Sunday, April 12, 2020


Where art, and toy soldiering, intersect.

Christopher Walker is an artist who resides in France.  He is also the field-marshal of an army of his own making; and that army is at war with the giant corporations who flood the market, the airwaves, and the imaginations of children with cheap, plastic, homogenized, corporate advertisements posing as toys.

It is an epic battle.

I think that the very best place to start an exploration of Chris Walker and his wonderful soldiers is with this video of the epic Battle of Walkerloo.

Also check out Walker's website here, it is as entertaining as it is informative.

Okay, it's time to take a look.

The box is a graphic beauty with a colorful Union Jack motif.

Unlike nearly every toy soldier today, these are not made in China, where questionable labor practices and human rights violations are rampant. Also note that they are manufactured in an environmentally conscious manner.

The set contains soldiers of British and French forces of 1815.

One of the cool things about these soldiers is that when you are finished with the battle, you can take their plastic stands off and the soldiers store flat in the box.

Here's a quote from Walker's website for a little background:

Toys are a great way of getting children interested in history, able to spark interest and imagination. Playing and arranging my soldiers brings up all kinds of questions - who are they? why those crazy clothes? why were they fighting in the first place? Historical toys provide a way to find out about war, one of humanity's most calamitous creations.

So far I've made toy soldiers from 10 different regiments who fought at the battle of Waterloo. For each regiment I've drawn and painted groups of soldiers in realistic animated actions and different ranks to give units vitality.

- Christopher Walker

Field musicians stir the spirits of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, "The Black Watch."

The Highlanders are supported by the King's German Legion, 2nd Light Battalion.

 At nearly five-inches in height, these steadfast little men are easy for little hands to grapple with as they maneuver across tabletop or bedroom floor battlegrounds. And Walker very much has children in mind.

I have always loved drawing soldiers – at the back of the classroom, after watching war films and when I didn’t know what else to draw. Much later when my nephew’s birthday came up and I was looking round for a present, I found some cartoon drawings I had done years before of French Tirailleurs. I decided to mount them on card and send him them. He loved them, and I thought others might too, so I started drawing more and developing my style, getting very excited about all the regiments I could depict! After 18 months drawing and painting, we (my wife and I) started looking for a company that could produce them. Not easy. We eventually found a company in France who specialise in making board games and puzzles and so had all the machines and skills necessary for printing, gluing on both sides and die-cutting thick card. I was very concerned to get enough detail in the cutting tool outline, I think they did a great job making the cutting tools from my drawings. I wanted to make them in Europe, where I live, and where you have certain guarantees about materials and the manufacturers working conditions. 

I also wanted to make a product with as much recycled and recyclable material as possible. One thing it proved impossible to make out of card was the stands (a narrow slit is very difficult to cut and remove) so we went for a practical plastic stand, made in England.

- Christopher Walker

Depictions of violence was less of an issue during my free-wheeling childhood, but it seems to be today, and that is an appropriate concern of parents regarding children's toys and entertainment.  Along those lines, Walker includes this message on the cover of the box:

Here's our wounded guy...I don't think that he's going to make it. But the ranks are quickly closed by his comrades of the French 13th Light Infantry Voltigeurs.

This reminds me of an anecdote that I think is funny; it's from my days of being a park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield.

One day I was greeting visitors at the front counter of the visitor center, and a mom with two small children approached me...she seemed uneasy.

She had a question for me.  " I see that your film starts in ten minutes.  Is it too graphic for kids?"

I replied: "Well ma'am, it's a movie about the single bloodiest day in American history, so you can draw your own conclusions."

She seemed annoyed with me.

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of artillery, and this cannon did not disappoint.

Walker's big guns are engineered to fire rubber bands, as the introductory video demonstrates.

Nuts and a bolt make for easy, and precise, assembly of the gun, as well as making it particularly robust.

Mounted soldiers were included in this set, including this wonderful, helmeted, and soon to be wounded...

5th Regiment, Lancer of the Line.

It's not often that I can say that I like everything about a toy soldier product, so that makes these soldiers exceptional...I do like everything about them.  They represent a consciousness of social and environmental justice in the labor and material used, they are compact, robustly-built, historically accurate, affordable, and they have a delightful element of whimsey about them.  And, when one purchases these soldiers, one is supporting an actual working artist, and the importance of that cannot be overstated.

 A perfect combination, and a great way to...

Soldier on!


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