Jim O’Brien

Jim O’Brien

Company: Kenner


Joe- Hi Jim, please could you introduce yourself and explain a little about the position you had at Kenner and the kind of work you were involved in?

Jim- Hi Joe, my name is Jim O’Brien and I was the Director of Packaging for Kenner. I was hired for that position by Bob Fox in August of 1986 at the age of 43 and I worked for the company until 2005 when I retired. In that time I worked on many different toy lines usually for their entire existence, The Real Ghostbusters was one such toy line which I was involved with from start to finish.

Here is a picture of me taken at Kenner, if you look closely you’ll be able to spot a roll of Ecto-plasm RGB logo stickers on the shelf above my head!

Jim O'Brien at Kenner







This is a picture of Dave Reid (Kenner Art Director), myself and Mike Carroll (Director of packaging structures). It was taken at the 1988 toy fair.

1988 toy fair (Dave Reid, Kenner Art Director, Me and Mike Carroll, Director of Packaging structures)







The Ghostbusters Packaging photo below is one I had shot in our internal photo studio so I could have some reference to show prospective employers in case I got laid off which happened quite frequently at Kenner (usually around Christmas).



Jim's GB product photography







I did this for every line I worked on (pictures below).




Joe- Fantastic pictures Jim! It’s amazing to see those three proof cards in your packaging artwork reference photos! So which companies did you work for before Kenner and what is your own artistic background?

Jim- Before I joined Kenner I had been the art director for the US playing card company for 14 years and prior to that I was the “Publications Officer” for the University of Cincinnati. That was really more of a design office that designed pamphlets, booklets, posters, books, catalogs etc for the various colleges and the administration offices. I started there in August of 1966 after returning from active duty with the the US coast guard reserves. During my 6 months service I worked on the base newspaper as their artist (the public information office).

Prior to joining the coast guard reserve I worked at a Cincinnati art studio but didn’t get to work on any Kenner projects. That particular studio was the Mott Studio and they did a lot of P&G work and some fashion work along with work for a number of local Cincinnati ad agencies. I started at Mott Studios after graduating from the Cincinnati art academy in May of 1965 (a 4 year program of art and design).

Joe- Working for Kenner from 1986 to 2005 you must have seen a lot of things change over the years. How did the advent of computer design impact the process of creating toy packaging?

Jim- It definitely changed quite a bit over the years. Actually I have an interesting story which shows just how fast things did change. Back in 1993 after a fall from the roof cleaning my gutters, I spent 13 days in intensive care followed by 6 months and 6 surgeries on my elbows, wrists, face and head. I was away from work for 6 months from Nov. 1993 till May 1994 then again in Sept.1994 thru November 1994 due to additional surgeries. Then I broke my leg in 1995 and couldn’t use crutches due to my arms so I missed even more work. During this reasonably short period, the computer had all but taken over the traditional way of creating finished art for printing. Many of the art Studios were forced to buy multi-million dollar computer systems because P&G demanded they have this equipment. Sadly, most of the studios eventually went bankrupt due to these expenditures. They also hired many techies who knew little about creative design and only concentrated on production. We at Kenner hired newly graduated production people to also handle production in house.

The equipment the studios were required to buy was not the MAC base systems but extreme high resolution systems that large publishers owned. I never had a MAC at Kenner until 1998 since they wanted us on PC’s to communicate with the marketers and upper management.