currently available for pre-orders online for a SDCC-pick-up, the 5"-er tall Happy Beaver is going for US$45-per and is housed in a box designed by Jeff himself = order HERE :) ... i actually had a chat with Jeff about Beaver, awhile's back ... and now it's the perfect time for an update!
TOYSREVIL: what's the story of Happy Beaver, Jeff? what's it's genesis?
JEFF PIDGEON: I've been working on my "Happy Beaver" toy for a little over a year, but the design is much older than that.
Originally, "Happy Beaver" was a cute little marker doodle on a small piece of note paper. I liked it, so I tucked it into my art-file, and for quite a while, that was that.
A few years later, I was digging around for designs to use in my CafePress store and ran across it again. I colored it up, and put it on a bunch of items there.
I sold a few things, but the turning point was when I was mulling over potential T-shirt designs to silkscreen and sell at Comic-Con. My wife Anita loved the drawing, and picked it out as one she thought I should do. I altered it by making it look grubby, and printed it on a grey shirt as "Dirty Beaver".
Later on, the means of production and my personal finances managed to meet in the middle, so I started thinking about making a vinyl toy, and trying to decide what the first design would be. I printed up six T-shirt designs for my first Comic-Con, but "Dirty Beaver" was by far the biggest seller. It seemed really clear that most folks agreed with Anita. Going back to the original color version, I started doing some homework.
TRE: well, that's one happy-looking beaver! did you sculpt HB yourself?
JEFF: I don't really have any sculpting experience, so I thought it'd be best to hire someone. I had met Vin Teng (sculpster.com) at Comic-Con a couple of years earlier, and I especially liked his ability to sculpt stylized characters, so I started emailing back and forth with him about a commission. We worked out a contract, and he quickly improved my turnaround, making a terrific maquette out of it. I kept it simple - no articulation, and as few paint passes as possible. Since Vin had toy production experience, he sculpted it in two pieces so I could cast the tail in a different color of vinyl.
TRE: so essentially, you produced HB yourself?
JEFF: I'm paying for the whole thing myself, and I approved each step of the process, so in that sense, yes. But if you mean actually making the figure myself - fabricating the molds, and popping out vinyl figures from scratch, and painting them - no. I needed to find someone who could help me with all of that, especially since I wanted to make hundreds of them, while preserving Vin's great sculpt. I started contacting some of my favorite toy companies, but sadly I didn't find many that were very forthcoming with information. I really needed someone with mass production experience, and who had contact with a factory overseas. That was the hardest part!
Fortunately, my employers have ties with a toy manufacturing company, and they were happy to help. They whipped up a production mold from the maquette, and painted a color model for reference at the factory. Once that was approved, and the box art was created, it was all sent off to the factory in China! I've received a vinyl sample, and it looks great!
TRE: "information" is always the 'tricky-bit', i reckon ... and i appreciated the fact that you've shared with your readers via an online tutorial/how-to-post = very generous of you :) ... tell us a bit about yourself, Jeff - what's your day job?
JEFF: I work at an animation studio as a storyboard artist, drawing up sequences for shorts and features. I'm working on a new movie that'll be released in a few years. The environment is great, and the projects are really terrific, so I've been there a long time - sixteen years! Of course, that experience was really helpful when I had to make the design really simple, and generate five turnaround angles for Vin.
TRE: 16 years of dedication! and you're Toy-Of-The-Day daily blog-feature had always brought me down memory lane and re-ignited a few buried passions as well! what's your connection with toys?
JEFF: I've always loved toys, and I've collected them since I was a kid. My early collections, of course, were the Kenner "Star Wars" figures and the Mego "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" line. I was right there when Giant Robot started to sell the Michael Lau figures in California - I was blown away by how cool and original the designs were. I started rabidly collecting his figures and Eric So's work too. Fortunately, lots of designer toy shops and websites started popping up - KidRobot, ningyoushi.com and Super 7, which has a great magazine to boot! Between all these great places to shop, and the birth of eBay about ten years ago, I have a pretty big collection now! You can check out the tip of the iceberg at my Flickr-collections.
TRE: so what's up with Happy Beaver now?
JEFF: I'm happy to report that the first edition of five hundred figures are done! One hundred of them will be on sale this week at San Diego Comic-Con. It's five inches tall, and it costs $45 USD. If you want to buy one, you can stop by the Red Window booth#4800 and drop down the cash, or if you know you're going to be at the convention anyway, you can pre-order one right now with PayPal on my blog at jeffpidgeon.com. I'll set one aside, and you can pick it up any time during the Con. It's really handy, and you don't even need to have a PayPal account! I'm confident that I'm going to sell out pretty quickly, so I do recommend pre-ordering.
I'll have "Happy Beaver" available for mail order through my website shortly after Comic-Con, so you'll be able to get one later if you miss out on the first hundred!
JEFF PIDGEON: After this colorway is gone, I have ideas for four other color variants if the demand is there. I also have another original toy design in the works that I'm hoping to make soon, too!
TOYSREVIL: thanks for your time and trouble, Jeff and good luck with Happy Beaver and your new endeavours! :)
[peep the development of Happy Beaver on Jeff's blog HERE :/ all images via]
[original post circa 24.07.07]