Melissa & Doug (formerly known as Lights, Camera, Interaction!, Inc) is an American manufacturer and purveyor of children’s toys that makes wooden puzzles, arts & crafts products, plush toys and other educational toys. It was founded by Melissa and Doug Bernstein in their basement and in Doug’s parents’ garage in 1988. All products are designed in-house at the company’s Wilton, Connecticut headquarters by a team of designers led by Melissa.
The company has manufacturing sites in both the U.S. and abroad with about 1,000 employees worldwide, including some in China. A 2013 New York Timesprofile reported that it has had double digit growth every year.
In a 2016 Good Morning America profile, Melissa Bernstein shared her belief that through imaginary play, kids explore, create, take risks, and discover who they really are. The Melissa & Doug philosophy matches the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ recommendation that parents limit screen time for young children.
The private company was founded in 1988 when the co-founders left corporate careers to start their own company. Three of their four parents were educators, so they were drawn to doing something involving children. The first product that brought them attention was the Fuzzy Farm Puzzle, a wooden puzzle with texture. An extensive line of wooden puzzles followed. For more than ten years, the company produced puzzles before expanding into wooden toys, arts & crafts, pretend play, plush toys, and more. According to Good Morning America, the company has made more than 5,000 products, putting them “…in the same league as toy titans Mattel and LEGO.”
You On Kazoo! and Brett Ambler
From 1989 to 1991, the company produced three short films by Melissa and Doug Bernstein to promote their products, under the “Lights, Camera, Interaction!” banner and under the name “Special Friends”, the first was 1989’s “You On Kazoo!”, it did really well that the 8-year-old star of “You On Kazoo!”, Brett Ambler was brought back for two more short films starring him, “Let’s Sing-Along” in 1990, which came out with a microphone toy, and “Ring-Along, Sing-Along” in 1991, which came out with a bell-ringing toy. You On Kazoo! was uploaded to Youtube in 2014, and it became a “viral” meme; the video was remixed by Mike Diva in February 2016 and Florian Rehn Olsson sampled the video in his Soundcloud song “dootdoot”. Brett Ambler would go on to narrate some commercials, Dr. Seuss projects and video projects that were produced by Random House Publishing. Following the success of the campaign Ambler continued acting and was interviewed by Channel One iTV in Missouri in 2016.
The company sponsors an entrepreneurship program at Duke University, the Bernsteins’ alma mater, providing funding and mentors throughout the year. Melissa and Doug Bernstein personally assist students in the program.