The Kalkitos comeback
KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Kalkitos! To a young twentysomething, the word sounds Greek (literally), but for those who grew up during the '70s and '80s, the name evokes nostalgic feelings for a now-gone hobby. For those who've no idea what we're on about – you darn kids – Kalkitos consists of a transparent sheet of plastic on which coloured drawings of people, cars, animals, and so on, could be transferred onto a sheet of printed cardboard by rubbing the sheet with a soft pencil.
The process of transferring the drawings is known as chromolithography – but to many who played with it, Kalkitos was magic. And then sometime in the late '80s, Kalkitos inexplicably disappeared; where once it was found in every school bookshop, it became little more than a footnote of pop-culture.
Recently, Zullikhan Abdullah, one of the directors of Singapore-based Ideas Empire Pte Ltd, bought over the rights to Kalkitos (a name that was previously owned by Gillette until 1983), and has set about reviving the once-popular hobby.
“He (Zullikhan) wanted to preserve Kalkitos as what it used to be and re-introduce or re-educate what was once a toy/game played that instilled so much memory,” a representative of the company wrote, adding that he was also an avid Kalkitos collector back in the day.
As for its sudden disappearance, no one really knows, but the company points out several factors, including the rising popularity of video games in the '80s. “It could also be that the business focus of the company has changed and/or the difficulty in the production of the actual product with numerous titles, size options and probably the depletion of the machinery needed then to produce,” it said.
So what has changed from the Kalkitos of the '80s? At the heart of it, Kalkitos is still the same rub-down transfers. Thematically, however, it is slightly different; whereas once there were many cross-licensing deals for popular cartoons like The Smurfs, the recently-revived brand would focus on original artwork and collaborations with independent artists.
“We have created a platform where Kalkitos allows artists and illustrators to contribute,” it said. “This platform supports local or smaller individuals with a much larger exposure with our artist series. We also offer a customisation program where you can request to have your image or brand with Kalkitos,” it said.
So far, Kalkitos has categorised its 37 titles into six themes: Atlas, Day Out, Fantasy, City, Travel and History. Of the titles, 19 of them are made with artist collaborations, 15 of which are Singaporean, three Argentinean and one Spanish.
Despite the low-key marketing efforts, the company says it has received a “good response” across Europe, South America and particularly where its small distribution offices are located in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Tessaloniki in Greece.
The prices, though, have certainly moved on with the times – priced at SGD6.70 (RM16.20) or SGD8.90 (RM21.70) a book, it seems pricey for what was a simple childhood hobby, but then again, fewer things evoke nostalgia quite like rubbing down on a Kalkitos sheet.
All Kalkitos titles are sold online with international shipping available, and can be found in selected outlets in Malaysia. Prices start from SGD6.70 (RM16.20) per set.