasionally lands on my drawing board. One of the highlights being the 70th Anniversary version of Monopoly.
Here are a few other games I've created over the years. Again, there are lots more than what's here, and I'll cover more games in later posts, these are specific examples of board games produced and sold;
Veggie Tales' Jonah: An Overboard Adventure
Big Idea Productions was operating out of the Chicago burb of Lombard when I got the call to design a board game around the Jonah movie they were working on. Their close proximity helped because there was a lot to do in a short time, and being able to meet with them personally and hand deliver everything worked to our advantage. I did some work on the game play itself, but my main task was designing and generating all the production art involved; including final board art, cards, spinner, pawns, ..everything except the package art.
It was a challenge because at that point I hadn't done much digital illustrating for print, and I wanted it to look as good or better than anything I could generate on the drawing board. I learned a lot about working in Photoshop over those couple of weeks and I've done a lot more digital art for print since.
Looney Tunes' Smush 'em!
While Tyco held a license for Looney Tunes I was asked to come up with some game concepts using their stable of classic characters. There were a few ideas I brought to playable prototype, including the "Smush 'em!" board game. Another was a Tazmanian Devil board game that used a spinning top Taz. Landing your character on certain spaces required starting the sculpted Taz character with a zip-strip and setting it loose. It would swirl around the board and wipe out the moving pawns. A fun alternative and a contender for what was ultimately decided on here;
doughy fun for the entire family;
The Cat 'N Fiddle game
Along with perennial favorites like Monopoly, Clue, and The Game of Life, I've also worked with Hasbro Games on other Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers concepts, some of them for younger tots. Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, and Operation are a few other classics that I've also revisited for newer generations, trying a fresh twist on an old theme.
For something newer this 'Cat & the Fiddle' game was fun to work on because of my old-school aesthetic approach. I remembered those old "Happy Harmonies" and "Merrie Melodies" nursery rhyme cartoons from the 1930s and drew from that style. They really liked that look and ended up going with it for the final design;