Drawing on a Love of Star Wars
(My Mighty Beanz Story)

Posted by on Sep 1, 2010 in Blog, Memoirs | 6 Comments

I was just six years old in 1977 when Star Wars first exploded onto movie screens across the country and took us all to a “galaxy far far away”. Like most six years olds and just about everyone else, I became obsessed with all things Star Wars. It was one of my earliest subjects as a young artist and remained one for many years. Although my passion for the films faded just a bit through my teenage years as my focus shifted to Sports (Hockey), girls, music, etc., in the mid-late 80’s, my love for the films never died. It was now a part of me, a pivotal moment in my childhood and something I will forever hold dear.

David E. Wilkinson's Star Wars Collection

Just part of my current Star Wars Collection

As I got older, I carefully returned all my toys back into their original boxes and stored them away in my attic. They remained there for years, till the early 90’s where I was inspired by some friends at art school who were collecting toys. The school itself (The Hussian School of Art) was an inspiration in this regard as the halls and offices were all filled with toys and things nostalgic from my childhood and beyond. So, I dusted off all my old action figures, ships, playsets and everything else Star Wars and began looking at them in different light. Thankfully as a child, I took very good care of my stuff so all of my former play things gave me one heck of a start on a toy collection. From that point on I became an avid collector buying anything that even said Star Wars on it. My basement is filled with this stuff today!

This all might seem silly but I look at it as an important turning point in my career. I just did not know it yet.

Star Wars Trilogy by David E. Wilkinson

36×48″ Star Wars Painting I finished in Art School 1994(Acrylic on Canvas)

A couple years after graduation from art school I became unhappy with my employment situation. My girlfriend (and future wife) was looking through the job listing in the news paper. Ironically I told her “why bother? There aren’t any good jobs in the paper.” Silly me! She found a listing for a Designer at Tyco Toys in Mt. Laurel NJ. Who knew that the third largest toy company on the planet was practically in my back yard? I had no clue. With no experience in toys other than my passion as a collector, I somehow got the job.

I have always said my life would be completely different today if I had not gotten that job and I believe the biggest reason I did was a passion and love for toys. I took a hobby and turned it into a career.

Having spent the following eight and a half years as a toy designer for Tyco and then Mattel working primarily on Matchbox, I have worked on countless products and designed probably a thousand Matchbox cars. In the six years that have followed I have continued to work for Mattel as well as the rest of the industry as a freelance artist. I have done work for most of the biggest names in the industry including Hasbro, Learning Curve / RC2, Jakks Pacific and more.

Back when I first started working in the toy industry, there was no greater feeling than seeing something that I designed at retail. I mean how cool is that? Especially when you have hidden some personal initial code or clue in there that absolutely no one on Earth would even notice but you.

Like anything I suppose, you sadly grow accustomed to seeing your work hanging from the peg at your local Target or other fine retailer. Not that I do not still get a sense of pride in seeing these things, but you do get used to it. That and knowing how these big companies like to waste time and money working on projects and then killing them, I think it comes as more of a surprise these days than anything when something does actually make it to the shelf.

David E. Wilkinson's Star Wars Mighty Beanz

My Mighty Beanz Character Art

Recently that old feeling I had as a toy industry newbie finding my work in Toys R Us all came rushing back to me when I picked up the first Star Wars toy that I had created. About six months ago I was contacted by an old friend who I used to work with at Mattel. He is also freelancing in the industry and one of his clients is Spin Master Toys who was working on re-launching The Mighty Beanz toy line.  They were working on a collection of Star Wars themed Beanz. He asked me if I was interested in creating some Star Wars character artwork for a number of Beanz…”And you are going to pay me for that?” Uh? Ya! So I created the illustrations / art on a variety of the Beanz as well as the large Darth Vader, Spider-Man and Iron-Man collector tins.

Just a few weeks back I was in Toys R Us with my family picking up a couple of birthday presents and decided to look for the Beanz. The entire display of pegs was empty and the only thing left on the shelf was but one Dart Vader tin. I snatched it up like it was gold and was giddy walking through the store looking at it from every angle. I wanted to tell everyone in the store that I had worked on it. (I didn’t BTW)

Mighty Beanz Darth Vader Collector TinI know I am not the only one with a story like this and I know this is pretty insignificant compared to fans like me who have gone on to actually work on the films or work on the toys every day. Even so, I have done a lot of things that I am very proud of in my career, but it is not every day that you get to work on something that has meant so much in your life. Now, after all these years I have finally made my only personal mark on the Star Wars collecting universe.

… now can I tell you how cool it was to have my daughter come in to me yelling about the Star Wars Beanz TV commercial was on and pointing at my work on TV?



  1. VinaMist
    September 1, 2010

    Wow, thank you for sharing your Star Wars story. I was a big fan too when it first came out. I remember my young parents taking us to the drive-in to see it on the big screen. It was even cooler to see the Sar Wars movies under the real stars. Even though it does take hard work and commitment, we are lucky to be living our childhood inspiration.


  2. Toybuzz
    October 8, 2010

    The Star Wars Mighty Beanz look amazing! Great work on them 🙂

    My son loves the tin so much he even takes it to bed with him.

  3. dew71
    October 9, 2010

    Thanks for the comment and compliments Toybuzz. Great story about your son taking his tin to bed with him. Glad he likes it.

    I bought one of each tin for myself because I wanted a sample for my office and all three (Iron-Man, Spider-Man & Darth Vader) are all up in my son’s bed room. Maybe I will get them back some day.


    Look me up on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wilkinson-Gallery/170967415971?ref=ts

    Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/davidewilkinson

  4. Chuck
    October 12, 2010

    That’s awesome, David! I would love to see that collection some day.

  5. dew71
    October 13, 2010

    Anytime Chuck! Just let me know when.

  6. Anonymous
    September 19, 2012

    sorry seems im 2 years behind everybody….but lol thats what you get for living in australia…just wanted to let you know i love the work you have done on the beanz..and now when my friends ask me about them i have a great story to tell.keep up the great work


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