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The Rise and Fall of the Disney Vinylmation

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Calling all Vinylmation fans out there. Dust off your “Chasers” and come forth from the darkened depths, as this one is for you.

Over the years Disney has produced a lot of collectible items that fans are all too willing to buy. Pins, Tsum Tsums, snow globes, Pop Vinyls, the list goes on; you could probably categorize any item with a reference to Disney as a collectible in some way. A few years ago, I fell into the Vinylmation trap — deep, deep, deep into the trap.

For the novice, Vinylmations are little plastic Mickey-Mouse-shaped figurines with a design resembling a Disney character or attraction (or in some instances nothing to do with Disney at all), created by an artist. They come in three different sizes: 1.5″, 3″ and 9″, with the 3″ option being the most common and costing roughly $10-$12 each. The majority of the time they’re blind boxed, meaning you don’t know which design you’re going to get until you open it. And this is where the problem lies; cue endless buying of blind boxes until you get the design you desperately want to complete your collection of a series.

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Examples of the 9″, 3″ and1.5″ Vinylmations

On the surface, a Vinylmation seems innocent; it’s Mickeyshaped, it’s cute, it’s fun, it’s art. But they seem to evoke addiction to anyone who likes the combination of Disney, art, and collectibles. There were times I’d look at new releases and felt that I just had to have it. Hence, I have an embarrassingly large collection of Vinylmations. I have a lot — as in over 500 a lot. It’s needless to say that I had a slight Vinylmation addiction and it’s actually sickening to think how much I spent on these little Mickey-shaped, money-sucking figurines.

It all started back in late 2008 when the humble Park Series 1 was released in only a couple of locations. I happened to be on vacation around a very similar time to their release and so that’s where the addiction began. I really wanted the Kermit figure and so I had to keep buying in the hope that the next blind box was going to hold him.

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Vinylmations from Park Series 1

By the time my next trip to Walt Disney World came around — two years later — Vinylmations had invaded the resort and sprung up in every corner, preying on helpless collectors. The opening of D-Street, a dedicated store to all things Vinylmation in what was then Downtown Disney, just made it all the more exciting. D-Street was like a Mecca for Vinylmation fans and every collector who was lucky enough to experience the store will know that the glass top table filled with Vinylmations is what we all really wanted. D-Street not only sold Vinylmations, but also acted as a trading location where you could swap your duplicates. You could buy every form of Vinylmation under the sun, but fast forward five years to 2015 and D-Street was remodeled into the Star Wars Galactic Outpost with not a Vinylmation in sight. This to me sent alarm bells ringing; the demise of Vinylmations was happening.

In the Golden Age of Vinylmations, around 2010 to 2014, there was barely a time when a new series wasn’t being released. 2011 saw the collectibles have a facelift, literally. Their shape was altered slightly to create a more rounded figure with the face losing the Mickey mask outline. It wasn’t just Mickey-shaped Vinylmations we saw either; in 2013 Minnie Mouse also became the base shape for some designs. They included a bow on the head and a skirt on the body. During this Vinylmation peak, some sets were very hard to get your hands on as they’d sell out so fast. I seem to remember struggling to get the Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast collections. Because these limited-edition items would sell out quickly, many began appearing on online auction sites, sometimes at a premium. I am not exaggerating when I say that some Chasers (a rare design found in every series) and Variants (an even rarer design that on the surface appears normal but actually has slight differences) would be going for over $100 on eBay, which is slightly more than excessive in my opinion. Vinylmations were popular and some people were prepared to part with significant money for them.

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The old and new Vinylmation style

But these glory days were all too short-lived. Soon sets were having delayed releases and were becoming less and less common until Disney was only creating collections based on Marvel and Star Wars. I love Marvel and Star Wars, but there are only so many Mickey-shaped C3POs you want. Now you’ll be lucky to find the annual Eachez; I didn’t even see the 2018 one in the parks last year, I had to buy it online from shopDisney. Gone are the days when you’d step in each shop and stumble across row upon row of Vinylmations.

So why did Vinylmations go from ruling the parks to barely existing? I think partly the introduction of Tsum Tsums and the increase of Disney-themed Pop Vinyls and Funkos at a lower price point has something to do with it. Vinylmations weren’t exactly the cheapest collector’s items to keep up with, compared to a Tsum Tsum which costs less than half the price of a Vinylmation. I also wonder if the massive surge that occurred for a few years ultimately led to their fall, as the only way to go was downhill. By having constant releases it was hard to keep up, and there comes a point where you have to sacrifice buying certain sets because you just can’t afford to buy all of them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Tsum Tsums fade out within the next few years and face the same unfortunate fate as Vinylmations. They’re already on the decline, probably for the same reason as Vinylmations. I find myself saying “I’ve already got lots of Tsum Tsums, I don’t need anymore,” and maybe I’m not alone. But while many collectibles come and go, thankfully pins are here to stay. The reigning king of Disney collectibles, pins have a wide audience base, don’t take up much room, and have a steady release schedule. We’re not bombarded with new pins every other week like at the peak of Vinylmations.

Although I’m saddened about the decline of Vinylmations, I’m taking it as a positive thing. It means I save money, and I honestly don’t think my room could take any more Vinylmations before it exploded in a Mickey-shaped boom. I’m happy with the collection I have and don’t feel a strong desire to add to it in any drastic way. All good things come to an end; Vinylmations are dead and that’s okay.

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R.I.P to the mighty Vinylmation

Are there any other Vinylmation fans out there who still have their collection? How do you feel about their decline?

I’m an avid Disney fan and film studies graduate from the United Kingdom who will talk Disney all day. It was my dream to one day work in Walt Disney World and I was lucky enough to make this a reality by participating on the International College Program in 2017. I can safely say it was the best experience ever! My goal in life is to visit each Disney park across the world and I now spend my days planning vacations to get back to the magic at every possible opportunity — who doesn’t love a good Disney planning spreadsheet?!


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