Tom’s Thumb

Tom’s Thumb
by Tom Watson

We all have heard the Greek mytho­log­ical story of “Achilles Heel”. This is the story of “Tom’s Thumb,” however this story is not mythology, it is very true.

Once upon a time in the year of of our Lord 1965, there was a fledging young illus­trator from the Valley of Napa„ far away from the Magical Kingdom of San Fran­cisco. His name was Tom. After studying at Art Center School, Tom had worked for a full-service studio in the Hamlet of Oakland for two years, where he learned about the prac­tical side of the busi­ness of illus­tra­tion and graphic design. After two years of diverse expe­ri­ence, Tom wanted to try his hand in the Magical Kingdom of San Fran­cisco. So, he left the studio in the Hamlet of Oakland and began looking for larger dragons to slay across the Bay, in the Magical Kingdom of San Fran­cisco. One day, Tom received word from Sir Norman Nicholson of the Magical Kingdom, requesting that Tom accom­pany him to slay some large fierce dragons roaming the Magical Land. Sir Norman, an expe­ri­enced and well respected Knight of the Round Table (Society of Illus­tra­tors), was one of Tom’s instruc­tors at the Academy of Art in the year of our Lord 1959. Sir Norman had been helpful with advice and moral support in the past, and Tom was very grateful for his noble acts of kindness.

Sir Norman had received several story­boards to slay for the Milk Advi­sory Board. He offered to split the work with Tom, but typi­cally the AD was in a rush and wanted them finished and on his desk the following morning.

With assign­ment in hand, Tom anxiously trav­eled to his distant lair in the Valley of Napa, with ideas racing through his mind. On his arrival, he burst through the door and told his wife, the fair Lady Joan, that he would be at battle all the night and into the next morning, to slay this large dragon. While lady Joan prepared supper, he worked fever­ishly to do all the pencil roughs before supper, but his mind was moving faster than his hand, and he was drawing faster than he had ever drawn before. While trav­eling to his lair, Tom deter­mined that even with only one break for supper, he would barely have enough time to finish the job of slaying the dragon, and deliver it back to the agency in the Kingdom of San Fran­cisco. Surely, a daunting task for young Tom.

As Tom drew faster and faster, his hand became a blur and his mind was racing fran­ti­cally, making one deci­sion after another. Then, the unthink­able happened! Tom’s right thumb began to cramp and soon it became useless. A wounded warrior, he could not hold his pencil any longer to draw. No matter how he tried to over­come it, it was to no avail. Tom thought this is the end! He would miss his dead­line, let down and disap­point his friend Sir Norman, and miss an oppor­tu­nity to earn his knight­hood in the Magical Kingdom of San Fran­cisco. Tom was morti­fied. Could a stiff thumb end his career? How could he tell Sir Norman that his thumb stopped working, stiff­ened up and died? It would never be believed by anyone! After taking a short break, he tried once again, but Tom’s thumb cramped again and the more he tried the worse it got. Tom had to inform Sir Norman, for it was the only thing he could do. In receiving the bad news, Sir Norman chuckled and assured Tom that it was only a tempo­rary reac­tion to his under­stand­able anxiety and nervous tension, and it would prob­ably go away after he had his supper. Sir Norman calmed the dejected and near panicky Tom, and told him not to worry, that it wasn’t life or death, and to call him if it continued. Tom felt cautiously better, while eating his supper. After supper, Lady Joan massaged his taut neck, back and arms, which helped him relax before he had to return to his fate. It was now or never, Tom or the dragon?

The next morning Tom walked to his coach, and taking a long breath of early morning air, he was off for the Magical Kingdom of San Fran­cisco. He felt elated and greatly relieved that he had completed the job, killed the fierce dragon, and felt confi­dent that the AD would be pleased with the results. Tom trav­eled directly to the cham­bers of the agency that initi­ated the assign­ment, as Sir Norman had instructed him to do. Tom proudly displayed the numerous colored story­board frames to the AD, who was smiling and nodding his head up and down. He then, turned to Tom, shook his hand and exclaimed, “Good job, Tom, I’ll have a purchase order typed up for you before you leave”. That was music to Tom’s ears, and the begin­ning of many, many more story­board and illus­tra­tion assign­ments in the Magical Kingdom of San Fran­cisco, including special effects concep­tual boards for the movie industry throughout the 1990s’.

Sir Norman and Tom remained good friends throughout their career, and to this day, they look back and have a good laugh about their many escapades together in those early days of the Magical Kingdom of San Francisco.

The End