My time at Worlds of Wonder had exposed me to the concept of licensing. The company had licensed the rights to create and sell the talking teddy bear from a gentleman as well as the rights to use the image of Mickey Mouse from Disney. I understood that an idea could be “rented” and royalties collected from the agreement. I thought if I could come up with characters too, maybe some people would be willing to pay ME royalties.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to do it, but I did know I needed to understand what a company was looking for and what they were already producing before I began. I went down to various stores and looked the products they offered. I knew I needed to design for the actual marketplace, not what I perceived it to be in my head. I needed to create something that they hadn’t seen before, that was fresh and unique.
I began to pull from all the areas of my knowledge. I first took elements of the products I designed from the street fairs and incorporated the pattern making skills I’d developed at WOW and my understanding of manufacturing. The first product I put together was a plush airplane with detachable Velcro parts. It had a smiley face, doubled as a puppet, and was built so a child could put it together and take it apart. I had a friendship with a man I had met working on Teddy Ruxpin who later went to work for Disney. He was an illustrator, and together, we approached companies. He would design the idea and I’d bring it to life.
We sent the airplane, along with several other prototypes, to the toy company Applause in Los Angeles. They were impressed with our quality of work. Having had a sculpting and manufacturing background, I was able to draw from all these experiences and make something that was attractive and could function. The pieces started to come together.
I licensed that first idea to Applause. Many followed. They asked me to come up with more ideas and I was happy to oblige. I began designing seasonal characters, like for Easter and Christmas. The contracts were simple and straightforward and I was thrilled to be earning money. It was the perfect introduction to the industry.
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