Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Little People

A perennial favorite among parents and kids, 'Little People' have become a part of contemporary childhood as much as Radio Flyer, Frisbee, or Legos. There's some basic fun play that endures, along with the actual product, allowing them to become toys that are handed down for generations. 
Fisher Price introduced the first Little People sets in 1960, and though they have expanded and evolved over the past 50 years, they have retained their signature identity and irresistible charm.
I have been fortunate enough to work on a lot of Little People concepts over the past 20 years. Some have explored new approaches for classic Little People themes, different play patterns, innovative twists on existing ideas, ..one of the most recent being the 'Wheelies' line, which combines classic LP character play with vehicle and track play.  It's an exciting new direction and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.  I'll post a few of those soon.

In the meantime,  here is one of the very first Little People concepts for which I was brought in by Fisher Price. Their 'Discovery City' took Little People character play to a (then) new level of action, lights and sound FX.
Initially it was called 'Smart City', and sadly, I don't have a copy of the color rendering to post.  This job was done before the advent of the internet and emailing scanned jpegs,  back when I sent original art to clients via FedEx. ..Oh, those primitive times!..  

Designed years later, another example of putting an interactive twist on a classic theme, the Little People 'Pop N Surprise' train set;

As I said earlier, there have been a lot more over the years, these being just a couple, and I'll post more in the future.
The following project was more recent, and in celebration the aforementioned 50th birthday.  Fisher Price wanted to reproduce a line of classic Little People play sets to mark the occasion, and I was called in again.  As much as everyone loved the idea of simply re-releasing these sets as originally produced, some trimming was required and the approach ended up being more simplified and commemorative in nature.  The sets produced were the Little People Farm, the Little People House, and the Little People School.
Here are those designs;

 Here is how they turned out;

.. I also came up with a design for the Little People A-Frame House set, which I thought was awesome as a kid (though I never had one).  The actual A-frame home design was hugely popular in the late 60s to early 70s, at this point acquiring a dated mid-century charm.  I admit, I was pulling for this one to be in the line, but alas; it didn't make the cut.

..simplified, as the others in the line, but still a delightful trip back in time.
For those of you who don't remember the original;

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Winnie the Pooh's 'Travelin' Tree House'

Some years ago, Fisher Price approached me to design a large tree house playset for Winnie the Pooh.
I have probably designed a dozen different Pooh playsets over the years, for Disney and different toy makers who have held the license, and they all had their own unique spin.

One that I designed for Fisher Price focused on the 'Tigger & Pooh friends: Super Sleuth' features (which introduced the character: Darby).  Among the array of toys designed and produced for that property was this super-secret changing tree house playset:


In spite of the fact that the play figures for these were only a couple of inches tall, these were pretty formidable and busy sets.  But the required exploration garnered plenty from which to choose in whittling down to the essentials, ..which produced the next round of drawings:  several smaller sets, separated into individual features, playing up the launching 'sleuth scooter'. I went simpler and more compact on the actual tree house;

..And here is how it all turned out when it was produced;


Pooh's Travelin' Tree House was different in a number of ways, one being that it was classic Disney Pooh, and not focused on the Super-Sleuth property.  It was also different in that it folded up and could be carried or pulled on wheels by extending the handle, much like a rolling suitcase.  Although this playset started out being pretty formidable, like the aforementioned Sleuth tree house, it stayed largely unchanged.  It ended up being quite a big item in the Pooh line, and consequently a heavier (but still popular) investment for parents.
It may bear mentioning this item was produced exclusively for the European market, and though it's no longer in the retail stores, it can still be found in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia, mainly on ebay.

Anyway, here are the drawings I did in designing the Travelin' Treehouse;

open view

Treetop cottage detaches for separate play

wheels remove and open into accessories

I think it's evident I had a lot of fun with this, and getting the most play out of every part.  The creatives at Fisher Price loved it as it was conceived.  Other than eliminating the removable cottage (scale and cost issues), it was produced pretty much as is;