by Scarlett Wisotzki, editor-in-chief, das spielzeug

On June 1, Peter Handstein, the CEO of Hape, rolled out the red carpet for his retailers in France, and gave them a sneak peek of The Little Prince movie and tie-in products prior to their official global release. Scarlett Wisotzki, the editor-in-chief of das spielzeug for the past four years, has this exclusive report:

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The most famous quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s best-known work, The Little Prince, was brought to bear right at the start of the eponymous Hape event, fittingly staged in the country that was the author’s home. During his inaugural speech at a Parisian cinema, Peter Handstein was visibly choked with emotion, making it clear that this is a businessman whose heart is most definitely in the right place.

Embedded in a contemporary story, this cinematic treat is based on his favorite children’s book. Not surprisingly, Handstein is delighted to be supplying the products for the film. Established in 1986, Hape sees this license as the first in which its values wholly reflect the company’s philosophy, as both attach much importance to a world shaped by social responsibility, education, sustainability, innovation, and fun—a world in which children always remain the focus of attention.

At one point, Handstein reminded his audience: “Never to forget the child within.”

Display art
Roll Camera!

Around 80 retailers and distributors from 40 countries took their seats in the auditorium. The guests of honor included the likes of Olivier d’Agay, a grandnephew of Saint-Exupéry, film producer Aton Soumache, and Dana Geissler, the great granddaughter of German dollmaker Käthe Kruse.

Prior to the showing, guests were immortalized in front of the picture wall before making their way across the red carpet and through the rambling rose garden. However, all of this was old hat for the Hape team, which had already attended the premiere in Cannes, where the 3-D animated film was showered with positive reviews.

Director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) has clearly succeeded in bringing out the timeless beauty of a story written 72 years ago. In the scenes that jump from the real world into that of the Little Prince, paper characters spring to life. The fox, the rose, and of course, the protagonist take part in this celebration of childhood, which features music by Hans Zimmer. As the film drew to an end, Soumache received a standing ovation, and took the opportunity to give his audience some interesting insights into the family film, which he hopes is worthy of an Oscar.

Products Under the Hammer

In Germany, more than 50 Hape products will be ready for launch by the end of August, and the film’s release date has been scheduled for December 10. Ever since The Little Prince’s production team made initial contact with Hape at the Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg, the company’s in-house design studios in Germany, Italy, and Sweden have been pulling out all the stops.

The first hand-made samples were showing at the premiere, and included dominoes and memory games, as well as a buildable plane. Hape is also treading new ground in the realm of role play, offering seven character sets and three paper sets. Creativity is at the heart of the company’s arts and crafts offerings, which include, among others, a DIY Diary, mobiles, and stamp sets. All of this is rounded off with 15 puzzles of varying sizes and motifs, and a variety of stickers that fall under the décor genre.

Handstein sees these innovations as an opportunity to carve out a new identity for his company that extends beyond wooden toys, but does not lose sight of the educational value and quality associated with Hape. To mark the global launch of the range, he is exploring new avenues in product presentation, drawing on some words of wisdom from the book: “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready-made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore.”

That human relationships are an essential part of our lives was demonstrated by the successful auction, humorously conducted by Handstein and Sotheby’s French Vice-President Alain Renner. The only way to secure a unique quantity discount was if the national representatives worked together to achieve a certain order size. The kaleidoscope proved to be an absolute international hit, and all in all, one million licensed units were sold on that day.

Support from All Sides

Enjoying the river cruise: (from left to right) Peter Handstein, Scarlett Wisotzki, Dana Geissler, and Aton Soumache.

At the end of the auction, d’Agay, whose company looks after the intellectual property of Saint-Exupéry, ordered 20,000 units, which he and Handstein are donating to Syrian children in refugee camps. Hape is not only joining forces in the realm of charity, but also in the field of marketing. This means that retailers, among others, will benefit from a diversity of display materials and solutions. From July to August, the company is also supporting a Beach Club Campaign by Paramount France with banners, T-shirts, and masks.

Eveningwear was required for the gala river cruise on the Seine, which brought an eventful day to a wonderful close. As the river boat cruised under the Pont des Arts, which was still laden with love-locks, the open deck was showered with rose petals. In the words of Saint-Exupéry: “You become responsible forever for what you tame. You are responsible for your rose.”

Hape, on the other hand, is responsible for the license for at least another three-and-a-half years.

Scarlett Wisotzki has been editor-in-chief of the long established German trade magazine das spielzeug for two-and-a-half years. She has been part of the editorial team since 2002 and has a deep understanding of the industry. Over the years, Scarlett has witnessed many interesting developments both in the toy trade and industry, both of which never fail to fascinate her. Das spielzeug is a member of the International Toy Magazines Association (ITMA), which fosters regular cooperation with international colleagues.