Friday, 17 February 2012

Autographed Vinylmations

First of all, I just want to say a big thanks to all those who read and retweeted my last post on Podcasts. This was my most read blog post since the Muppets blog post and I also got a lot of great feedback from the hosts of the podcasts that I talked about; so thanks. It means a lot whenever I get feedback or a retweet, so please feel free to do either or why not be adventurous and try both!!

Now back on subject, how many of you Disney fans have a bunch of these?

And hands up, who has them shoved away in some drawer somewhere, never looked at again, because despite having carried them and pens around for the entire vacation, once you have gotten home, there’s not a whole lot you can do with them.

Unfortunately, while collecting autographs on a Disney vacation is fun at the time, the format for doing so is pretty boring; the books are pretty generic (a few here are the same book bought years apart), you rarely if ever look through them again and unless the character you meet makes an extra effort in the signing, the signatures are pretty standard and could be from any of the 5+ time you’ve met Mickey that trip. Most of all, because they are not really displayable, other than stacked up on a bookshelf, they become forgotten about very quickly. In fact, if it weren’t for the little clues here and there (or proper labelling on the “my details” page), I would have a hard time working out which book was from which holiday; they have no charisma and little individuality.

I first tried something a little bit different in 2006 on our first family trip to Walt Disney World. Gage still had his autograph book, but I went with a pack of scrapbook background cards. Tara, at the time, was operating a scrapbooking supplies home business, so I knew we would be making a scrapbook of this holiday; and having the autographs directly on the right papers meant they could be added straight in. While this doesn’t get looked at a great deal either, because the scrapbook too just sits on a shelf with a bunch of them; at least when looked at, the autograph can be easily linked to the picture and some memory of obtaining it.

It wasn’t until the summer 2010 Disneyland Paris trip that I got experimental again. At a recent WDW Radio event, a whole bunch of fans and friends had signed a plain white 9” Vinylmation figure which was given to Lou as a memento and I thought it was a cool idea; so why not try it in the parks with characters.

For those who have no idea, I should explain what a Vinylmation figure is. Basically it is a vinyl figurine in a caricature shape of Mickey Mouse; however it is rarely painted to feature Mickey himself and is instead used as a 3D canvas for other art and designs. Usually 3” tall, these are released in themed collections as blind boxes, to add the element of luck and to encourage trading. The original Vinylmation shape design was very Mickey orientated, however recent changes to the design have taken out some of the elements that were being a bit pesky for the designers such as his nub nose and shorts buttons as well as indented lines that shaped around his face and separated his shorts from torso; while still obviously Mickey (because of the ears), it is now a far more generic canvas than previously. To learn more about Vinylmation you can check out the wiki page or these Vinylmation orientated websites:

Now I should give a spoiler alert here; I will be breaking kayfabe, so if you believe everything in Disney park is real, please stop reading here.
Still with me?

So its August 2010 and we have just arrived at Disneyland Paris. We check in at the Newport Bay Club and I buy a 9” plain white Vinylmation from the gift shop; I had brought a nice selection of coloured sharpie markers with me in preparation. From there we head off to Café Mickey where we have a birthday meal booked for Gage. As the characters come around I present them with the figure to sign rather than the standard book, and while there is some hesitation on their part, the experiment is under way. Now I should say from the start, that if you are a perfectionist, then doing this isn’t for you. The 3D shape of the object makes it hard for characters to both hold and sign, especially for those with gloves or mittens; and with the vision impairment there will often be clashing of signatures as misjudgements of size or direction are frequent. I think it is mostly a case of practice; character performers are so used to the standard flat book of a certain size for holding and signing, that they can do it without proper vision, much like typing on a keyboard; this changes everything. But while the signatures are usually not perfect, it is their imperfection that makes them and the finished keepsake both unique and memorable. Unfortunately, some characters, sometimes, either cannot or will not sign a Vinylmation; this can be because they do not feel confident enough to do it and themselves do not want to give a non perfect signature, because they cannot hold it themselves (Eeyore being a prime example), or because they usually use a stamp (like Buzz Lightyear) and you can’t stamp a 3D object. The key is persistence and good humoured begging, either with the character to solve the problem (such as holding it for Eeyore in his vision line so he can sign it); or to try again the next time you meet the character as it often comes down to performer capability or willingness.

And so here are the results of this first experiment and I was very happy with them. Yes, it’s was harder to carry around and it takes a little extra care as you don’t want to get it dirty or smudge the wet marker pens; but the end result was so much more charming than the book. Whenever a character handler would see us with it, they would comment on what a wonderful idea it was; people in line with us would also often comment, and those characters that could communicate would see it being signed by others and actually ask if they could sign it next with genuine excitement. Snow White kissed him on the nose; hence the pinkish smudge.

