To commemorate Comic-Con 2011, the Disney Store unveiled two new lines of vinyl collectibles: Vinylmation Robots and a POP! Vinyl collection from Funko that are available exclusively at the big San Diego Con this week. Disney Store North America director of toys John Balen spoke to me over the phone from the Comic-Con floor (a treacherous proposition indeed) to tell me more about the new lines and what fans can expect in the coming months.
G4: Tell us a little bit about Vinylmation for those (like me) aren’t terribly familiar with it.
John Balen: Vinylmation is a collectible line of vinyl toys. It was started at the Disney theme parks, and Disney Store and Disneystore.com participate in their line. It’s a unique way of branding our characters and artwork in a fun, exciting, and different way. It’s really appealing to Disney fans, vinyl enthusiasts, tweens, collectors of all ages. And the robots line, which is premiering [July 22] at Disney Stores across the country and at Disneystore.com. That’s only the second wide release series that was created exclusively by Disney Store artists. We did Disney Villains Series 1 in January to much success. That was an extremely popular line. We actually have a Villains 2 series planned in the future. Robots is only the second line we’ve designed.
G4: The Vinlymation Robots line definitely has a retro theme running through it. What was the driving force behind it?
JB: It’s a 50s tin-toy inspiration that the artists really loved, and they were super excited about. So having those retro color waves and design motifs, that’s what made it so fun for the artists to work on it.
G4: Has it been something they’ve wanted to do for some time?
JB: It was actually the very first line the design team worked on. I want to say it was about a year ago, and they were brainstorming some of the different concepts for series and trying something was non-Disney character related was something fun and exciting and different, as a way to do something as a sort of fun art take on Vinylmation.
G4: Can we expect more from this series going forward?
Vinylmation Robots Series 2 is something we’re toying with, so we’re looking at that potential in the future if the guests really respond well to Series 1.
G4: Disney Store also brought some exclusive figures to Comic-Con too, compliments of the folks over at Funko and they’re popular POP! Vinyl collection.
JB: We’re super excited about the POP! Vinyl line. That is a new line of collectibles. The Disney characters first appeared in the POP! series in May of this year, so they’re available for sale now. Series 1 consists of 12 characters. Series 2 is on the horizon. We’re actually going to premier that at the D23 Expo in August, so we’re looking forward to that for the next series of 12 characters.
But specifically for Comic-Con, we did four 3-inch series of characters and two, brand new 9-inch supersized versions of the POP! characters. It’s the first time we’ve done them in a 9-inch scale. Those area amazing. Limited edition, 360 pieces only available of each character. We did a Buzz Lightyear and Maleficent, and they look amazing. They’ve gotten great reaction here, and they’ve been flying off the shelves, so we’re super excited about the potential of introducing the 9-inch scale beyond these two limited editions.
And then the four smaller size versions are special Comic-Con editions of characters that exist in the line. We have a Mike and Sully [Monsters Inc.] in Series 1 of Vinylmation, but for Comic-Con we did a glow in the dark Mike Wazowski, and for Sully, we did a flocked version of the character, and they’ve both been extremely popular.
G4: How have fans been reacting to the new collections there on the show floor?
JB: To see the fans’ reactions has been such great feedback for us. People keep coming up with great ideas and suggestions for future lines, and we’ve been taking all of those notes down. Getting the fans’ response has been the best part of the whole experience
G4: Are there more POP! Vinyl collections on the horizon?
JB: We’ve got some amazing series in the works. There are 12 characters in Series 1, Series 2 has 12 characters. We’re already working on Series 3 and Series 4. So we’ve got 48 character designs planned out for the next few series of POP!