Poot Poot! Making the Cars
One of the biggest and most important design challenges of this project so far has been the cars. To my mind, they represent the noxious, polluting future of mass production, noisy and dangerous and the death of artisan craftsmanship.
And yet... They are also described as shiny and majestic, an impressive and phenomenal piece of machinery that will ultimately be a game-changer to travel and industry. So, what the hell should they look like?
The First Concept
Way back in late 2011, when I was first pondering this idea, I made a few sample illustrations that included Mr. Toad stealing a car. That first concept was of a steam-powered vehicle, a confection of brass and wood, as fanciful as it was pretty. Of course, at the time I was still playing around with ideas, and hadn't yet identified the importance of the artisan versus mass-production theme. Toad was also dressed in more Victorian garb, which would later be replaced by a more modern, Edwardian-Hipster feel.
All in all, it was a pretty piece of design, but it wasn't right.
The next set of sketches and ideas came as I began working on samples for this project in earnest, in early 2013. By this stage I had it firmly locked in my mind that the automobile of Grahame's time was a nasty piece of futuristic technology, belching hatred and fire and environmental damage all over the lovely countryside. It should be an ugly thing of black iron and grease, spewing pollution and the nuts and bolts of poor manufacturing across every country lane.
You may note that at this time the characters and flavour of the illustrations were still being settled; like all prototypes, there was still a lot of refining to be done.
In the end I felt like I was being too hard on the car manufacturers: this last design looks like a coal power plant on wheels. Although they must be loud and huge and just a little bit obscene, they must still be glorious enough for Toad to become so desperately infatuated.
I had to regain the "deep mahogany and shining brass details" of Grahame's description.
The Final Design
At length I returned to my drawing books and found for reference the ideal mass-produced vehicle: Ford Model T. First produced around Grahame's era, Ford created a new method of production line that meant a Model T could be built in just 93 minutes, which was a staggering feat for the time. Clearly, when Grahame was imagining cars trampling all over his lovely countryside it was the Model T he was picturing.
By itself, however, the Model T was a bit too quaint and charming for my mind, so I added to it the elements of its modern brethren that I feel are most wasteful and indulgent. The final design boasts a huge, partially exposed engine, multiple exhausts, front bumper, an obnoxiously loud horn, a rear spoiler and, just for that extra touch of hoon, racing stripes.
Here, at last, is a car Toad would thunder around the countryside in, and invariably use to crash into a hedge.
But who cares about smashes when another one is built every 93 minutes?