Born to It

Caporale Studios made the transition into commercial photography (for print advertising) from wedding photography, somewhere around the year I was born.  The earliest commercial client that I am aware of was Kenner Products, the toy company, based at the time in Cincinnati.  Below are images I scanned directly from their product catalogs!

 Cover, 1981.

Cover, 1981.

 Reverse cover, 1981.

Reverse cover, 1981.

I can't really say with any certainty which of the photos on these pages were taken at Caporale Studios... except in rare circumstances, such as when I can find the corresponding polaroid.  I have been told that Kenner would hire several photographers, provide each with a kit of backdrops, accessories, and products to photograph, with a few loose instructions about which colors they'd like to see behind certain product lines.  And so, when each photographer submitted their results, Kenner had the freedom to sift through all these photos to find the very best shots.  Since every photographer was shooting Strawberry Shortcake, for example, on a majenta backdrop, it would be difficult to distinguish one photographer's work from another in the final catalog.  And that was by design!

 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1981.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1981.

Perhaps the most noteable products featured in the Kenner toy catalog were the Star Wars figures, regarded today as HIGHLY collectible, HIGHLY valuable.  To me and my sisters, at the time, they were just really cool toys!  The perk of shooting for the catalog was that Kenner never took the toys back.  So we had multiple figures, both out-of-box and in-box, with a reasonable expectation of getting more from Kenner each additional year that Caporale Studios shot for the catalog...

In 1981, the Star Wars product line was included on the very last few pages.  But in 1982 and 1983, they had moved up to the very first pages, just inside the cover.  Roughly 40 pages of Star Wars toys, Star Wars toys, and more Star Wars toys.  I'm guessing that in 1981, they didn't know for sure how in-demand these action figures would prove to be?!

 Cover, 1982.

Cover, 1982.

 Reverse cover, 1982.

Reverse cover, 1982.

When I flip through the pages, I am always tempted to look for prices.  For comparison sake (then versus now).  But there are no prices, because this isn't a catalog for ordinary consumers.  This publication was designed to market Kenner brand products directly to the retail stores who would then presumably sell their merchandise to families with children.  So part of Kenner's sales pitch to those store owners was the level of investment by Kenner in product placement and advertising both in family television (mostly children's programming) and magazines (mostly women's magazines).  They've also got photographic illustrations of how to set up in-store displays of each product line, and still-frame shots from relevant film and television content.  We wouldn't want it to go unnoticed how closely little Luke Skywalker (the action figure) resembles his on-screen counterpart (Mark Hamill), now would we?

 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1982.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1982.

 Cover, 1983.

Cover, 1983.

 Reverse cover, 1983.

Reverse cover, 1983.

 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1983.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1983.

 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1983.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, poseable action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1983.

My sisters and I not only had a bunch of Star Wars action figures to play with, we had a variety of other Kenner toys from the catalog.  Glamour Gals, for example, were like miniature Barbie dolls.  Barbies that fit in your pocket!  They were more rubbery and looked a little odd alongside our Star Wars figures, but they were roughly the same size and their joints moved in more or less the same way.  So... Yeah, we played with them together, sometimes.

 Glamour Gals, poseable fashion dolls assortment from Kenner Products, 1981.

Glamour Gals, poseable fashion dolls assortment from Kenner Products, 1981.

 Glamour Gals, poseable fashion dolls assortment from Kenner Products, 1983

Glamour Gals, poseable fashion dolls assortment from Kenner Products, 1983

One of our favorite things to do to the Glamour Gals was pop their legs off, or their heads, and swap them out to give them different looks.  Because their shoes (and sometimes their pants) were physically molded into and painted onto their little rubbery legs.  The way I remember it, we were pretty fascinated by taking the Glamour Girls apart and putting them back together in new combinations.  Sorta like LEGOs!

 Baby Strawberry Shortcake, Baby Lemon Meringue, and Baby Apricot dolls from Kenner Products, 1982.

Baby Strawberry Shortcake, Baby Lemon Meringue, and Baby Apricot dolls from Kenner Products, 1982.

Baby Strawberry Shortcake's breath really did smell like strawberries.  Or at least, in the same way a scratch-and-sniff sticker smells like strawberries.  I'm not so sure about the other two.

 Care Bears poseable figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1983.

Care Bears poseable figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1983.

My personal favorite was Bedtime Bear!

 Sea Wees 'n Babies from Kenner Products, 1981.

Sea Wees 'n Babies from Kenner Products, 1981.

 Li'l Loggers from Kenner Products, 1983.

Li'l Loggers from Kenner Products, 1983.

I'm not sure any of my classmates, growing up, ever had a Sea Wee or even knew they existed.  It seemed to me, as a child, that they were unique to our family, like a secret.  The perceived exclusivity made them mildly precious to me.  But these Li'l Loggers?  I don't remember ever playing with these guys.  While I don't have any fond memories of them, I do like the fact they include a "Rocky Raccoon" and a "Ranger Rick"!

 Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones) action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1982.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones) action figures assortment from Kenner Products, 1982.

DROOL!!!  We played Indiana Jones movies on repeat, in our house.  And we had our own costumes for re-enacting Temple of Doom, so maybe we didn't need these action figures.  But I don't think Caporale Studios ever photographed any Raiders of the Lost Ark action figures for Kenner, unfortunately, which is why I never had these toys to play with.  Missed opportunity, truly!

On the bright side, I think the Lone Ranger's poseable horse toy ("Silver") was far superior to Indiana Jones' poseable horse ("The Arabian Horse"), and I had two or three Silvers!  With removeable bridles and saddles, no less.

 

Anyway, I digress.  For the longest time, I associated my father's workplace with toys and play, because it looked to my young eyes as though he and his crew played with toys and costumes professionally, every single day.  Caporale Studios was a dream factory, of sorts, and I loved that about it...

I think it also instilled in me a sense that a life full of whimsy and a professional (i.e. serious) career path are not mutually exclusive.  For artists, anyway.