Toy Design That Grabs Your Attention

Creative concept and design studio Applehead Factory relies on NewTek LightWave 3D to visualize toy prototypes and deliver the goods.

By Courtney E. Howard

Teddy ScaresApplehead Factory is all about creativity, passion and execution. When the company opened its doors in 2002, it offered one simple product—DrinkMaster Says, a card game full of wild rules and challenges that involve—you guessed it—adult beverages. To this day, the game remains a popular seller in stores like Spencer Gifts. However, in 2003, the company decided to delve into producing a more tangible form of entertainment—Teddy Scares, a series of offbeat, but loveable, zombie teddy bears that have been transformed from the soft cuddly teddy bears they once were to the stitched, scarred and reassembled bears they are today.

Following the first series of Teddy Scares, which touts approximately 20 exclusive bears and features comic books, apparel, and more, Applehead Factory embarked on its second line of toys featuring Tofu the Vegan Zombie. This seven-inch vinyl toy not only expanded the company’s zombie reach, it also introduced LightWave 3D into the creative pipeline. And, it wasn’t long before LightWave was being used to generate 3D prototypes for all Applehead products, including Teddy Scares.

“We quickly realized that we could save a massive amount of time and eliminate potential headaches before going into final production by creating our toys in LightWave 3D,” explains Applehead Factory art director Joe DiDomenico. “Being able to deliver a dimensional prototype to our manufacturers in China helps remove the confusion that often comes with manufacturing and delivering a toy using 2D schematics.”

In addition to designing its toys in LightWave, Applehead Factory uses LightWave to create photoreal product renders for packaging materials—a huge advantage since the packaging is created as the toy is being manufactured. By delivering a photoreal image of the product in unison with the toy design, Applehead eliminates the need for a product photo shoot—saving time and money in the delivery of the final product.

“A benefit of using LightWave to generate 3D prototypes is the use of its photoreal rendering engine,” explains Applehead president Phil Nannay. “We are able to produce imagery of products that we can easily put in front of our retailers and distributors for pre-orders. It also allows us to test market products to see how many units of a particular product we should produce, which helps us streamline costs on many levels.”

Expanding the Business of 3D

In 2011, Applehead Factory returned to its roots, developing a new product in the Drink Master Says series—DrinkMaster Says Super Quarters. Once again, LightWave proved instrumental in creating the plastic tray prototype and the final product shot for the packaging. The CG product shot was also used to pre-sell the item to stores and to get early feedback from distributors. Then when it came time to manufacture the game, the LightWave OBJ file was exported to an STL file and sent to the manufacturer where steel molds were generated for the production of the toy.

Applehead continues to integrate LightWave in its marketing and sales promotions, using the software to create mockups of point-of-purchase countertop displays. Online and virally, the company has also used LightWave to produce Teddy Scares and Tofu the Vegan Zombie animated shorts, which have received numerous awards including a Telly Award.

“Most people see LightWave as a way to create visual effects for movies and television,” says DiDomenico, “But we immediately realized it could make the development of our products better, easier and faster. The use of LightWave in our studio has completely changed our pipeline for the better.”

Go Ahead, Brand Your Own

Applehead Factory not only creates Teddy Scares for its devoted followers, it also creates custom Teddy Scares for businesses looking to extend their brand through custom products. Some of the company’s newest creations, created entirely in LightWave, debuted in late 2011. These included two eight-inch custom Teddy Scares—one bear was designed exclusively for Vamp Fangs, and the other, Hester Golem, was created for Eastern State Penitentiary’s annual “Terror Behind the Walls,” one of the largest haunted attractions in the United States. Last year marked the fifth year Applehead Factory has produced a custom bear for the Eastern State Penitentiary event.

Collectively, the artists at Applehead offer a wealth of experience working on projects for companies such as Pixar, Dreamworks, NASA and many others. As Applehead Factory continues to attract new business with custom toy, animation and design services targeting companies that are ready to take their brand to new extremes, LightWave 3D will remain the company’s go-to 3D software every step of the way.

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