Signed by: Mickey, Jack Sparrow, Captain Hook, Mulan, Jasmine, Aladdin, Snow White, Eeyore, Dopey, Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, Emile, Ariel, Tiana, Minnie, Goofy, Woody, Aurora, Chip & Dale, Tic & Tac, Pluto, Scrooge McDuck, Stitch, Lilo, Mary Poppins, Bert, The Genie, Price Philip, Smee, Daisy, Donald, Jessie, Remy, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Naveen & Belle

Most of all though, this didn’t come home and get put in a cupboard with the other autograph books. I decided at the beginning to write the holiday destination and the date in the front facing ears and also to have it hold a pen from the park which features either the year or the celebration theme of the time further identifying it; and so this became something that could be displayed and would stand out as a constant reminder of the trip. The only rule I had about it, was that I would only get one signature from each character; otherwise it would end up having lots of Mickeys, Goofys and Plutos on it and not much room for others (although in France I have gained two autographs from characters with French and English names)

A few months later, over Christmas and New Year, we went on a trip that involved a few days at Walt Disney World and a trip on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. Again I went with the Vinylmation to get signed, and again we were told time after time what a cool idea it was; apart from one CM on the ship who every time he saw me getting it signed said that I should hand it in to guest services and it would be signed and returned. While I understood his point, as obviously not rushed and out of costume the signatures would come back in a much more perfect condition, to me it was not the point as the whole point was to have this as a memory maker, not just something that was delivered completed; besides, that same handler had no qualms with signing it himself while in costume as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirate Night.

Signed by: Mickey, Minnie, Woody, Pooh, Tiana, Thumper, Ariel, Eeyore, Mr Incredible, Goofy, Captain Hook, Belle, Jack Sparrow, Daisy, Handy Manny, Peter Pan, Snow White, Stitch, Pocahontas, Pluto, Duffy, Donald, Jasmine, Aladdin, Tigger, Lotso, Chip & Dale, Buzz, Lilo, Aurora, Piglet, Miss Bunny, Mulan, Frozone, Marie & Cinderella

By the end of this trip, it had become obvious to me that, for us, this was the preferred way of collecting autographs; it was fun, different and most of all memorable and had an a place after the trip; the autograph book was a thing of the past.

2011 saw our mammoth Disney adventure and given that this was my first real trip to Disneyland, and with the only one signature from each character rule, I didn’t want to go there with full Vinylmation and not make any memories there. So the only alternative was to split this trip up, a Vinylmation for Walt Disney World, one for the D23 Expo, and one for Disneyland; thus growing the collection by 150% in 3 weeks.

The WDW vinyl from this trip is probably my favourite looking of all them, it’s full, it’s colourful and features a lot of autographs that feature on no others.

Signed by: Mickey, Donald, Buzz, Cinderella, Daisy, Tinkerbelle, Rapunzel, Alice, Snow White, Tigger, Duffy, Belle, Jessie, Pluto, Phineas, Ferb, Pooh, Jasmine, Thumper, Oso, Minnie, Pocahontas, Marie, Angelica, Leo, June, Eeyore, Mary Poppins, Terk, Ariel, Eric, Frozone, Mr Incredible, Miss Bunny, Woody, Stitch, Lilo, Mrs Incredible, Tiana, Brer Bear, Aurora, Jiminy Cricket, Goofy, Chip & Dale, Handy Manny, Piglet, Rafiki, Fairy Godmother, The Genie, White Rabbit, Pinocchio, Aladdin, Vidia, Peter Pan & Yehaw Bob

The D23 Expo vinyl is special because it’s full of friends and celebrities that we had the chance to meet while at the event. The only character signature on this one is Mickey Mouse and this was the living character version and our first chance to interact with him (you can see the video of it being signed here). Others included voice actors, artists and Disney Legends.

Signed by: Lou Mongello(podcaster, author, hobbit), Beci Mahnken (MEI Mousefan Travel), MoJo Collins, Ricky Brigante (podcaster), Vicki Damanti (MEI Mousefan Travel), Annette Owens (podcaster, MEI Mousefan Travel), Jessica Clawson, Noah (Artist), TonyCaggiano, Jim Valeri (lead Vinylmation designer), Mickey Mouse (Icon), DaveSmith (Disney archivist), Scott Otis, Henry Work (former podcaster), PaigeO’Hara (voice of Belle), Marc Lorenzo (Disney Dad), Amy Mebberson (cartoonist), Stitch Kingdom (Disney news site), Alex Maher (artist), David Koenig (author), Sean Astin (voice of Oso, Goonie, Hobbit), Big Momma, as well as actors from Phineas & Ferb, Pair of Kings, Handy Manny and Fish Hooks; and many more.

And then we come to Disneyland; and this is where this blog is about to become a rant. First things first, when we got to Disneyland, finding a plain 9” Vinylmation was bloody hard work. In all other parks I have been to, the Emporium on Main St is loaded with them as are many other places; but I drew a blank in all park shops at Disneyland. Eventually on the first evening I was able to find the couple I needed at D-Street in Downtown but for a while I didn’t think I was going to find any at all anywhere. 

Our Disneyland autograph collecting started at the Storytellers Café the next morning where we had a character breakfast. As I usually do, I had the Vinylmation on the table along with an assortment of coloured pens and first out came Dale; but when asked to sign he turned me down. Now, in my experience, the turn downs usually happen when the vinyl is new or near empty and as soon as it starts to populate, the characters are all much more willing and eager to sign it; so a single turn down like this didn’t really bother me. Next up came Terk who signed and it seemed like things were back on track, but we were then turned down by Rafiki, Koda and Brer Fox in quick succession; which was disappointing because I hadn’t met Brer Fox since childhood and don’t have his or Koda’s signatures on a vinyl.

