Importance of Play

The Importance of Play With Famed Pop-Up Book Artist Matthew Reinhart

Matthew Reinhart


“I remember enjoying making up stories, building unique Star Wars environments, and filling them with all my toys, much more than actually playing with my friends within them.”

Matthew Reinhart
New York Times Best Seller


If you want to talk about how play can lead to a successful career, just ask our good friend, author and pop-up book magician Matthew Reinhart. From Frozen to Game of Thrones, Matthew makes stories and paper come to life with equal parts engineering and imagination.

Matthew Reinhart

Matthew recently helped Disney Pixar pay homage to its iconic character universe with PIXAR: A Pop-Up Celebration. Soon (but not soon enough for fans), he will unleash The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Petrifying Pop-Up for the Holidays and A Pop-Up Guide to Hogwarts. We CAN’T wait!

Matthew Reinhart

We recently asked Matthew Reinhart what in his wacky world of play inspired him as a kid, and did any of that lead him down this amazing road to pop-up genius? Check it out, Nerds – and thank you once again, Matthew, for sharing your awesomely Nerdy insights with our readers (also check out the Nerd Profile we did with Matthew last year)!


Matthew Reinhart

Raising Nerd: What were some of your favorite childhood toys, games, or activities? Did those toys/activities fuel your passion for pursuing your chosen career?

Matthew Reinhart: Some of my favorite childhood toys were Kenner Star Wars action figures, vehicles and playsets. Star Wars captured my imagination as soon as I saw the movie. I just wanted to be there and play!

I did everything I could to rebuild that fantastic universe, fill it with all those wild and weird characters, and create my own adventures in it with Han Solo, Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 (among others).  I wanted the ENTIRE collection. But since there was still so much unmade of the Star Wars universe by toy company Kenner, I was left in the creator’s chair – building everything else – from yarn-maned Banthas made out of milk cartons to a cardboard-and-Styrofoam palace for Jabba the Hutt, complete with a working trapdoor for feeding Luke to the ravenous Rancor.

Matthew Reinhart

I remember enjoying making up stories, building unique Star Wars environments, and filling them with all my toys, much more than actually playing with my friends within them. Big battles were few and far between, especially due to our family moving a lot as a kid. But the limitless universe of Star Wars was always with me…at least if I had my Darth Vader carrying case along with me!

That play as a kid connects to my career in so many ways as an adult, it’s kinda scary! I mean, look at what I do – I build structures and worlds with paper and other simple materials. That’s what I was doing as a kid – taking any materials I could find to build what I saw in my head. I’m just lucky and very thankful that I can make a living continuing this creative exploration as an “adult.”

By the way, I’m STILL collecting Star Wars toys to this day, and I have every single Star Wars 3 3/4” action figure made since 1978, though I don’t get to build any sweet dioramas anymore. Not enough room in my NYC home!

Hasbro/Takara Transformers were/are my other favorite toys. They came a little later in my life in 1984, at a time when my Dad at least thought I’d be ending my relationship with toys. The plastic and die-cast metal robots were just too hard to resist, though, especially once I watched the first animated Transformers mini-series on TV.

I was hooked!

As Star Wars began to wane, Transformers took hold. There was something about the puzzle nature of toys, now looking back, that really excited me. How does that car turn into that robot? Figuring out how to transform each toy was the best part and, in time, I didn’t even need instructions!

The amazing toy engineering to make a jet morph into an evil Decepticon warrior still inspires me to this day.

Making pop-ups is very much like figuring out a Transformer – just ones made of paper. That’s the job I wanted actually before stumbling into pop-up book design and making children’s books – [I wanted to be] a Transformers’ toy designer! I actually applied for an internship at Hasbro before I ended my graduate school studies. I’m happy it didn’t happen


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Matthew Reinhart

For more of Matthew’s pop-up tutorials, click HERE. To see more of his available book titles, click HERE. What other stories would you like to see Matthew bring to life? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Raising Nerd Facebook page!


Matthew Reinhart


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