PMI’s Tal Cohen on bringing digital brands like Pudgy Penguins and Piñata Smashlings into toys

Tal Cohen, PMI, Pudgy Penguins, Piñata Smashlings

Tal, it’s great to connect. PMI has launched toys for some really interesting brands. Pudgy Penguins, Piñata Smashlings… What are some key considering when bringing digital properties into toys?
It depends on the brand. Some brand owners will give you lots of detail about the characters and lots of assets – this makes for quite a smooth design process. Some don’t have many assets and this is when the fun begins! We’ll try to understand some key features of the characters and what makes them unique; then we’ll translate that from the digital world into 3D. Exploration is essential. I’ll play the games and watch others play the games. If it’s a show, I’ll watch it… You have to understand the world of a brand.

It’s also important to understand what’s important for the licensor. We like to have as much collaboration with them as possible throughout the design process.

Let’s talk Pudgy Penguins for a moment. I can see these going down well with people, regardless of whether they know the original NFTs! Talk us through the design process behind these collectibles.
It was pretty easy and a natural fit for toys because these characters are so cute. They have a very stylish look and each one has their own life and attributes. Everyone can relate to at least one of the Pudgy Penguins!

We’ve also tried to explore new ways of showcasing the Pudgy illustrations in toys. Let’s say if one has a special outfit and we’re bringing that into plush, we’ll look at new fabrics or other innovative ways to best mimic the illustration. It’s the same with the collectibles. It’s a lot of exploration and a lot of fun. I love that part of the job.

Tal Cohen, PMI, Pudgy Penguins, Piñata Smashlings

Have you got a favourite penguin? Or is it like choosing a favourite child…
I like all the gold ones! The metallic effect really makes them feel quite premium.

Moving onto Piñata Smashlings – how did you approach bringing that game into toys?
Toikido has done a great job making the designs of the Smashlings very distinctive. There are lots of characters, but they all look like they come from that world. Understanding that design language and the shapes of the characters was a key part of our process, as was playing the game.

Tal Cohen, PMI, Pudgy Penguins, Piñata Smashlings

We interviewed Toikido’s Darran Garnham a few months back and he was really proud of how these collectibles stand out in that sector – in large part thanks to the pods having legs!
That touch was key in helping these stand out from other collectible brands that use balls or pods. And we wanted to keep everything authentic to the experience of the game. Look at our big Rainbow Whale plush – that took us a long time to get it exactly right, but we wanted it to be exactly what you see in the game. It’s important to get those things right.

Tal Cohen, PMI, Pudgy Penguins, Piñata Smashlings

Before we wrap up, what helps you have ideas? What fuels your creativity?
Research. That’s always my first step and that helps fuel inspiration. I also look to what other brands are doing in this space and that’s useful. Sometimes you can feel stuck creatively, but the PMI team has five great designers and discussing problems with them always helps us unearth solutions.

Tal, a huge thanks for this and for taking time out to chat.

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