Poser Creator Series: Tracking Santa with Meshbox Designs

Dec 11, 2019 at 10:00 am by Michelle Willard

Tracking Santa with Meshbox Designs

Poser offers users the ability to use interactive 3D figure design to create art, illustration, animation, comics, web, print, education, medical, games, story boarding, and more. Using the program, creators can bring their stories, dreams and fantasies to life. From historic to contemporary, sci-fi to fantasy, Poser is the 3D graphics software tool used by professionals and hobbyists alike.

That's why we want to take a closer look at some of the creators who leverage the power of Poser to create. 

Since 2006, Poser creator Meshbox Designs has helped Christmas dreams come to life by helping NORAD track the Jolly Old Elf across the sky.

The official NORAD Santa Tracker started in 1955 as Santa journeys around the globe delivering presents to all the good girls and boys. The program gives the current location of Santa during his North American deliveries.

To help the tracking, NORAD enlisted the help of Meshbox Designs in 2006 to provide the Toon Santa used in the annual animation that is distributed through news channels and NORAD's Santa Tracker website on Dec. 24 every year.

Meshbox launched the Toon Santa series in 2002 with Toon Santa for Poser.

"Like many Americans my age, I grew up watching the Rankin-Bass holiday specials at Christmas time," explained Meshbox Design's principal Lynn Frederick. "There really wasn't any good Santa at the time for Poser. The early 2000s were a time of great change in our market. ... I wanted a Santa that had a family friendly appeal in presentation and style."

Since the release of the classic Toon Santa, Meshbox has released 14 versions over the years. Other Santas include Gentleman Santa, Steampunk Santa and this year's edition Hipster Santa.

But it's the classic version that kids of all ages watch travel around the world every Christmas Eve.

Frederick's took some time out of his schedule and answered a few questions about Meshbox's role in this annual tradition.

Please tell us when & how this happened and explain the role Meshbox’s Toon Santa plays in NORAD’s tracking.

Fredricks: We became a corporate contributor to the NORAD Tracks Santa program in 2006 at about the same time we did a massive upgrade to Toon Santa. Oddly enough, a customer working at Microsoft introduced Toon Santa to NORAD, and then NORAD contacted us. A few years later, we can up with a variant version of Toon Santa which gives him a more unique appearance just for NORAD. We call him "NORAD Santa" for obvious reasons.

Our biggest contribution is in fact, the Toon Santa in full 3D that flies around the world on Christmas Eve. Some years have had tens of millions of viewers at that time. The site in some years has had well over 100 million unique visitors. Some of the art on the site comes from us, while other art used in various promotions includes other corporate contributors. Last year Adobe provided some animation that included our character work, for example. In previous years, Toon Santa showed up on 'real world cross overs' such as advertisements at the Denver airport, commercials on airlines, an opening of the New York Stock Exchange and even on an episode of Hawaii 5-0.

One contribution people do not often realize is that several of the tunes played on the site also come from "Meshbox Music." We've been thinking about how we can make these available for license on Renderosity.

Who does the animations for NORAD?

Fredricks: The real-time animations are done by the satellite tracking company who is also a corporate contributor.

What has been the most challenging thing as a contributor to NORAD Tracks Santa?

Fredricks: The biggest challenge is being a part of a team of collaborators that can include very large partners, like Microsoft, as well as many disparate companies large and small. Because of our background in tech and business, we've also provided some additional value over the years.

What has been the best part of contributing to NORAD’s Santa tracking?

Fredricks: It is a wonderful program! Although many contributors are corporations, we set aside our business hats to do something for free which make people happy all over the world. Over the years, many volunteers spend Christmas Eve manning banks of phones to answer calls asking about Santa. It has also become a tradition for the First Lady to take part in that.

The folks at NORAD love the program and are wonderful people to work with. They are also a part of NORAD itself. I encourage anyone who loves “NORAD Tracks Santa” to understand the vital role NORAD plays in protecting us in North America by visiting their regular website.

To read the complete interview by Lynn Czerniawski, visit Renderosity Magazine.

What can you create? Let us know on Twitter at @poserpro, using #CreateWithPoser.
Sections: News