"Vinylmations: These Guys Are Taking Over!"
By Kim Pierce
During my October 2010 trip to Walt Disney World, I traveled home with an extremely unexpected collection. This collection was an ever-popular phenomenon that began in 2008 and was abundantly present at the Disney theme parks. Even though this collection had such an avid fan base, I could never put my finger on why it had the “it” factor. Can you guess what I am talking about? The answer is obvious. Vinylmations.
For those of you who do not know much about vinylmations, here is a little background information for you. Vinylmations are 3” or 9” Mickey Mouse shaped figures that are made out of vinyl material. Vinylmations were first introduced in December 2008 with the Park Series #1. This series consisted of twelve different painted Mickey figures that portrayed different characters, park icons, and attractions at the Disney theme parks (i.e. Kermit, Figment, Monorail Red, Fireworks and the Haunted Mansion Wallpaper). Disney described what vinylmations are on the back of the Park Series #1 box stating: “Vinylmations is a new collectible vinyl series featuring original designs from Disney Theme Park Merchandise. Available exclusively at Disney Theme Park Merchandise locations, Vinylmation is available in 3” and 9” sizes. Vinylmation is a cool new Disney collectible.”
Do you remember the “Celebrate Mickey: 75 InspEARations” event that consisted of celebrities designing six foot tall Mickey Mouse statutes that were displayed in honor of Mickey Mouse’s 75th birthday? Vinylmations remind me of that. Although the “Celebrate Mickey” event took place five years prior to the creation and release of vinylmations, the concept is basically the same, but in a smaller take home size.
Each 3” vinylmation comes in a sealed mystery box and ranges in price from $9.95 to $12.95. They are sold in a blind box which means that you do not have any idea what design you will be getting, except that you will be getting one of the twelve designs in the series of your choice. Once you open the box there will be a sealed silver bag with the words “No refunds, exchange
nges, or returns.” This is a nice way of saying, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset,” which I use on a regular basis in my “real job” as an elementary school teacher. Originally you would also get a card that showed you a 2D design of the same vinyl you got in the silver bag. Now in some instances, you do not receive a card at all, yet I do not know the particular reason behind why they got rid of this aspect in some series.
Each series displays eleven of the twelve 3” Vinylmation designs on the box and one remains a mystery. This mystery Vinylmation has been coined the “chaser” as it is the most rare Vinylmation in each series. Every Vinylmation series comes in a tray consisting of 24 boxes. In each tray there are two of every design, except for the chaser, which can only be found once in the box. If you are doing the math you’re correct- that doesn’t add up! Well, in order to make the chaser more appealing, one of the designs can be found three times in each tray. Therefore, there are never two chasers in a tray. This is done to help ignite the “chase” to find that special rare design. In my own personal opinion, I have found that in most cases, the coolest Vinylmation in the series tends to be the chaser.
As discussed in my last volume about PVC figures, the biggest selling point with vinylmations around the theme parks is the ability to trade them. There are clear boxes in a variety of stores found throughout the different parks so that you can trade your purchased Vinylmation for a different one. In the event you purchase a Vinylmation and you either get a duplicate or one you do not want, you can bring it to a store and trade for any Vinylmation in the clear box. But wait, there’s more! Many stores also have a black mystery box that has numbers typically ranging from 1-24. These boxes contain a variety of vinylmations from many different series. The concept is simple. You pick a number on the box and the cast member reveals the Vinylmation that is in that number slot. You then get to keep that Vinylmation and trade in yours. Typically you do not get to keep your Vinylmation, however in some instances the cast members allow you to say no and keep the Vinylmation you currently own. In the off chance you get an extremely friendly cast member or you visit at a time that not many people are in the store, you might be able to pick a few different numbers in hopes of finding a Vinylmation you like.
Since 2008, there have been multitudes of Vinylmation series that have been released. Some of these series are: Holiday, Animation, Villains, Urban, Cutesters, specific movies such as the Lion King, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars, as well as the ever-popular Park Series which is currently on Series #7. There are also 3” vinylmations that have been released since 2008 that cost more money ($14.95 on average), that allow you to see what Vinylmation you are purchasing ahead of time. Some examples of these series are the Flag series, the Nightmare Before Christmas series, and the Occupation series. There are also special exclusive vinylmations for specific cities, Disney stores, and vacation destinations around the country. You can get a Vinylmation of Minnie dressed as the Statue of Liberty as a souvenir of your trip to New York City, or a Menehune-inspired figure to commemorate your first trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii.
There are also 9” vinylmations for sale. Each 9” Vinylmation comes in a clear case that allows you to see which Vinylmation you are purchasing. This eliminates the mystery, yet allows collectors to know what they are purchasing. The 9” vinylmations typically cost around $40, yet some special editions that are either extremely limited or consist of both a 9” and 3” Vinylmation can cost $75+. I believe Disney created the clear case for the 9” figures because they are much more expensive than their 3” counterparts. I know that I would not want to shell out $40 in hopes that I might be getting the 9” Vinylmation I was searching for.
Although many people were obsessed with the concept of buying and collecting Vinylmation figures, I originally felt that they were ridiculous and a waste of money. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to purchase a Mickey Mouse figure painted as something totally different. Why turn Mickey Mouse into something he isn’t? Did we not appreciate Mickey for the loveable creature he is? Why did we have to change him?
This opinion of vinylmations changed drastically during vacation one year and I can remember that trip vividly. In October 2010, my future brother-in-law had seen a display case that contained all the vinylmations in a Holiday series, which included an American flag designed Mickey Mouse. Cory is an Army veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom and is very proud to be an American, so he purchased a holiday one in hopes of getting lucky as this particular design displayed two things he cared for dearly. Unfortunately, he ended up getting a Halloween pumpkin Vinylmation instead. When I arrived a few days later, Cory told me how he purchased one of those “stupid vinylmations” and that he got “some ugly pumpkin thing.” I immediately told him to trade it, but he had no idea what I was talking about. The following day, I took it to the park with me and I made multiple trades. He was at another park with my sister, so I would text him pictures of the different trades I made in his honor. It soon turned into a game for me as I searched practically every store possible in Hollywood Studios to try to find his precious American flag Vinylmation. Throughout the day I made a ton a trades (90% of them being the ever-present Big Baby that was in abundance during this time period, as it still is today). After returning to the resort and showing him that I had finished the day with Big Baby, he decided to give trading a try as he absolutely did not want to take home Big Baby! After one day of him trading vinylmations throughout the park, Cory was hooked.
At this point, I still hadn’t seen much of a point in purchasing and trading, although I did have a lot of fun searching for the American flag for him. After a few more days of watching him make trades, my sister and I decided we liked a few of the designs in the overly popular Park Series #4 and we each purchased our very own Vinylmation. Unfortunately, Park Series #4 was sold out where we made our purchase, but we figured we would join Cory in the hunt and try to find our favorites from that series by trading around the parks. Game. Set. Match. By the end of that day, Cory, myself, and my sister, Kristin officially caught the bug and were addicted to Vinylmation trading.
I’m sure many people who collect vinylmations would agree that a large part of the appeal is the ability to buy and trade vinylmations. In some instances, I find I am disappointed when I purchase a Vinylmation and open the box to find the one I was looking for, unless of course it is the chaser! (Side note: One of my happiest Vinylmation moments was opening a spur of the moment purchase of the Park Series #6 and obtaining the Abe Lincoln chaser, which I gave to Cory on his birthday) I know it is pretty pathetic, but I think I enjoy the satisfaction I get when finally finding the Vinylmation I was searching for after hunting for it rather than getting it through a purchase. Now on every Walt Disney World vacation I keep a Vinylmation in my backpack just so I can make trades throughout the day. I don’t even have to be in search for a specific Vinylmation either! I enjoy the mystery and trading aspect so much that I could trade the same Vinylmation all day without a care in the world as to what I end up with. For example, I just returned from Walt Disney World after seeing Kristin and now brother-in-law, Cory get married at the Wedding Pavilion (in which their guest book consisted of a black 9” Vinylmation and a white 9” Vinylmation with black and silver sharpies for guests to write their well wishes on). I did not have any specific vinylmations left to obtain on this trip, so I just made trades here and there. By the end of the trip, I left with Hamm from Toy Story and I plan to hold on to him until my next Disney trip in which there may be a specific Vinylmation I am looking for. Until then, Hamm will happily join my ever-growing collection.
Currently my Vinylmation collection consists of 25 vinylmations. However, my sister and brother-in-laws is much larger as it consists of 78 vinylmations! They also now have three 9” vinylmations and I have yet to purchase one. I display my collection next to my desk in my bedroom, while they display theirs on a hutch in their living room. No matter where or how you display your collection, I think that vinylmations are designed to bring back fond memories of your favorite vacation, attraction, or character in a unique way. I find that I can look at a specific Vinylmation and it will bring back memories of either how I obtained it, or my love for a specific attraction (Jungle Cruise which you will learn more about in a later volume of Magical Collections). Either way, vinylmations are in large part a conversation piece- whether it be recounting a story on your adventures in the Vinylmation trading world, or defending your ridiculous obsession to a “nonbeliever.” Hey, I understand where they are coming from as I was in their shoes once. I just can’t wait to give them the “I told you so” speech once my friends finally give in and catch the bug too!
So that leads me to this volume’s question. As we approach the holiday season, I’m wondering- do you collect something special to display during the holidays? If so, what is it and where do you display it?
Oh, and in case you were wondering… we did end up finding the American flag Vinylmation during that October 2010 trip. After much avid searching, we actually found two!
Stay tuned for another Magical Collections column next month. If there is a Collectable, or any other Disney related topic that you would like to see covered on DizFanatic.com please contact us. We would love to hear what's on your mind!
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