On September 13, the toy industry lost one of its most respected members, Paul-Emile Gallant. Mr. Gallant, who invented the famous Puzz 3D™ line, passed away at age 67 following a long battle with cancer.
Before joining Canada’s toy trade in the late eighties, Mr. Gallant, who was born in New Brunswick, enjoyed an 18-year-long career in the music industry. He served with Trans Canada Musique, CBS Records (Sony Music) and CBC, where he had the opportunity to show his creative side as manager of derived products. Inspired to further develop those talents, Mr. Gallant went on to found Gallant International Inc., a licensing agency that matched marketable products to corporate clients.
Always interested in commercial design, he also began work on designing and developing a revolutionary new product. After just one year, Mr. Gallant was ready to introduce Puzz 3D, a jigsaw puzzle system that used flexible foam pieces with printed surfaces. Once built, projects were rigid enough to be portable and beautiful enough for display. The line, launched at the ’92 Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair under the company name Wrebbit Inc., was an overnight success, holding appeal for puzzle fans of all ages.
A natural leader with excellent promotional and marketing skills, Mr. Gallant guided Wrebbit to world prominence with the company’s signature, cheerful, green-frog logo becoming recognized in over 40 countries, in just a few short years. Manufactured in Canada, the line offered a wide variety of subjects — everything from international landmarks and Victorian houses to race cars and giraffes. By 2000 — having influenced and changed the entire jigsaw category along the way — more than 30 million Puzz 3D-brand puzzles had been sold worldwide.
In 2001, Wrebbit Inc. was acquired by Irwin Toys, which returned the company to Mr. Gallant’s ownership a year later when the Toronto-based firm ceased business. Hasbro Corp., an earlier strategic partner with Wrebbit for the international market, purchased the company and its assets in 2005.
Mr. Gallant’s contribution to the world’s toy industry was recognized in 2008 when he was named to the Canadian Toy Industry Hall of Fame. In addition to that much-deserved honour, Mr. Gallant received a Canada Export Achievement Award in 1995 and a Canada-America Business Achievement Award in 1996. Mr. Gallant is credited with inventing the Perfalock flat-foam puzzle system, as well as the Wrebbit Puzzle Machine (now Puzzle Shots Factory).
Long-time colleague Jean Théberge, who was Wrebbit Inc.’s vice president business development and legal affairs for several years, says, “Paul was a visionary. He will be remembered as a courageous man with great internal strength, and for his kindness, generosity and creativity. Even as a very successful businessman, Paul always treated his employees, colleagues and business partners with great respect and showed sincere interest in everyone. We will never forget Paul’s positive attitude, even in more difficult times, when he was still claiming to one and others, ‘ We are not always doing this for fun, but we must have fun doing it ‘ ” .
Predeceased in 2010 by his wife Françoise, Mr. Gallant leaves behind three children and ten grandchildren, as well as two sisters and many other relatives. Mr. Gallant is resting at Alfred Dallaire Memoria with a funeral following at St-Vincent de Paul Church (both are located in Laval, Quebec), on September 20.
Along with friends and colleagues in Canada’s toy industry, Toys & Games Magazine extends sincere sympathy to Mr. Gallant’s family. He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him.
(Click on thumbnails for more photos and captions.)
Additional photos courtesy of Jean Théberge, Wrebbit Inc.