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There’s magic in the air at FAO

Fledgling toyco Fantasma is hoping to pull a rabbit out of FAO Schwarz's hat this spring as it unveils the first major line of professional magic tricks geared to the mass market. Hard-to-find specialty shops are the usual outlet for high-end magic, but New York-based Fantasma has repackaged the illusions and added clearer instructions for the same tricks that a pro like David Copperfield would perform.
March 1, 2003

Fledgling toyco Fantasma is hoping to pull a rabbit out of FAO Schwarz’s hat this spring as it unveils the first major line of professional magic tricks geared to the mass market. Hard-to-find specialty shops are the usual outlet for high-end magic, but New York-based Fantasma has repackaged the illusions and added clearer instructions for the same tricks that a pro like David Copperfield would perform.

By the end of the year, the line will include more than 60 SKUs, with everything from children’s magic sets to major illusions ranging from pulling a rabbit out of a hat to producing a tiger out of thin air. The illusions will retail from US$8 to US$15,000, and Fantasma co-founder Roger Dreyer says FAO was the obvious distribution choice, given that the retailer specializes in unique toys and doesn’t balk at super-high price tags. As a case in point, the chain carries a kid-sized Hummer SUV for US$30,000.

Set up as an in-store magic shop, the Fantasma area will include an exhibit of original Harry Houdini props and memorabilia, as well as hosting professional magic shows every day. On the weekends, the store-in-store will engage shoppers with visits from celebrity magicians culled from the International Brotherhood of Magicians, which endorses Fantasma’s line. To help inspire the next generation of the Brotherhood, Fantasma will offer bi-weekly magic workshops for kids and maintain a Q&A area on its website at www.fantasmatoys.com.

Though Fantasma has only been around for a year, founders Dreyer and Mark Setteducati have been practicing magicians since they were youngsters. Setteducati has created toys for Mattel and Hasbro and invented the Magic Works line brought out by Milton Bradley in the mid-’90s. The partners’ goal is to build up the Fantasma brand and show retailers that the category is viable, introducing licenses later on.

‘Magic has been revitalized thanks to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and what we’ve done is repackaged the magic and made it cool, hip and accessible to everyone,’ says Dreyer. In addition, the toyco is looking at creating an educational TV show based around its original character Professor WOW, a bizarre science enthusiast. Another small-screen hopeful is Fantasma’s Rambo the Rabbit puppet character, who helps kids perform magic tricks. Fantasma has also been approached by Pseudo.com to web-broadcast the FAO magic shows on a weekly basis.

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