Well my gentle readers, I should begin by saying that this post is going to be one big plate of piping hot crow. Have you ever said something with the greatest conviction and sincerity only to later look like a complete boob because your opinion couldn’t have changed more drastically? Of course you have. We all do that sort of thing. I, however, tend to be very dismissive of certain things straight off the bat only to recant later. It’s the Leo in me, I suppose.
I remember when Vinylmation first started. “Look at that!” I would click my tongue condescendingly. “That’s the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen in my life! Who would want that?” Now it’s important to keep in mind that I tend to be a purist when it comes to Disney collecting. Growing up in the 1980s it was really hard to find characters that were true to their original design. Faces tended to be generic and the figures were often rather awkward and clunky. Snow White in figurine form in the 1980s looked more like Joan Crawford after a four day bender in Vegas than a princess. Then in the 1990s Disney merchandise started to turn around. The Classics Collection and Collector’s Club figurines were amazing. For the first time Disney was offering up collectibles that not only lived up to the original characters but truly captured the spirit of animation in three-dimensional form. Since then the quality, in general, of Disney products has improved by leaps and bounds and what’s more, the variety can be at times fairly staggering. These days the attention to detail on a keyring or even a pencil is remarkable. The graphic design is well thought out and the characters are true to life. So when I first laid eyes on a Vinylmation figure I immediately turned my nose up and my first reaction was, “What is that supposed to be?” I saw the figures as a return to the strangely generic schlock of the 1980s.
You have to remember that the very first Vinylmation figures were all the same shape and size. Many of them were simply designs without a face. Although the chunky silhouette of Mickey was clearly there the rest of it sort of baffled me. And that, as they say, was history. I decided right then and there that not only did I not approve of Vinylmation but it was completely irrelevant to me and from then on my brain wouldn’t even register the thing if I saw it.
If you’ve never had crow I must say it’s quite delicious; an acquired taste, yes, but over time you really come to enjoy it. In my Leo lifetime I’ve become a connoisseur.
Twitter has been a great experience for me. I wonder sometimes if it’s best for fanatics of any subject to get together in such large groups and have unfettered discussions of our passion. The internet has got be the worst enabler that ever was. Since I’ve dived in to the Twitterverse my interest in Disney was not only rekindled but is blazing hotter than it ever has before. It was a tweet that made me revisit my hostility toward Vinylmation and now I’m feeling like a fool for having missed out on all the neat stuff that’s been going on all these years. To begin with the pieces are really spectacular in their detail and design; and always having been a sucker for great packaging I can now say that I’m officially hooked.
My favorites are by far the Park Starz line. Abstraction is only successful when you can boil something down to its most basic parts and yet retain all the life and personality of the original. The Park Starz pieces do that beautifully. It is their simplicity of design and economy of detail that really give them their charm. I equate them to the designs of Mary Blair. Her work was modern, even for her time, and Blair’s work has seen a major resurgence among collectors for that very reason. Her pieces not only have that touch of mid-century minimalism but are very much in line with contemporary design trends. Mary Blair would be right at home today working in product development for a Japanese toy company as she once was tossing off concept sketches for Disney films in the 1950s.
What’s great about Vinylmation is that they’re not terribly expensive. They range in price from around $13.00 US to $25.00 depending on their size and limited status. For gift giving they’re clearly a no-brainer. The packaging is so cool you might never take it out of the box. What more can I say? I’m officially a convert.
Postscript: I should add that there has been much discussion and debate lately among Disney fans about the direction of merchandising and the Disney Stores around the world. I would add my two cents by simply saying that Disney needs to streamline their promotion of products such as Vinylmation. If you Google “Vinylmation” you might be startled to find that official Disney sites aren’t at the top of the list. Most of the information I gathered for this post was found by trolling through blogs and navigating a labyrinth of links on Disney owned sites. Curious – and a topic I will be discussing more in the future.
All of the images in this post are from Disney Events and Disneystore.com.