Comp Art: Costumed Mascot

As a freelance illustrator I’m often hired by ad agencies and marketing firms to create “comp art” or “marker comps”, which are fast, rough sketches used to pitch an idea to a client. They can be black-and-white or color, depending on the deadline and budget, but they are a lot of fun to do. Because clients are very protective of their ideas I am often asked not to reveal the comp work publicly. But every now and then someone gives me permission to tell the world what we were up to.

Recently I was hired by the Texas-based Launch Agency to help pitch a mascot idea to The Bramton Company, makers of a line of pet waste disposal products called “Bags On Board”. A few months earlier, Launch hired me to help them update the “Bags On Board mascot. Now, they wanted to pitch Bramton with the idea of having someone in a mascot costume hand out fliers and free samples at pet stores around the country.

I whipped up this color sketch to help sell the concept. It was a large, hi-res image done completely in Photoshop.

After some consideration the client ultimately decided against the costume concept. In the world of marketing that kind of thing is not uncommon. In the advertising industry a flurry of ideas come and go every day. It doesn’t make sense to do a highly-polished illustration just to get across the seed of an idea that may never even get off the ground. So the comps I’m asked to do are usually just glorified sketches, though I try to make them look nice enough to make the concept clear and appealing. Either way I still get paid, and I usually have a lot of fun helping out in the process.

Mr. Potato Head Animation

I’m excited to finally tell you about a project I worked on that has recently gone live: An animated website for Hasbro/Playskool starring Mr. Potato Head!

Last fall I was approached by Minneapolis agency Popular Front to help them update an activity page on Hasbro’s Playskool Kids website. At the time the site featured four host characters—a turtle, a dog, a cat, and a dinosaur—that would guide kids through various games and activities. Hasbro decided they wanted to shine a spotlight on Mr. Potato Head by making him the new host of the site. The plan was to introduce Mr. Potato Head in a “transitional role” as host. He would join the site as a fifth host and then, over time, he would eventually take over as the primary host of the site.

There’s a few activities on the site so Mr. Potato Head had a lot to do and say. Popular Front needed Mr. Potato Head to speak/act 150 different lines of dialogue on a very tight schedule. Popular Front approached me to do the job, and I in turn hired several freelance animators to help me get it all done on time. I’m proud to say we pulled it off.

I had the privilege of supervising an excellent team of very talented animators from the US and Canada: Stanton Cruse (who also built the character pack), Ben Meinhardt, Tod Carter, Michael Foster, Enoc Castaneda, and Ed Olson. They all worked extremely hard and did some fantastic work. Thanks to their help we met the tight deadline and still produced some quality animation.

You can watch Mr. Potato Head in action here: http://kids.hasbro.com/playskoolkids/

Here’s a few screen grabs from the site:

“Help The Hodges” Update

I’m leaving today to spend the weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska where I’ll be attending the annual meeting of the North Central chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. We’ll be judging submissions for the “comic strips” category of the NCS Reuben Awards. There will also be some presentations by other artists, some good food, and lots of goofing off.

Before I leave I wanted to update you on the “Help The Hodges” art auction on ebay. If you haven’t heard, hundreds of very cool animation- and cartoon-related items are being auctioned off to raise money for animator/writer/producer Tim Hodge, who’s son Matthew is in a coma after a car he was in was struck by a train.

Over the course of about three weeks a steady stream of items was being auctioned off. Then, without warning, ebay killed the auction and yanked it offline. I don’t know the details but apparently there was a misunderstanding that resulted in an accidental violation of one of ebay’s many fine-print policies. Over 150 items were wiped out in mid-bid.

The good news is that things have been ironed out with ebay and the auction will start up again on Saturday, February 27. As soon as it does you’ll be able to view a list of all the available items at HelpTheHodges.com. There will be a ton of neat stuff up for sale.

Before the auction was interrupted I was fortunate enough to land the winning bid on an autographed Disney maquette of Kuzko from “The Emporer’s New Groove”. It arrived in the mail yesterday and is currently perched atop the computer desk in my studio until I can build a proper shelf for it:

“Help The Hodges” is a great cause and a big win-win. There’s something neat for every fan of animation or cartooning, and its all for a good cause. But if bidding isn’t your thing, you can also give a Paypal donation to the Hodge’s at HelpTheHodges.com.

VeggieTales Creator Launches New Series (Video Trailer)

A few days ago I blogged about a new series from the Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, called “What’s In The Bible?”. Here’s a short video introducing the series:

I’ve had the honor of doing some animation work on the series (including the puppet choir shown in the video). Volumes 1 and 2 will go on sale in Christian bookstores on or around March 1.

You can get the latest info, as well as follow “What’s In The Bible?” on Facebook and Twitter, by visiting the official site.