‘Avengers’ Toy Display Tray

Avengers Ring Tray
Tray design copyright © DecoPac, Inc. Avengers copyright © Marvel. All rights reserved.

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they design many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in grocery store bakeries. They also create various toys and novelties to put on top of the cakes, often tying in with licensed characters and brands.

Last year they commissioned me to develop some concepts for an Avengers-themed cake topper that would be exclusive to Walmart. I developed a few different concepts but due to confidentiality agreements I can only show you the final chosen design, a display case. I was given an Avengers style guide and some plastic rings of the four main characters and asked to design a cool-looking tray to showcase the rings.

This project was a bit unusual for me in several respects. First, both the character art and the toys (the rings) had already been fully developed before I came onto the project. I was only designing the tray. (I don’t know who did the Avengers illustration but the artwork is amazing!) Second, the overall look and feel as dictated by the style guide was much more realistic and industrial-looking than the soft, cute, cartoony toys I usually work on. It was a fun challenge.

My final concept art is above. Here’s how the final cake topper turned out. Look for it soon in your local Walmart:

Avengers cake topper

Updated PDF Portfolios Available For Download

I’ve gone through the PDF versions of all my portfolios, weeded out some old work and put in some fresh. I’ve also updated the “About me” page. You can download them at my website or with these links:

Character Design Portfolio 2011
Toy Design Portfolio 2011
Illustration Portfolio 2011
Comp Art Portfolio 2011


I’m Now An Award-Winning Toy Designer

Play Illustration, a portfolio website for artists in the toy and game industries, recently held their 2011 International Art Competition which I entered. I’m pleased to announce that they’ve given me a Silver Award (second place) in the category of Concept Art for Toy or Children’s Product.


Play Illustration International Art Competition


I found out on my birthday, which makes it extra-nice news. It’s definitely more exciting than the time my high school voted me “Most Likely To Attend Comic-Book Conventions Well Into His Thirties”.

The piece I entered (shown above) was some concepts and the final design for a plush teddy bear created for DecoPac, Inc. You can see how the final toy turned out on the DecoPac website or on my earlier blog post about the project.

I want to congratulate the first place winner, Timothy Banks, as well as all the other winners in the other categories. I also want to thank the nice folks at Play Illustration for the award. You’ve given me the excuse I needed to start doubling my rates. (I kid, I kid!)

Who Really Created He-Man?

As a freelance toy designer this looks fascinating to me. It’s a trailer for Toy Masters, an upcoming documentary about a long-running dispute over who should get the credit for creating He-Man and the whole Masters Of The Universe juggernaut. It’s clearly a low-budget effort but judging from the trailer there will be a good mixture of conflict, nostalgia, and insights about the toy biz. More than enough to hold my interest.

Toy Design: Plush Teddy Bears

One of my regular clients is DecoPac, Inc., a local company that designs and manufactures many of the toys you find adorning the birthday cakes at your local grocery store bakery. Most of my work for them involves licensed properties (Mickey Mouse, Toy Story, etc.) but every once in a while I get to create something completely from scratch.

Last year they asked me to design a small plush teddy bear about six inches high, something cute and cuddly that could be decorated with various clothing and props to suit a number of themes (i.e. graduation, birth of a baby, etc.). The real challenge was to create something cute and appealing that was still a little different from the hundreds of teddy bear designs that already exist.

I started by doodling and brainstorming using small thumbnail sketches. Here’s a few of the initial ideas I submitted:

After some discussion and a few more sketches we finally settled on this design:

I also created versions based on four themes: Baby boy, baby girl, fairy bear, and graduation. Recently DecoPac sent me copies of the finished bears. Here’s how they turned out:

My daughters keep asking to play with them so I guess that means they were a success.

Toy Design: Minnie Mouse Picture Frame

Last year I was hired by one of my regular clients, DecoPac Inc., to help with a Minnie Mouse toy concept for Disney. It takes a long time for a toy to do from original concept to final product so I’m just now able to reveal it.

The client showed me some misc. graphics provided by Disney including some “Dress Shop” clip art and a black silhouette of Minne Mouse walking a poodle and carrying a purse. The idea was to combine them into a pair of toys with a “shopping” theme: a curved picture frame with removable paper insert , and a matching figurine of Minnie based on the pose in the silhouette.

Because of the practical realities of the toy business sometimes something beautifully drawn in 2D may not perfectly translate into a child-friendly 3D sculpt. That was the case with the original Minnie silhouette (not shown). In it Minnie’s purse was hanging loosely off of her wrist which was a safety concern. If we sculpted the toy that way the purse could snap off and become a choking hazard. So I tweaked it to have her gripping it firmly in her hand instead. Likewise we changed the dog leash to a shopping bag but again it couldn’t have strap handles, it had to be gripped firmly in her hand.

Even Minnie’s arms had to be brought in tight to her sides to prevent them from snapping off. However, I didn’t want to also bring her arms in on the silhouette because it would lose a lot of clarity. Her torso and arms would morph into one ambiguous black blob. As a result the final figurine doesn’t perfectly match the silhouette, but hopefully it was close enough that the two pieces still felt like part of a set.

Here’s What I came up with:

Here’s how the final toy came out: