Mermaids are among the most iconic, famous, and beloved fantasy creatures that are instantly recognized across the globe. Husband and wife team Tristy and Mark Viniello have loved mermaid lore for years and decided to create new literature about these fascinating mythical beings. Their “Enchantails” line features books and comfortable mermaid-shaped sleeping bags that encourage kids to read before getting a good nights’ sleep.
Enchantails brings the legends of mermaids and oceans together in one world, based on real life mythologies from around the globe. The series was created to empower young girls to be bold and follow their creative imaginations, as well as to raise awareness on the state of the world’s oceans. Recently Tristy and Mark Viniello discussed their experiences creating this line and their hopes for its future.
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: When was your company started and why was that specific name chosen?
Tristy Viniello (TV): We officially began Enchantails in 2014. We wanted the name to reflect our world as well as our bags. Enchanted tales are visualized in Enchanted tails.
Mark Viniello (MV): Our company Overactive Imaginations, Inc. was started the previous year in early 2013. We wanted to convey a company whose ideas and products will be unique, clever and educational. Enchantails is our first IP, but there are a few other IPs that are in the very early stages of development.
MM: Right now, you are selling three sleeping bags with mermaid-tail bottoms. Do you sell any other items
MV: We are working on expanding other products that tie in with each mermaid. We are close to releasing plush sea buddies (in early 2017) as well as the existing posters and books and other items that will compliment each mermaid realm.
MM: How does each sleeping bag differ from the others?
TV: Each slumber bag represents a different mermaid in our world, and her realm. For example, the blue bag is the Antarctic ice world, the orange is the Polynesian world and the purple is the steampunk Chinese world. Each of the tails has a different shape–fashioned after real ocean animals from those realms–so the mermaids are known by their colors as well as their tail shapes. We have 12 realms that are part of Enchantails’ world of Oceana. Currently three are available, with three more realms due to be released in 2017.
MV: Each realm of Oceana is unique in cultural history and tail shape, color and design. The tail fin of each mermaid sleeping bag is based on actual fish from the geographic location of each realm, and each bag is quilted with glow-in-the-dark thread. In the stories, when the mermaids use their special powers, their tails glow! We did this in an attempt to bring the story off the page as much as possible.
MM: You also have books associated with the sleeping bags. Who wrote them? Are you planning to expand the series?
MV: My wife and I came up with the initial concept. Over time it has evolved and we have some very talented writers involved. James Winter and Heather E. Carson wrote “Lucienne and the Leopard Boys,” “Kelani’s Secret Island” and “Tasi and the Dangers of the Deep” respectively. The books that accompany the sleeping bags are introductory stories to the characters and the world. There will be additional continuing stories with character crossovers. This series of books is Phase 1 of the project. We’re not ready yet to talk about Phase II but it’s pretty exciting! Our hope is that the fans of Oceana and Enchantails will grow with us and want to continue experiencing the adventure!
MM: How do you think up ideas for your products? For example, do you ever work with inventors?
TV: As parents, you see needs that aren’t being met. Enchantails has been completely thought up and created by both Mark and me.
MV: I have been a professional Make-Up Effects artist for over 23 years. My job is to come up with stuff that never existed and then build it. I spend a lot of time with my daughters playing games and acting out stories. Often, I will build props or costumes to aid in the imaginative playtime. Enchantails was merely the evolution of making stuff for my daughters to enjoy.
MM: How did you think up the concept for the “Enchantails” series?
MV: As a kid, I enjoyed a lot of fantasy television shows: “Batman,” The Six million Dollar Man,” “Danger Island,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Star Trek” to name a few. These shows ignited my imagination and some (like “Star Trek”) had a multi-layered theme woven into the narrative. Shows like “Batman” and the “Six Million Dollar Man” had continuing episodes with character cross overs from related shows. I can remember the excitement and anticipation of waiting for those shows to come on. We wanted to capture that sense of anticipation and wonder while crafting a story that celebrated uniqueness and fantasy. We also wanted to include real world facts within our stories as well as actual myths about mermaids, which every culture has. Once Tristy started researching, she couldn’t stop, she was hooked on knowing everything. We wanted to keep as many familiar elements of the actual myth intact and work them into our stories, so there will be some familiarity in the stories to children all over the world. Finally, we wanted to have a story where girls from different backgrounds and cultures have to unite for the common good and defeat the evil forces that would destroy everything they care about.
TV: The most rewarding part is seeing the looks on kids’ faces when they see our bags. I think I squeal as much as they do. I would’ve lost my mind if this was around when I was a kid.
MV: Additionally, hearing how pleased customers are with the quality of our product.
MM: Where do you hope the company will be in ten years?
TV: We have many plans to carry Enchantails into a lot of avenues, including ocean and animal efforts.
MV: In ten years we will be well into phase 2 and phase 3 (movies and TV). All the realms will be launched and we’re hoping to see a noticeable impact on oceanic awareness and conservation.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the toy industry?
MV: First, if it’s a toy you wouldn’t play with when you were a kid, don’t do it. You have to have passion for whatever it is you do. Second, find out as much as you can about independent toy makers who went big. Make sure you are committed. I researched American Girl and Pillow Pets. I firmly believe you have to stand on the shoulders of giants to some extent, but don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail. I am currently writing a book on our journey of Enchantails that will cover such topics.
MM: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
MV & TV: In December, we are starting our outreach to Aquariums with a plan of doing more in 2017. First up is an Aquarium in Southern California this weekend, where we are based, and if that goes as planned, we’d like to do more in 2017.
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To learn more about Enchantails, visit their official website.