CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After months of searching and more than 150 applications, a Charlotte-based toy company has found it’s new ambassador to boost its brand this holiday season.
He’s an 8-year-old boy from Queens, New York.
Schleich, maker of animal characters and playsets, named its chief storytelling officer last week after holding a nationwide contest. The company said it was impressed by the imagination and vivid storytelling of young Marcello Brucculeri.
“There’s like 1 million thousand kids out there, and I was the winner!” an excited Marcello said on video, after being offered the role by Schleich executive Kelli Masilun live via Zoom.
Masilun, director of North American marketing for Schleich, told Marcello he was the first one to audition and, “You nailed it, my friend.”
The contest ran for a couple of weeks in September. It was scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Masilun told the Observer, to one day of live auditions at FAO Schwarz toy store in New York City. Other entries from across the country were submitted by video.
A dino party tale
A nearly six-minute announcement video of the winner shows portions of the children’s auditions.
During Marcello’s live audition at the casting call, he shares a “once upon a time” story about the animals traveling back in time to go to a dinosaur’s birthday party.
And when he comes in, the animals shout “Surprise!”
And the dinosaur says, “Whoa.”
The animals asked what the dinosaur wished for and he said: “My wish already came true for having wonderful friends like you.”
Masilun said Marcello is creative and his energetic voice will help inspire the company brand for children and adults. He’ll appear in the toymaker’s holiday campaigns on television and a series of YouTube videos. He also wins $10,000 from the contest.
When talking about the holiday campaign, Schleich wanted children to tell their own stories because that’s what their toys do, Masilun said.
“We were a bunch of adults sitting around a conference table trying to come with really cool stories,” Masilun said. “But science tells us kids are the master of that. Hence the idea was born to tap into the rich imagination of a child and let the stories begin from there.”
Marcello’s first mission is to use his “storytelling superpowers” to help create a better holiday season, according to the company. The first videos was released Monday on the company’s YouTube channel.
Masilun said the company was quite impressed during the first two-day shoots with Marcello, who overcame Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and COVID-19 just six month ago.
“We had some scripted spots. And then in between he told us really cool stories with our toys,” Masilun said, “and some of that content is the richest that we got, where we let him take the lead.”
About the toymaker
The global toy company was founded more than 85 years ago by Friedrich Schleich in Germany. Seven years ago, its North American headquarters moved from Canada to north Charlotte at 10000 Twin Lakes Parkway, Masilun said.
Schleich, pronounced Sh-like, has about 60 employees in Charlotte working in the headquarters office, which includes a warehouse as well as life-size animals and a playroom.
The company’s toy figurines are sold in more than 60 countries.
In Charlotte’s Blackhawk Hardware, Schleich has a 15-foot, 400-pound T-Rex suspended from the ceiling in the toy section. Schleich toys also are sold at retailers like Target and Amazon.
About 60% of the company’s business is in the fourth quarter, Masilun said. The nationwide contest for a holiday campaign was a first for Schleich.
“We have never done anything like this,” Masilun said. “But it became apparent our highest value is we have toys that let kids tell their own story.”