Toy Story 3: Woody Figurine

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 a “Toy Story” cake to correspond with the upcoming push to promote Toy Story 3. I was asked to come up with some cake designs highlighting Woody and Buzz, and also to brainstorm a few ideas for small “Woody” toys or mini-figurines that could be placed on top of the cake for extra appeal. I don’t yet have permission from the client to show you the various concept sketches I developed for the cake itself. I can show you some of the rough ideas I came up with for the Woody toy:

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.
Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

Here’s how the final three-inch figurine turned out:

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

And here’s a cake design DecoPac ultimately developed for the bakeries to use:

A few days ago I was in my local Wal-Mart and saw this exact toy decorating one of the cakes in the bakery display cooler. Of course I had to buy it. My little girls had an extra-special treat for desert that night:

Preschool Puzzles for Patch Products

A few months ago I was hired by Patch Products to illustrate two educational puzzles for preschoolers. One was a farm theme, the other a zoo theme. Each puzzle needed to incorporate several shapes into the artwork (indicated with thick black outlines).

The original concept was to have the border of the puzzle take a shape that would match the theme. For instance, the art director thought it would be good to have the farm puzzle be shaped like a barn. I really liked the idea but we couldn’t come up with a good shape that would work for the zoo puzzle. So instead we wound up just using the same abstract border shape for both.

The puzzles are being shipped from the printer and should be available for purchase online soon. With the client’s permission, here’s the artwork I submitted:

[EDIT: I apologize that the images are a little pixelated. I uploaded high-quality images like always. They even look clean and crisp in my WordPress preview window so I’m puzzled as to why they look so ragged on my blog page. If anyone has any suggestions please leave a comment. Thanks!]

Monkey Puppet is a fun website project from Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales. He’s partnered with Focus on the Family to create online daily episodes combining animation, puppetry, and live action to present Biblical concepts to kids in fun and entertaining ways. Sort of like a Christian Sesame Street. It’s really fun stuff!

Much of the site’s content is populated by puppet characters. Recently Phil hired me to create a new monkey puppet for a bit he was working up for the show. He sent me some rough thumbnail doodles and photos of the two puppet characters the monkey would be interacting with. My job was to work up a final design for the puppet, one that would look good next to the other two puppets and feel like it came from the same “puppet world” that they inhabit.

I started with a round of rough thumbnails, playing with various shapes and proportions without deviating too far from the rough design I was given:

Phil picked a design he liked and I sent him some possible color choices. After a few emails back and forth I worked up this final turnaroud for the puppeteer:

Phil recently sent me a photo of the final puppet, and with his permission I’m posting it here:

I don’t know when the episode will go live. When it does it will likely only be available to Jelly Telly subscribers. But if I can get permission I’ll post a screen shot or two.

Toy Design: Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” Rough Concepts

Here’s another concept I worked up for DecoPac, a local company that manufactures licensed toys for specialty birthday cakes.

They told me they were working on a cake design for Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and asked me to work up a couple of rough concept sketches to help them sell it to the folks at Disney. They wanted one version of princess Tiana blowing a kiss in the frog’s direction, and another version with her holding the frog in her hands and looking at it skeptically. This was back in 2008 when very little information about the movie was available to the public, so there wasn’t much else for us to go on concept-wise.

Artwork copyright © Disney via DecoPac, Inc. All rights reserved.

You couldn’t see much of what was going on under the dress, so I tried to show alternating leg positions that might influence the structure of the fabric depending on if one arm was up or down.

Artwork copyright © Disney via DecoPac, Inc. All rights reserved.

At this point we were just trying to sell the idea, so I didn’t agonize too much over making sure the characters were exactly on model. Disney approved the concept and then handed it off to their in-house artists to further refine the design.

Here’s how the final cake turned out:

And here’s a close-up photo of the toy figurine:

If you’ve got a little princess in your life with a birthday coming up, there’s a good chance this cake will be available for order at your local bakery.

Incidentally, I still haven’t seen the movie. I’m hoping to finally get out to it soon before it leaves theaters.

Toy Design: Disney-Pixar “Cars”

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they create many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in the grocery store bakeries. They often develop fun themes using licensed characters to tie in with movie and TV franchises. On occasion they will hire me to develop toy concepts for some of the cakes. They are a terrific client and its a ton of fun.

Artwork copyright © Disney. All rights reserved.

Back in 2008 they hired me to sketch up a “pit stop” idea they had for Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. Once this concept sketch was approved it left my hands and went to the Disney to be further developed in-house. Because of the realities of overseas manufacturing it can take a year or more from initial concept to final delivery. This project is now completed so I’m able to show you what I did.

Here’s how the final design turned out. There were a few minor adjustments but overall it stayed pretty close to the concept. If you’ve got a young boy in the house with a birthday coming up there’s a good chance you can order this exact cake from your local grocery store bakery.

[EDIT: I just received my copy of the actual toy. It’s pretty clever how it was built. You wind up Guido, then as he drives around the track a little curved stem protruding his side strikes against strategically placed pegs. This causes Guido to briefly turn and face the car before the curved stem slides off the peg and he moves on. It gives the illusion that Guido is stopping to fix each tire (or do whatever it is they do at a pit stop). Pretty neat!

I made a little a YouTube video showing the toy in action:


Download My Updated PDF Portfolios

Along with posting new work on my website and on this here blog, I also make samples of my work available as a free PDF download for clients to print and keep on file. The last time I updated the PDF was in January 2008. A lot has changed since then and an update was long overdue.

Instead of one portfolio there are now three portfolios to choose from: Character Design, Illustration, and Toy Design. Collect all three!