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.

Plastic Tree Concepts

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, one of my clients specializes in themed birthday cakes. They decided they’d like to manufacture little plastic trees to use on some of the cakes, and asked me to draw one up. Here’s the concept sketches and final turnarounds I submitted.

The tree could only be so tall and so wide. The grey boxes in the first image represent those dimensions that the tree had to stay within.

Toy Concepts For Disney’s “Camp Rock”

It’s been a while since I posted any actual artwork on this blog. I’ve been cranking out artwork like crazy all spring and summer, but because of NDA’s and other client arrangements I haven’t been able to show much of the work publicly…yet. Here’s one project that I can finally let out of the box.

One of my clients is a local company that produces themed birthday cakes for licensed properties. Each cake includes a toy as part of the decoration, and I sometimes get the privilege of working up concept sketches for the toys.

Disney’s megahits High School Musical 1 & 2 were recently followed up by a new TV movie, Camp Rock. My client was hired by Disney to develop a Camp Rock-themed cake. The target audience for Camp Rock was a little older than for most cake toys, targeting teens and preteens instead of kids. Ultimately the Camp Rock cake concept never made it into stores, but the client has given me permission to post some of my work. Here’s a few of the concepts I helped develop:

Hasbro Freelance Fair

Earlier this week I flew to Rhode Island to take part in the semi-annual Hasbro Freelance Fair. Twice a year the toy company invites freelance artists, designers, and sculptors into their corporate headquarters to show their wares and to hob nob with members of Hasbro’s rather large creative department (in the hopes of landing Hasbro as a client). Each exhibitor is given a six-foot table and, if needed, an easel and a power supply for plugging in laptops, etc. The event is by invitation only, but if you want to be considered you can apply online to be a Hasbro freelancer.

I had a wonderful time. I met a lot of bright, fun people at Hasbro and also did a little networking with some of the other exhibitors. There were about thirty freelancers/studios represented, many with impressive portfolios. I’m told this was the largest attendance of any Freelance Fair yet.

Here’s a quick snapshot of my humble table. My newly designed finger-puppet business cards were a big hit, with several people asking for more. Although I did run into some problems getting them printed in time. Hint: I won’t be using a company called Overnight Prints ever again. My cards arrived later than promised with one batch being printed off-center. I also had them print up some postcards and one batch had little red flecks in an area that was supposed to be solid orange. They were cheap, but I guess you get what you pay for. Still, it all worked out ok in the end and I had a lot of fun handing them out.

Here’s a view down the hall at some of the other exhibitors. Hasbro also has several large displays of various licensed properties lining their halls. Way off in the background you can barely make out some jumbo 3D displays from Indiana Jones and The Incredible Hulk.

The trip appears to have been a successful one for me. During the lunch break I checked my iPhone and found that I’d already received emails from two people at Hasbro about a possible project. The event wasn’t even over and doors were already starting to open. Nice!

Mr. Potato Head stands guard near the Hasbro entrance. After the event he kindly patted me on my head and sent me on my way.

Hasbro is headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, just a stone’s throw from the Massachusetts border and only a one hour drive from Boston. I had hoped to grab a quick dinner with an old friend before flying out of Bean Town but plans fell through. Since I found myself with an hour to kill I swung by one of Boston’s great landmarks from American history: The Cheers bar.

Someday my wife and I would love to take a relaxing, educational tour of some of Boston’s real treasures from American history, but since time was so rushed this seemed like a fun stop for me to make.

As you might guess, the interior of the bar looks nothing like the one on the show. The exterior inspired the design of the Cheers set, but a television show set has to be designed to face an audience and allow for clear theatrical staging and specific camera shots. No real bar could accomodate those needs. The real-life bar is much smaller and has a completely different layout.

Actually, the pub’s real name isn’t even Cheers, it’s The Bull and Finch (website). But since it served as the visual inspiration for the show and doubled as the exterior, the owners make the most of their association with the series. The Cheers logo appears on a small sign out front and is also etched in the glass on the front door. The walls are lined with Cheers photos and memorabilia, and there’s a gift shop upstairs where you can have your picture taken next to a life-size cardboard cutout of Norm. I bought a glass tumbler with the Cheers logo etched on the side to take home as a momento.

The exterior shots for Cheers were filmed at the Bull and Finch, as well as a few scenes from the series that took place outdoors. But the main action took place on a soundstage in Los Angeles. If you ever visit L.A. you can see the actual Cheers set recreated inside a museum on Hollywood Blvd. I went there on a vacation several years ago. You can walk right up to the bar and see where some of the series regulars carved their names into the wood after the final episode. You can even sit on Norm’s stool.

One of the great things about freelancing is that I have the freedom to take a really fun 36-hour business trip/vacation like this one. The flip side is that there’s no such thing as a true vacation day. I’m back in the studio and the work has really piled up. Posts may be light and infrequent in the next week or two until I get caught up.

Pizza Math


This is an illustration I completed earlier this year for Trend Enterprises. They wanted a pizza chef to use on the packaging of an educational board game. The game uses pizza slices to teaches kids about fractions.

The game is now being sold in Target stores. I’m told it’s in the learning products section, kinda between magazines and books, next to flash cards. I haven’t seen the final packaging yet but a copy of the game will be shipped to me soon.

Next time I order from Pizza Hut, I’ll have a fun new way to figure out the tip.

EDIT: Finally received my copy in the mail.  Here’s a scan of the final cover: