WDWNT: The Magazine – “What is Vinylmation?”
What is Vinylmation?
by Brian Shapiro
Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse. I’m not quoting Walt Disney describing his company, I’m talking about Vinylmation! When Vinylmation made its debut a few short years ago, the only platforms available were the three-inch and nine-inch Mickey Mouse shaped molds. Shortly after, a one and a half inch Junior figure was introduced, but it was still shaped liked Mickey. The three-inch figure, followed by the nine-inch figure, went through a redesign that simplified the shape to facilitate artists’ designs and improve manufacturing, but the shape was still that of Walt’s iconic mouse. Today, all that has changed, and Vinylmation no longer refers to an artistic interpretation of a Mickey Mouse shaped vinyl figure. According to the official Vinylmation Blog, Vinylmation is defined as “A fun and affordable collectible designer toy created by Disney Theme Park Merchandise. At its core, Vinylmation is about creative expression and the mysterious thrill of the chase.”
The concept behind the Vinylmation canvas mold seems be divided between two different approaches. The first is one in which the art placed on the vinyl must adapt to the shape of the figure. This is the original concept that applied to the Mickey shaped canvas, except now there are other canvas shapes to choose from. There is a monorail shape, a Duffy shape, and the Vinylmation 95 Lightening McQueen shape. At the Mickey’s Circus Vinylmation Event, Disney previewed a new shape that resembles Minnie Mouse for the upcoming Cutesters en Vogue series. Each time Disney introduces a new mold it is not unusual for it to be met with criticism on various online discussion boards. In spite of this, all of these different shapes have been accepted by collectors and have found an audience. With the exception of the monorail platform, Disney has plans to release new designs on each of these molds in the future.
The second canvas approach to Vinylmation involves adapting the shape of the figure to the art placed on it. This started with the very successful Park Starz Series #1. In this series, no two figures have the same shape, and the canvases are simple, stylized geometric shapes that take a cue from the art. The same is also true of the recently released Popcorns series. This series is like an amalgamation of the two approaches to Vinylmation. The figures in this set have a similar, basic popcorn kernel appearance. However, the molds have been adapted to fit the design of the character art placed on them, and no two figures have the identical shape. For example, Kermit’s eyes bulge above his head, Sulley has horns, and Pluto has ears and a lump on the top of his head.
These two different approaches to Vinylmation are not unprecedented or new to designer toys. Kidrobot has been releasing vinyl figures of different shapes and sizes long before Vinylmation appeared on the scene. The artists of the Disney Design Group and the Disney Store have made impressive use of all the various canvas molds. Collectors have so much to choose from that it is unlikely there isn’t something for everyone. As a custom artist, I would love to see more of the newer Vinylmation shapes released as blanks to design for. I absolutely loved the blank Vinylmation 95 canvas released this past summer and found a lot of potential in it as illustrated by my custom Genie. It would be great if Disney released a simple, generic, blank Popcorns shaped figure to work with too.
Whatever happens, Vinylmation is no longer defined by Mickey Mouse. It is now so much more, and will continue to evolve. For purists, Mickey will always be there at the heart of it all, but Vinylmation fans and tastes come in all shapes and sizes, so why shouldn’t Vinylmation figures?
Brian Shapiro, a lifelong Disney fan, lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and children. Although he can’t get to the Parks as often as he’d like, he enjoys the magic by showing Disney movies every day in his dental practice and by collecting memorabilia like pins and art. Over the last few years he has become passionate about collecting, trading, and customizing Vinylmation.