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Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart Interview

Meet Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, the two artists who have single-handedly (well, with four hands) revived the pop-up book for a new millennium. Chances are your child owns one of their awe-inspiring creations, be it The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with its spinning paper cyclone, or Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs with its jaw-gnashing T-Rex. Maybe you’ve received one as a gift yourself, from a friend who appreciates your inner child.

Robert and Matthew show off their latest creations. Video by Paul Barman.

Robert Sabuda kicked off the pop-up renaissance in 1996 with Christmas Alphabet, a series of elegantly constructed pop-up images that scaled the New York Times bestseller list, despite its then-staggering price tag of $19.99. Matthew Reinhart began working alongside him and creating his own work when the two became a couple, twelve years ago. Now, working from their Tribeca studio with four assistants, Robert and Matthew start from scratch with each new book, crafting elaborate, intricately colored structures that leap from the pages, then sending the books off to be hand-assembled overseas. Babble sat down with Robert and Matthew for an exclusive interview about the art of the pop-up. – Gwynne Watkins

That’s a big stack of paper.

Matthew: This is the paper that we actually use for a lot of the artwork that we do. You know when you see the art from a book like Faeries, it is cut paper collage. It’s actually an art style that Robert used first and that I adopted very early on.

That’s kind of what Eric Carle does too, right?

Robert: Yes, he’s definitely our inspiration.

Another signature style I associate with you two is those little inset mini-books in the side panels. Did you invent those?

Matthew: We did! Robert started that.

Robert: It started in 2000 with The Wizard of Oz, because the novel was so long and I didn’t want to just retell it and condense it. I wanted to use the original language, and I thought, “How am I going to come up with getting enough text in this book without making it look like a heavy novel?” So those side flaps were an easy solution for that. One also has to remember that we’re looking at these pop-up books with our hands. I have a godson who’s about eighteen months old and he likes our pop-up books, but his hands are so small that he can’t really pick this book up -

Matthew: It’s as big as him.

Robert: – but he can open the little teeny flaps that are there.

Matthew: For example, Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy came out in 2007 for the 30th anniversary of the original film. And this was a dream project because I’m obviously a big Star Wars fan and apparently, (reading from the bio) I’m an “afficianado.”

RS: Yeah, he is really an encyclopedia. So he’s trying to cover a lot of ground in a book like this, and those side-flaps will allow him to put in additional pop-ups -

Matthew: See, I can get Jabba in there, and the IG-88.

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