Insight Editions, the San Rafael, Calif.-based publisher known for lavish, interactive illustrated and collectible books inspired by film and pop culture, is extending its brand with a new line of model-building sets for kids called IncrediBuilds. IncrediBuilds are freestanding wooden models that readers can build and customize. At launch this month, Insight is releasing 17 titles across two product lines: each title will be released as a hardcover book-and-model set retailing for $19.99, as well as a stand-alone model kit packaged with the building instructions and a bonus paperback booklet, priced at $16.99.

The models come as one laser-cut FSC-certified wood sheet from which builders remove pieces and assemble them via interlocking joints like a puzzle, requiring no glue or scissors. Age ranges for the titles span 8-up to 12-up, depending on the model. Among the first book-and-kit titles out of the gate are Star Wars: R2-D2: An Inside Look at the Ultimate Astromech Droid by Michael Kogge, featuring an RD-D2 freestanding model; and Harry Potter: House Elves: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the House-Elves of the Harry Potter Films by Jody Revenson, spotlighting a 3D model of series character Dobby . Simon & Schuster is distributing the titles to the book trade and License 2 Play is handling special sales to toy stores and other retailers.

Inspiration for the IncrediBuilds line arose from a few sources, says Raoul Goff, publisher and CEO of Insight Editions. “We’ve been developing this product line for over two years,” he said. “It’s a unique technology, made by a laser that die-cuts wood.” The technique was developed by Insight partner Team Green, a design firm specializing in “environmentally appropriate” products. “They had the technology, but no creative content,” Goff said. “We could provide that.”

Goff’s professional and personal experience also came into play as the concept took shape. “I’m a Waldorf parent, and there is a high emphasis on wood toys,” he explained. “And my background in publishing has involved doing intricate pop-up books and various paper-engineering products.” Goff also remembers being fond of building models when he was a child, and laments the absence of quality models today. “We see lots of plastic, mass-produced things,” he said. “But we wanted to create something that is aesthetically and artistically beautiful. We love that kids have the ability to customize and really personalize the models, too. It’s a natural extension of what Insight has been creating all along.”

Insight’s longstanding relationships with movie studios and other licensing partners has ensured that it can procure a plethora of popular characters in the IncrediBuilds line. After the 17 initial titles, Insight plans to roll out 28 additional ones by year’s end. Among those are more Harry Potter titles, tying into the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film, models of such animals as sharks, dinosaurs, and dolphins, and famous world landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and Tower of Pisa. Going forward, plans are to produce roughly 20 titles per year. Plans also call for introducing an IncrediBuilds Signature line of books and kits that will be more complex (with a higher price point), and include such properties as the Classic Batman Batmobile (from the Tim Burton film). “It’s a little daunting,” Goff said. “There are so many ideas we want to pursue.”

Research and development is a top priority for the company to this end. Goff said they used focus groups of children to see how long it takes to build a model, and to make sure the instructions were easy to follow. “We think of it as not just a book,” he said. “How do we keep a book relevant in a digital age, make it a book that you can interact with, have a unique experience, and want to keep? We want the books to be tactile, engaging, interactive fun for fans or kids.”

Insight has been promoting the IncrediBuilds launch at conference and trade shows including BEA, where the publisher held a preview lunch for mommy bloggers, who represent a significant potential marketing partner for the titles. Goff said that early response has been overwhelmingly positive from the bloggers and that the Star Wars: TIE Fighter Deluxe Book and Model Set by Michael Kogge and Harry Potter: Quidditch Deluxe Book and Model Set by Jody Revenson recently received the Mom’s Choice Award given for excellence in family-friendly media, products and services.

Comic-Con International, which is taking place this week in San Diego, is a key promotion forum for the new line. In addition to a Comic-Con giveaway, Michael Kogge, author of Star Wars: TIE Fighter Deluxe Book and Model Set, will be signing books at the Insight Editions booth. International interest in IncrediBuilds has been strong, too, and Goff notes that multiple co-editions have been signed. The publisher is planning regional and local events with museums, and arts and crafts festivals as well. “We really want people to see how fun and awesome this product is,” he said.