Toy Tinkers- A look into Special Projects

My Name is Michael Marino, and I am a Sales Director here at American Christmas. I am part of a great sales team which is just one of the many divisions to make up American Christmas. This month I get the honor of introducing this year’s blog theme: Our Year In Movies. Each month going forward will feature a different Christmas related movie title.

To correlate with this month’s featured film, Toy Tinkers, we will focus on an important part of American Christmas, Special Projects. Special Projects is where we create and refurbish our many iconic Christmas displays. The Special Projects team works year-round to ensure everything looks brand new at each and every installation. The 3 very talented individuals that make up this team are Matt Dibrino, Julio Lopez, and Michael Cole.

The Rockefeller Center Cadets and Herald Angels, the Solow, 16-foot Candy Canes at 9 West 57th Street and the Madison Square Garden over-sized New York Knicks Basketball and New York Rangers Hockey Skate are just a few of the many larger than life displays ACI installs every year.

These oversize displays typically present many challenges with regard to manufacturing, delivery, installation and refurbishment. In addition to size, many of the displays special projects work on are exterior, which make exposure to the winter weather a challenge.

We have been installing the 13 foot Nutcrackers in front of the UBS building at 1285 Avenue of the Americas since 1999. Every four years the Nutcrackers come back to the ACI warehouse and get a brand new uniform. The Nutcrackers were given a facelift just this past season. Most people walking down Avenue of the Americas recognize that the Nutcrackers have been redesigned but do not realize the time and energy that went into it. From start to finish the whole project took three months. The first step is to sand them all the way down to the fiberglass base. After that, any blemishes are patched, and the entire piece is primed to protect the fiberglass and create a proper base coat for the final finish. Now it is time for the nutcrackers to be hand painted and stenciled. Finally, there is a protective coating added to seal the elements from a harsh New York winter. But before this process can even begin, our creative and sales team spend weeks redesigning and getting approval of the new design, which is a separate project unto itself. The Nutcrackers have become an iconic part of New York City, and American Christmas is excited to help bring the magic back each and every season.



It is not often that we step outside of our niche, but when we are presented with a project that is exciting, we are up for the challenge! For the second year in a row, American Christmas has played a role in the manufacture and installation of the 7 foot tall, jewel encrusted Dragonfly that stands in the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center. With a wingspan of just over 8 feet and over one thousand multicolored jewels spread across the body, head and wings, refurbishment can be a daunting task. The refurbishment begins with disassembling each wing, then inspecting and replacing any missing or scratched jewels. We take great care to ensure that every inch of the Dragonfly is perfect. Next, we make pre-measured wires and attach them to the Dragonfly which will secure the Dragonfly to the base on location. The Dragonfly is then placed in the fountain while the base is covered with river rocks and the fountain filled with water. I had the good fortune to be the supervisor at this year’s July Dragonfly installation, and I can attest to the fabulous job the team did. The Dragonfly is still on display and I highly recommend making the trip to Rockefeller Center to check it out. It’s a photo opportunity.


I feel very fortunate to be a part of the ACI team and am very proud of the work we do in Special Projects.