So we left the breakfast with just Terk and Chip’s autographs and headed to the park where we got in line for Alice and the Mad Hatter in Town Square. Hatter at one point started making his way down the line and I presented him with the vinyl; he hesitated before saying something like “I’m not supposed to but….” and then he signed it hurriedly; but on the bottom base rather than the visible area. When we got to Alice she started signing it too, but her handler got her attention to which she replied “oh, well, I’ve started it now”. This was getting weirder and weirder. So next we lined up for Mickey Mouse and we did the photo etc and then I presented the vinyl; and not only did he gesture that he wouldn’t sign it; but I could actually hear the female cast member inside the costume saying “Sorry, I can’t sign that”; the first time I have ever heard a masked character break kayfabe in such a manner and communicate with a guest verbally.

As this was the end of a character cycle, there were quite a few handlers milling about, so I asked one of them what the deal was with characters refusing to sign my Vinylmation to which he answered that they had received a memo basically saying that Vinylmations were not to be signed. I first said that it seems odd seeing as I have seen characters signing anything before, be it books, maps, tshirts, even books from other parks such as Universal to which the guy said he understood but couldn’t tell me any more. Not one to back down too easly, I then scrolled backwards through the pictures on my camera to one I had taken the day before of my signed Vinylmation from WDW, from the previous week, and showed it to the cast member countering with, “well, if there’s been a ban on signing them, why is everyone at WDW still doing it?” which left him a bit speechless and confused enough to go and get his supervisor. The supervisor basically said the same thing and both cast members (who were very nice btw) said that I should keep trying with characters and those who wanted to sign it, would; but both thought it wrong and odd that Disneyland character performers had been told not to sign them when other parks were either not being given the same restraints or not abiding by them.

I was later given the reason (by Mary Poppins) that signing had been stopped on Vinylmation because they are a piece of art and thus shouldn’t be embellished upon; and while I cannot argue with the sentiment behind this, because I too consider them a piece of art, this is wrong because this is a blank one that is for the sole purpose of embellishment. In this case the signatures I get turn this blank canvas into a unique piece of art that will be a reminder of our holiday; so the argument just doesn’t hold up. Anyway, once others had started signing it, more and more characters were willing; unfortunately this was a bit too late to fill the vinyl up so it looks a little sparse compared to the others.

Signed by: Mickey, Alice, Donald, Cruella De Ville, Terk, Mulan, Snow White, Geppetto, Stitch, Pooh, Chip & Dale, Minnie, Goofy, Pinocchio, Aurora, Jessie, Pluto, Eeyore, Mad Hatter, Baloo & Tigger
Refused to sign: Mickey, Rafiki, Brer Fox, Woody, Koda, Russell, Mary Poppins, Bert, Dug & more

Honestly, I hope this whole incident was just a big misunderstanding, someone has sent out the memo saying “don’t sign Vinylmations because they are art” and not had the thought to put “apart from the blank ones, they are ok” on the end of the sentence for clarification. Since this happened, I have wanted to put the rant you have just read into a letter to Disneyland operations, maybe to at least get clarification or a proper reason, but as I wouldn’t have a clue where to send it, I haven’t; maybe someone who reads this will pass it on. I plan on returning to Disneyland in 2013, and would hate to have another disappointing experience with autographs.

Ok, sorry, rant over.

The newest member of our autographed Vinylmation family came in November while I took a solo weekend trip to Disneyland Paris. Considering I was only there for a couple of days, I am very happy with how full it is. Also, being that it was a solo trip I thought it would fun to experiment again, so this time I got a red Vinylmation rather than the usual white and went with just black ink. While I like how it came out, it seems a little less eye catching than some of the others.

Siged by: Mickey, Chip & Dale, Tic & Tac, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Minnie, Donald, Tigger, Rafiki, Baloo, The Genie, Winnie the Pooh, Timon, Gedeon, Eeyore, Pinocchio, Mad Hatter, Goofy, Dingol, Woody, Friar Tuck, Wendy, Pluto, Duffy, Geppetto, Jack Sparrow, John Darling & Captain Hook

And so that is our current collection of autographed Vinylmations. There will be 3 or 4 more added this year; hopefully each as individual and full of memories as these. If any of you have tired of autograph books, why not give this a go; it’s much more fun and I’m sure will give you a treasured keepsake of your visit to the parks.

Speak Soon :)

1 comment:

  1. I went to WDW on a solo trip for 2 weeks in may 2009 and i got many signatures on a white one but only had a purple and a black sharpie, I stupidly didnt take any pictures of it and i lost it, i went through the orlando airport took it out of my handluggage bag to remove my laptop and some how i didnt have it by the time i got pass xray. I did contact lost property but i think one of the kids behind me picked it up as it was very pretty, Nevermind, i am going this september and will be more careful this time :) yours look great


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