NICK'S 2013 TOP TEN
10. RIP Disney Vinylmation Blog
The Official Disney Vinylmation blog was shut down in 2013. It may seem like no huge loss. It was not often updated and most collectors that are reading this article probably preferred one of the many fan sites anyway. But in its heyday, the blog gave us wonderful previews and concept art. Vinylmation.com now points to the Disney Merchandise Blog. And that sight is a valuable place for all things from the Disney Parks. It hosts Pin, Vinylmation, Disney Art and other news. It also keeps an easy to follow and well updated release calendar. A nice trade off.
9. Whiskers and Tales
I didn't want to include this one, but it was a big headline for the first month of 2013. With the previous year's issues with Furry Friends, it was a shock that Disney Store would release a sequel. It seemed the same production issues were going to plague this series as well, but those reports may have just been people looking to find problems. In the end, Whiskers and Tales was never recalled, and the product was a success for the Disney Store.
8. WDW AP Discount Drop
While not directly a Vinylmation story, the drop in the Walt Disney World Premium Annual Passholder discount from 20% to 10% had a drastic impact on the hobby. I was not the only AP to purchase less product this year. Much of it had to do with already owning too much vinyl, but the discount drop did stop me from making any quick purchases. And not just with Vinylmation, I spent less money at WDW on all merchandise this year. And it was not an income thing, it was a mindset of not having the deeper discount. And I know many other people who can say the same thing. I am not a numbers person, but I have no idea how this helped WDW's bottom line at all.
7. DV's Christmas Special
This is more a personal pick, but putting together this year's Christmas Special, a Vinylmation take on "It's a Wonderful Life," was a personal highlight in audio production and writing. It was so much fun to do, and have so many voices and sounds involved. It was fun to create, and satisfying to listen to. I really hope you all enjoyed it as well. Listen to it here.
6. Beauty and the Beast
Last year, I had the Classic Collection ranked at the #2 spot on my list and called it Eric Caszatt's masterpiece. This year, the highlight set by far was Beauty and the Beast. Perfection doesn't even begin to describe this total work of art. To date, this is Maria Clapsis' and Caley Hick's masterpiece. And that is saying a lot giving their body of work. Each figure is flawless in design and production. And the stain glass ears will be hard to ever top.
5. In Park Trading Changes
How times have changed. In the span of a year, the facet of collecting that got me involved in Vinylmation in the first place, died and now is slowly returning to life. Trading in the parks with Cast Members was the life blood of Vinylmation. It got people to purchase a piece of plastic, sight unseen, knowing they had the chance to trade it for one they might want. But with the influx of hundreds and hundreds of figures at such a rapid rate, the trading boxes got filled to the brim with undesirables. Cast Members got annoyed with the over-sized, heavy trade boxes. Cast Members also ignored rules set in place so guests could not pick every number in the box and "cherry pick" the good stuff. Trading locations were drastically decreased at both WDW and DLR. Seemingly a negative at first, turned into a positive. Condensed trading location allowed Disney to insert more desirable vinyls. Cast Members also seemed to be better trained. Disney also introduced series specific trading boxes like Park Starz and Pixar. If this trend continues, expect trading at the parks to be fun once again.
Is it just me, or did custom artists take it to the next level this year? There are a ton of talented artists out there painting on this Mickey shaped canvas... and it is fun to watch. Innovation and creativity was abundant this year. Artists who have been doing this for 3 years or more perfected their craft. The idea of creating a set and selling it off as blind boxes really took off. And DV's Custom Vinylmation Madness tournament was a blast and we look forward to holding another one this March.
3. WDI Series
I'm not sure where this set stands in the hearts of most other collectors, but to me, the Walt Disney Imagineering set, released as an LE Open Window collection at the D23 Expo, is the best set ever made. It incorporates what I love about both the Disney parks and Vinylmation. It extends beyond what the park series gives us and shows us an Imagineer's take on how the attractions and themeing elements are created. As for the vinyl themselves, the designs have all sorts of detail with hidden meanings and symbols. The sorcerer hats that were added to represent the icon of WDI (Sorcerer Mickey) we so well used as part of the canvas, that the figures would not even come close to the greatness that they are without them.
2. Disney Store Turns Corner
This may, in the long run, be more important than my top story. The problem is, we have such a small sample, it is hard to tell what the real story is. For about two years now, the Vinylmation put out by the Disney Store artists has been a mixed bag at best, but bordering on a horrible nightmare. While the talent of the artists has never been a question, many of them innovating high above some of the Disney Design Group, the choices for the themes of the sets they produce has been highly questionable. Set after set of uninteresting, non-Disney related sets like Zooper Heroes, High School and Wrestlers bombarded the shelves of local Disney Stores. Then, when sales presumably tanked, they went on sale for BOGOs and were shipped to outlets to be heavily discounted. In turn, this mostly unwanted product is all that collectors who don't live in Orlando or Anaheim had to trade. And collectors near the parks picked them up in bulk to trade with CMs at the park. It was a nasty cycle of wasted talent and unwanted, overproduced product. But then all of a sudden, the tide turned. Medieval went to BOGO like a week after it was released and no non-Disney theme product has followed to date. The Disney Store artists were also handed the reigns of Pixar Series 2 and the Aladdin Junior series. They added a fourth Disney Villains set. A Jungle Book set is on the horizon as is a Disney themed Robots 4! On top of all that, they seemed to have greatly improved the production side. I was shocked at the wonderful quality of Pixar 2 and Villains 4. Also, with the Disney Store not posting release dates or previews, Enrique Pita and Nacho Rodriguez (two Disney Store artists) have taken it upon themselves to promote the products via social media... and people are excited because it is Disney Themed! Great job Disney Store... keep it up.
1. LE Blind Boxes and Smaller Set Sizes
A Vinylmation revolution. Was the hobby dying? No, I don't think so, but it is going through an evolution. More and more people are realizing they can not collect everything. So buying habits are changing. One thing that seemed to be on the decline, was excitement for releases. I'm talking fanatical excitement. We used to line up outside D-Street for open edition blind boxes like Toy Story and Star Wars, while those days may be gone. We also stopped lining up for limited editions. With high quantities and lack of interest, you knew you could trade for it or walk in and pick it up a week later without waiting in line at 3am. For me, I stopped buying blind boxes at all. But now, that has changed. The introduction of LE Blind Boxes with Variants has made it fun again to run down to D-Street and purchase a blind box, eagerly anticipating what might be inside. This is a true game changer as seem at the Food and Wine Fest and Festival of the Masters. And, with smaller set sizes, I feel like dropping $20 on a couple blind boxes and getting a quarter of the set! Then trading for the others I may want. And in the process, having a shot at a chaser or variant. I already see renewed interest. I love the new direction of Vinylmation. Constantly innovating to keep us involved and excited.