Student creates toy theatre to help kids tackle tough topics such as mortality

A young toy designer has turned to the philosophies of Hollywood director Tim Burton for her toy theatre that helps kids tackle tough subjects such as death.

22-year-old University graduate, Hannah Stewart embarked on the project believing the toy industry to be lacking in the tools that explore topics often deemed ‘too emotionally confronting’ for children.

Adopting what Stewart labels a Burton-esque attitude towards topics such as mortality, the toy theatre allows kids to act out literary tales such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through playful interpretations.

Called The Franklin Theatre Company, the toy theatre is the first project in a wider concept developed by Stewart, titled Crimson Mirror.

“I wanted to create an educational toy which would allow children to act out literary tales which are often deemed too complex for children to understand,” Stewart told ToyNews.

“These tales, while gruesome, say a lot about human nature and help children to perceive, at an early age, the relationships which humans are capable of.”

The Franklin Theatre Company set presents children with a world in which different characters form a theatre group to explain various classics to children, while an animation explores the origins of this theatre group itself.

An accompanying story box then features a selection of props and scenes for the characters to act through the children’s imaginations.

“The film director Tim Burton makes death accessible to children by combining the macabre with the celebration of life through humour, this is the approach I wanted the theatre to adopt,” added Stewart.

“Story cards and props are available to support children enact different stories and allow their imaginations to explore and develop whatever they felt through the play. This can help develop vocabulary, insight and relationships among children.

“Meanwhile, the animation introduces kids to the characters themselves and their own stories. The child is then given the box and the character cut outs, which they can use to create their own stories.”

Having visited London Toy Fair at the start of the year, Stewart has her sights on toy design as a career choice following university, and believes that, having overcome learning difficulties herself, can deliver a new aspect to the educational toy market.

“I want to help create toys that can be used effectively with children who learn differently,” she continued.

“The toy industry has largely by-passed this area. We are only now seeing the creation of dolls with disabilities. While this is a good start, I want to participate in this new wave of development and see it expand.”

Stewart’s ambitions for the toy industry begin with her play theatre set, a concept she is keen to develop further to incorporate a website and more animations.

“My plans are to work more on the project for the next couple of months and then pitch the idea to companies at the Inventors Workshop this September,” she concluded.

Stewart will be presenting her project Crimson Mirror at the ToyNews Inventors Workshop on September 20th.

Click here for more information on the event.

This year’s Inventors Workshop will be at held at Whittlebury Hall in Northampton on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016. The event is set to bring together leading inventors, distributors, retailers, investors and design students, all of whom are looking to discover new ideas, make new connections and stay at the forefront of innovation in toys.

To book tickets to this year’s event, click here.

For sponsorship opportunities, and to be pitched to by inventors at the Workshop, email or

For general information on the event, email or call 01992 515305.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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