On the back of each box, Disney describes Vinylmation as "...new collectible vinyl series featuring original designs from Disney Theme Park Merchandise. Available at Disney Theme Park Merchandise locations, Vinylmation is available in 3" and 9" sizes."
The vinyl toy -- which is also commonly referred to as a "designer toy" -- began in the late 1990s in Hong Kong by an artist named Michael Lau. A vinyl toy is essentially a blank, three-dimensional canvas that is then painted and given a unique design by various artist. The blank vinyl toy can be found in a countless number of shapes (humans, animals, imaginary creatures, etc.), and some artist even sculpt additional pieces onto the toy before painting them. Disney did something that could be considered similar in concept back in 2003 with their "Celebrate Mickey: 75 InspEARations" tribute. Celebrities like Elton John, Tom Hanks, Tony Hawk, Janet Jackson, Ellen Degeneres and more helped design six foot tall Mickey Mouse statues to honor Mickey's 75th birthday.
In December 2008, Disney joined the fun and introduced Vinylmation to Disney enthusiasts by having a handful of artist create designs for these 3" and 9" toys. The very first series was called Park Series #1 and featured twelve different 3" vinyl designs including the creepy Haunted Mansion wallpaper, Figment, Kermit, Monorail Red, Epcot's retired SMRT-1 and seven others. In addition to the twelve 3" vinyls, they also released six 9" vinyls which had the looks of "it's a small world", Safari Mickey, Water Park Mickey, Disney Cruise Lines, E Coupon, and a larger version of the creepy Haunted Mansion wallpaper which came with a new 3" version as well. In each series Disney reveals eleven of the twelve 3" figures and one remains a mystery called a "chaser". The "chaser" is the rarest and often the most sought-after of the series. These Vinylmation figures were used by Racer Max Warner for his own network, BBC, the Brilliant Broadcasting Corporation (formely known as The Vinyl Channel).
The 3" vinyls come in a blind box, meaning all the boxes look the same, you can't see inside, and you'll have no idea what it will be until you open it. Some series are not blindboxed, however, but cost more (ex: the sports series). When the store displays the vinyls for sale, they display them in a tray of 24 boxes. In each tray there are two sets of eleven, the chaser, and what we call a filler. The filler is an extra vinyl to complete the tray of 24. This means that each tray will actually have three of one specific design. There will never be two chasers in the same untampered tray. The series without blindboxes do not have a chaser.
Inside the box you will find a silver bag telling you "No Refunds, Exchanges or Returns". Inside the silver bag is a small collector's card showing you the design of your new vinyl along with the vinyl itself. Originally, the collector's card was outside of the silver bag and loose inside of the box, but starting with Urban Series #1 the card can now be found inside the bag with the vinyl. The 3" figures' retail price is $9.95.
The 9" loses its guessing game appeal. Instead of a blind box, the 9" vinyls are visible through a front window so you know exactly what you are purchasing. Like the 3” vinyls, these also include a small collector's card showing the artist design. Starting with Urban Series #1 some of the figures include a button. Some 9" figures are packaged with a 3" figures as a set. The 9"/3" sets are $74.95, while the 9" figures that are not part of a set are $39.95.
Robert King, the original sculptor, has confirmed that along with the 3" and 9" prototypes he also sculpted an 18" piece. Currently there has been no official acknowledgments by Disney of upcoming 18" figures. There are no tentative dates or design rumors of these figures.
Create Your OwnEdit
For the creative types, they also make a Do-It-Yourself vinyl. The figure is the same as the other 3" and 9" vinyls except they are solid white and they do not come in a box, as of now, but by the end of Summer 2009 they will come in a box. Despite having no design they cost the same amount as their decorated counter parts.