The Arizona Republic
Cartoonist hit it big with Supercuts finger-puppet idea
Jan. 13, 2006

f you used to take your children to Supercuts a few years ago for haircuts, you might remember those fuzzy finger puppets called "Hairy Pops" they gave to kids.

Turns out they were created by Troy Walker, who runs TWP Cartoon Studios in Phoenix. It was the cartoonist's first commercial break in the late 1990s when he lived in the San Francisco Bay area.

"Supercuts gave away lollipops to kids, and I thought putting my finger puppets on them would make a neat little promotion," Walker said. "So I sent Supercuts a few of them, little knowing what would happen."

A month later, the company asked Walker if he could deliver 18,000 of them, at 68 cents each, in 30 days. He had to scramble to find people to make them for him. A month later, Supercuts ordered an additional 50,000 puppets with plans to roll them out nationally, and Walker had to shift the manufacturing to a South Korean toy factory.

Some of his other work includes developing a dog mascot for a California health care program, characters for various fast-food companies and Dr. Womplewink Fun Books for pediatricians' offices in California and Arizona. Most recently he updated the characters in a children's activity book for the Arizona Federal Credit Union.

"I spiced them up and gave them some life," Walker said. "I like to go into an organization that has some sort of promotion going on and create some punch."

Distant reverberations

The news of Todd Nelson's abrupt departure from Apollo Group created quite a stir Wednesday in Mexico City.

Many of the Wall Street analysts who cover the publicly traded parent of the University of Phoenix were attending a meeting with executives of another for-profit chain, Laureate Education, when the news broke midafternoon.

Jeff Silber, who follows the industry for Harris Nesbitt in New York, said the BlackBerrys started humming as the news spread through the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel. The analysts were waiting for a shuttle bus ride to a Laureate campus. Silber got word when a hotel employee rang a bell and called out his name to tell him he had a phone message from a co-worker.

Not to mention . . .

. . . Pay it forward: Remember the movie Pay It Forward in which a boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, encouraged people not to return favors, but to pay them forward to three other people to make the world a better place? The Arizona Small Business Association borrowed that theme for its annual business awards dinner Wednesday night. Tom Fraker, the group's executive director, had a few business members tell how the association's programs helped them, and how they, in return, helped others.

During the dinner, Fraker also tried to show a few clips from movie, which also starred Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. The clips were meant to inspire, but an uncooperative computer kept the audience from hearing or seeing the message. "This is why we gave everybody a copy," an unflustered Fraker said. Those attending each received a copy of the movie on DVD.

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