My Interview with Carlos Mendoza III, Artist, Visionary, Humanitarian…and Toy Designer

Carlos Mendoza III is a seasoned Art Director, conceptual illustrator and product designer. Carlos has more than 18 years of professional experience in toy and product development. His passion for toy design, fantasy art and character development keeps him current to   design trends and pop culture. He has lead design and development teams across a broad spectrum of brands such as Star Wars, Disney, Marvel, DC, Subway Surfer, Killer Klown as well as Nickelodeons #1 brand Spongebob SquarePants. 

Carlos started the Artisan Social Club, a highly creative network of all-level artists and designers. This community has a foundation of industry professionals across many fields of expertise ready and willing to nurture talent in others. Carlos is a mentor to students in art school, and those early stage professionals in need of creative direction.

Richard: You are an artist and a humanitarian. That’s quite a beautiful combination. Can you tell us about your evolution as both?

Carlos: As a kid, I always loved to draw, and after my junior year in high school, I got heavily involved in graffiti in Los Angeles. So much so that I started to hang out with a really intense crew; eventually, I was caught. I was assigned a probation officer to report to daily. He became a mentor to me ( an interesting story for another time) and showed me other ways I could use my love for art for something more meaningful. He brought me to Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, and from that day, I devoted my life to trying to become an artist for Disney. I stopped writing on walls and went to art school. My life was forever changed. I had found my purpose. Fast forward to 2018, when I started Artisan Social Club in SoCal to give kids and struggling artists the same opportunity to interact with industry professionals to gain insight and direction in their creative journey. Positive experiences and role models can change lives, just like they did for me. 

Richard: Tell us about the Artisan Social Club. 

Carlos: The Artisan Social Club is a Non-Profit organization designed to bring together industry professionals, art students, and art novices where each can share their journey. Before the pandemic, we hosted these events in person at various locations, including local art schools and my home. ASC2023 will expand to include east coast gatherings to complement the SoCal sessions, led by my partner Joe Campos, President and Chief Creative Officer at McHale Design. Additionally, with our mentors, we are planning information sessions, demos, and training available to local communities and school districts. Our roster of mentors includes professional designers and artists from ALL creative fields across the art and entertainment industry. As working professionals, they are uniquely qualified to provide the next generation of creatives with an opportunity to witness and learn firsthand what’s required in an art studio. Our goal is to strengthen the pipeline of creative professionals available to the toy, licensing, and entertainment industries. 

Richard: Can you tell me more about some of the professionals who have stepped up to be mentors?

Carlos: Our mentors, who lend their time and talent at the workshops, are professional artists actively working in a professional environment. They represent diverse media and skill sets. I currently serve as Art Director of Animatronics, Licensed/Non-License Weapons, and Horror Decor at Spirit Halloween. I’ll be joined by, to name a few, Jared Krichevsky of Legacy Effects (MEGAN, GOTG3, King Kong, and Godzilla. Christian Gossett worked on the Star Wars franchise and the acclaimed graphic novel RED STAR. Christian recently directed a few Netflix series. Geizi Guevera, Illustrator and toy designer for Jazwares will be a mentor, as will Kelsie Mitchell, Lead Sr. Designer for costumes at Spirit Halloween! Magic can happen when we pair a member with the right mentor at our live in-person and online workshops. 

Richard: Is this only meant to teach art students and struggling artists?

Carlos: Not at all. While it is true that we want to support current art students and even those in the early stage of their careers, we are mission-driven to bring art training to those who may not have the exposure, support, or financial means to develop their artistic passion. We are developing programs with an eye on inner-city kids and those in the foster care system. Our mission is to give everyone a chance to see their potential regardless of their background or situation, just like my probation officer gave to me. We also like the idea of bringing drawing sessions and workshops to nearby bases for active military and their families, as well as veterans. Drawing and drawing together as a group can relieve stress, increase confidence and strengthen the community, not to mention the skills training.

Richard: How does someone qualify for the club? 

Carlos: We are looking for people with a creative drive and a passion for art who may need help determining where they want to take it. It’s that simple.

Richard: Are toy industry companies familiar with the Artisan Social Club? 

Carlos: Some do, but we appreciate this opportunity to share our story with Global Toy News. With the east coast expansion and increased efforts to reach underexposed and underserved communities, we hope to garner new support from toy and entertainment companies. We see this as a win-win where we help groom and grease the talent pipeline. We’re looking for sponsors to help underwrite the cost of producing live and online events. I’d love to talk with any company or foundation that shares our vision for community outreach and talent development. We’ve had much success with art schools inviting ASC to share our workshops with students. We want to extend these in-house workshops to toy and entertainment companies to help train junior staff in studio expectations, etiquette, and best practices. This will help them be more confident and efficient in a professional environment. Please write to me at

Richard: Tell us about your creations. Where might I see them? 

Carlos: Over the course of my career, I have had many fantastic opportunities to work with highly talented design teams and to lead a few in some really fun branded projects for Star Wars, Marvel, Nickelodeon, and, yes, Disney, to name a few. You can see some of my journey in my online portfolio. and on Instagram

Richard: I have always been fascinated by the connection between art and play. We have a number of fine artists working with Lego bricks and producing some incredible works of art. What do you think of toys as a medium? 

Carlos: When the plaything becomes the medium for a work of art, it is just magical. LEGO is a great example of the extended creativity a toy or character can inspire. My career is based in the toy industry. As an illustrator, I have used my skills to bring life to a full spectrum of products, from plush playsets kids’ furniture, diecast cars, and collectibles. If I’m successful, the product itself is a work of art, along with the packaging. We are so fortunate to work in an industry that inspires young and old to celebrate play, and I am determined to encourage even more students to consider a future in this field.

One thought

  1. What an extraordinary journey! Thanks for sharing your story. Keep up the unique efforts & inspiration to all creative individuals! Nice work, Carlos!

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