Mitchel Wu at Schleich's Toy Fair event
Schleich USA celebrated its 85th year Sunday morning (Feb. 23) at Toy Fair with a press event kicking off a “Power of Imagination” campaign at its lobby exhibit at New York’s Javits Center.
The campaign features a collaboration with top toy photographer Mitchel Wu, who is creating a series of his signature action toy photographs suggesting the open-ended play potential of Schleich’s renowned animal figurines. Wu was on hand to demonstrate his live photography technique, and his initial set of images were on display at the company’s lobby exhibit.
“While adults might only see kids moving figurines around a play space, we know that the realism of our products inspires kids to imagine a world where dinosaurs help with homework and bears do backflips into outer space,” Schleich USA’s co-managing director Annie Laurie Zomermaand said earlier.
“This campaign is all about breaking down the barrier between what parents see and what their kids experience,” Zomermaand added. “We hope to inspire grown-ups to do even more to help empower kids’ imaginations by reminding them just how magical those imaginations can be.”
Regarding his photography, Wu stated at the event that it was “about storytelling,” and that his instruction from Schleich to “bring toys to life” had been a “dream come true.”
Wu came up with a dozen images, but “could have done a hundred,” he said. The pictures themselves were almost entirely “done in the camera” with little technological enhancement.
A Mitchel Wu toy photograph
“I wanted to tell a story,” said Wu, who then showed how he created water effects, and dust and dirt blowing up and outwards as a flying dinosaur lifts off following an encounter with another reptile. To achieve this, Wu had his camera—on a tripod--shooting automatically as he held a can of compressed air to the scene and set off a spurt of air to disturb the water or ground.
He then returned to the camera and photoshopped out only the straw from the compressed air can and the wires holding up the Schleich figures--making them appear to be launching in mid-air, or causing water to splash about them.
Also in attendance at Schleich’s Toy Fair “Power of Imagination” campaign kickoff was child development and open-ended play expert Dr. Sandra J. Stone.
“What Schleich is doing here is offering a significant opportunity to make a positive difference in children’s lives,” said Stone. “They’re putting toys in children’s hands, and sparking their imagination and leading them to think differently and imagine a different world and experience—which is important to their creative thought. By giving them this key to unlock the imagination, it propels them into thinking differently.”
Toys, added Stone, contribute to a child’s development in offering a framework for testing out “different directions,” a cognitive ability necessary for adults.
Founded in 1935 in the German country town of Schwäbisch Gmünd by Friedrich Schleich, the company remains best known for its realistic animal figurines for children. With over 600 items in its catalog, it reports global sales that have increased by double digits in each of the last six years.