Sharon Park / Kidrobot
One day, in the near future, cars will drive themselves, and robots will rule us all in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. But until then, robots are the cute things that automatically vacuum our floors. They also happen to make dope toys.
Enter: Kidrobot, a company that makes vinyl art toys out of characters from Adult Swim, The Simpsons, and quajillions of other cartoony properties. The brand also has a line of plush, stuffed toys in food shapes called Yummy World; if you like the idea of oversized, soft, cartoonish eats with goofy eyes, you’re going to love their tacos, Greek coffee cups, bacon strips, and cheese puffs!
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KidRobot has a tiny office in Boulder, Colorado, filled with around 20 artists, administrators, and marketing folks who invited me to help them prototype a new beer plush toy for Yummy World. “Why, if celebrities like Mindy Kaling and Emma Stone love Yummy World,” I surmised, “they’ll want to hang out with the guy who helped design one.” Of course, I said yes.
When brainstorming for this new product, I couldn’t help but first think about all of the beer toys that already exist. You know the ones: big, frosty, handled mugs with foam aplenty overflowing. But c’mon -- that’s not realistic. Outside of Oktoberfest, when the hell are you ever drinking a beer that looks like that? I wanted to design something that more closely resembled what I’d actually drink in a taproom. With that said, what I drink in a taproom might be a litttttle nerdier than what the Average Joe might enjoy. And realistic accuracy is of the utmost importance.
Here’s what I emailed artist Sharon Park, who’s designed 15 Yummy World plushes just this year:
I didn’t think there was any way they could design a plush toy with a rocky head in a tulip glass. But boy, was I wrong.
When I met with Sharon, she used my annoyingly detailed design ideas to create a prototype. “The toys are oversized and larger than life, but it can get designed pretty specifically!” she said. Looking at reference images (aka doing a Google Image search) is one thing, but actually knowing which materials will make it shine is another. And Park knows her stuff.
“I’d use plastic vinyl PVC for the ‘glass’,” she explained. “It’d be clear, see-through vinyl. So you could kind of see through the glass and the rocky peaks.” (That’s what she calls rocky head, and I wasn’t going to correct her because that’s a much better name for foam than “rocky head.”) “And there’d definitely be a sturdy base so it could stand on its own. For the foam, we were thinking velboa fabric.” This would be a bumpy real mess up top, just like it is when you drink certain saisons!
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Obviously, I wanted to see a real life prototype incredibly badly -- but apparently, these things are way too expensive to create for the sole purpose of illustrating an article on a beer website. Amy Johnson, one of the company’s logistical masterminds, explained to me what it takes for one of these plush toys to become a reality: “Our development team takes her concept and coordinates with people in our factories [overseas] to can create sample pieces. Sharon will recommend a shape and fabric, but if it’s not [doable], it’ll be sent back to development to tell them what’ll work and what won’t. Then Sharon makes adjustments. They play tennis back and forth before we get a physical sample sent to us.”
Kidrobot’s office is full of samples that didn’t make the cut. It looks like an island of misfit toys on which the toys are simply the wrong color. But when a toy is finally approved, “the development team takes it in their own hands and pulls continents together to have this creation made,” Johnson said.
Sadly, my beer plush probably won’t be manufactured unless they decide to go forward with an entire line of booze-themed Yummy World toys. I’m really hoping they do. Not only because the world needs its first accurate beer plush toy -- but because Mindy Kaling seems like a fun hang.