Steadfast tin soldiers now capturing the hearts of a whole new generation
FORGET your computer games and digital entertainment - the toy soldier is making a proud comeback.
Ireland's best known family-owned toy firm, Prince August in Cork, confirmed soaring sales as a new generation of youngsters has fallen in love with modeling, painting and displaying their own toys.
Prince August owner, Lars Edman, said he believes part of the renaissance of traditional toys is being able to offer families a visitor experience.
Their toy sets - ranging from soldiers to figurines - also boast a family involvement.
Whereas computer games and digital entertainment tend to be solitary in terms of family involvement, casting and displaying traditional toys tend to see children working with their parents.
Prince August, which was founded in 1976 outside Macroom, employs 10 staff and last year attracted over 20,000 visitors to its toy exhibition centre.
"We believe that offering a visitor experience, if you like, is the way of the future," he said.
"We hope to increase visitor numbers to over 40,000 in the coming years," Lars added. Visitor numbers in 2015 were dramatically boosted by the firm's display of a giant diorama of the Battle of Waterloo to mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's final defeat.
The Waterloo replica was completed as a labour of love by miniatures collector, Andre Rudolph.
The German collector hand-made over 15,000 toy soldiers - each standing one inch high.
Each soldier, artillery piece, horse and gun carriage was cast in metal and then hand-painted in the exact regimental unit colours.
"It took Andre about nine years to complete the full diorama," Lars said.
The piece, which measures nine metres by five metres, is exact even to the gradient of the ground, the trees, ditches and streams of the Belgian fields where the battle raged.
The German restaurant owner, who is based in Cologne, estimated that he completed between four and five soldiers each evening.
The piece was specially shipped to Cork from Cologne and Prince August marketing director, Mary Moynihan, said it represents a major shift towards 'a unique tourist experience' for the firm.
"In the 1980s we had about 40 workers here and we were exporting products throughout the world," she said.
"But the market changed. It is a lot more specialised now in that some pieces are more collectable and people want to enjoy an 'experience' when they visit the plant to make their purchases," she said.
Prince August is also famous for manufacturing figurines for the Warzone series as well as historic chess sets and collectables boasting Roman, Medieval, Viking and American themes.