I have been collecting toys as long as I can remember. Even before growing out of childhood, I clearly recall collecting toys that I knew I had outgrown as playthings but wished to preserve the toy for my future shelf. As I grew older, I discovered I continued to keep certain toys that spoke to me and as I got older it was then I realized these toys allowed a touchpoint for me to reflect on my happy memories long ago.
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Some of my favorites were the toys were those from the trips we would take to Disney World as a kid. I had some great ones, but most of them were destroyed in a flood of the basement of our house during college. A few items survived, but not the giant collection I had been painstakingly acquiring over the years of my youth and early adulthood.
One item that I was able to salvage was the object above. The Secret Panel Chest from the Haunted Mansion. The Haunted Mansion is to this day, my favorite attraction and this is one of my most prized possessions of my youth. It is a little worse for the wear, but having survived the deluge this is a wonderful keepsake of my early days exploring Walt Disney World.
Disney has been producing great toys all the way back to the early days of the Disney Bros. Studios. Walt and his brother Roy understood the powerful pull his characters had on their audience and knew that licensed products were the way to increase the revenue brought into the company, which would in turn allow Walt to make more pictures.
If you could see all of the toys available on the worldwide market it would make your head spin. Which brings me to the evolution of the vinyl toy, from simple throwaway to valued collectible.
The wonderful Japanese toy market has so many creative artists that it was inevtible that their treatment of the Disney characters would be mass-produced. They have re-imagined some of our most beloved Disney characters and created some amazing toys – many of them simple vinyl, no different than your rubber ducky.
Watching the slide show above, you can see the wide variety of character toys being produced for the Asian market – many of these toys are not available in the US, except through an imported who usually charges a hefty premium. I have acquired a few of the more interesting items, like TOMY’s Disney Label Transformers (both the monochromatic and full-color versions) but there are a significant amount of great vinyl toys available only outside of North America.
This is one of the things that has prompted, in my opinion, the development of product lines like Disney’s Vinylmation. Vinylmation came onto the scene last year with some amazing designs from artists within the mouse house. They have recently unveiled the third series in the line as well as a similar artists run of Stitch, from Lilo and Stitch. There is, however still more great product out there that seems to have avoided the constraints a large international conglomerate may have in the design of their own products.
The companies that seem to have the most interesting and engaging designs are: TOMY, Medicom, Japan Modern and Square Enix (I am sure there may be plenty more out there). There are also some independant artists that have created some other great designs – Span of Sunset comes to mind first.
All of these toys have a new perspective on the classic Disney character in some fashion. Whether it is the blocks of a Kubrick figure or the wild imaginings of a chrome Mickey Mouse, all of these new vinyl toys are an engaging new way to look at a familiar face.
Some of the toys being produced today run into the hundreds of dollars, if you can find them during the pre-release phase. Once the toy has been released they are usually quickly sold-out and then you have to move onto auctions where the price can easily double before the end of the listing.
I have been in contact with a few of these companies to inquire as to how to become an importer of their products. Many of them seem to have brick-and-mortar requirements to sell their wares, which leaves entrepreneurs like us here at etckt.com without a viable means to obtain and sell these products.
Ultimately, I hope that Disney would put its marketing muscle behind some of this and start selling some of the toys here at the parks. The Japan Pavilion at Epcot is the perfect place to start offering these products. It seems like a perfect match for the parks and ultimately us consumers.
If you have found some interesting vinyl toys, or any other imported Disney item that you would like to share with us, please give us a shout. As fanatics and Disneyana enthusiasts we are always on the lookout for the next big thing. And, if we can find an importer who will work with us, you can be sure to find Disney collectibles here on the site.