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    Oct 2001
    Fredericksburg, VA

    Disney's Lion King Vinylmation

    A chat with the creative force behind the new figure series...

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    If you've been to the Disney theme parks, you've most likely seen the vast displays of Disney Vinylmation everywhere: vinyl Mickey Mouse shaped figurines with various paint schemes upon them. With their incredible popularity with Disney collectors, exclusive figures have begun showing up at The Disney Store. One of the more recent exclusive additions has been Lion King Vinylmation.

    In celebration of The Lion King 3D releasing in theaters today, took the opportunity to chat with the creative forces behind the new Lion King Vinylmation: Oskar Mendez, Graphic Designer/Illustrator and Jim Valeri, Senior Manager, Design. Here's what they had to say:

    FIGURES.COM: Both of you have been working on the Lion King Vinylmation line for some time. Can you share with us your thoughts on creating these and of the film? It's one of those classics that everyone seems to love no matter the age.

    JIM VALERI: We started doing Vinylmation at the Disney Store a couple of years ago. It started in the theme parks, got popular, and then we were invited to do some specifically for the store. We started with the "Villains" series, which sold very well, and moved onto a few other series since then and here we are with the Lion King. Obviously we're celebrating the anniversary of the movie which, if you're a Disney fan, you gotta love the Lion King. There's a real father/son aspect that always gets me choked up. Oskar actually works with his father here...
    OSKAR MENDEZ: Yeah, my father works on Vinylmation as well, different series. Scar was the very first one that I designed and was initially going to be in the "Villains" series but then it was decided that we would have a Lion King series. From then on, we collaborated between Jim and I, and we developed the initial sketches.
    FIGURES: Has it been a challenge to design these characters to fit the Mickey body or has it been freeing in a way?

    JIM: That's the irony in a way. The irony with working within restrictions is that you'd think it would be harder but in some ways it frees you up to come up with the solutions. Having a big white canvas is actually one of the most daunting things.
    OSKAR: [laughs] It's super scary.
    JIM: You have to be thoughtful with how you approach it but you come with solutions you wouldn’t have thought up otherwise.
    OSKAR: Once we figured out the proportions and made sure their expressions were true to the character, it was a lot easier.

    FIGURES: For this Lion King series specifically, do you split up the illustrations and deisgns or do you collaborate together? How does that work?

    JIM: We collaborated quite a bit on this. I think we had it pumped out before we divided them up because we also do designs for the rest of the product for the store so this was just one thing we were doing that we squeezed into our schedules. Oskar turned in nine beautiful designs for this thing and I did three for the 9 inch... Sometimes it just comes down to workload. There's usually all five or six of us designers on each series but on this one there was only Oskar and me.
    OSKAR: Yes, it just worked out that way. Everyone else was busy on something else.
    FIGURES: Talk to me about your personal favorite Vinylmation that youv'e done. There has to be one! I know it's hard, they're all your children...

    OSKAR: I might have to say my very first one was Kaa, for "Villains".
    FIGURES: ...but that's a snake!

    JIM: Yeah! Talk about hard to put on the design...
    OSKAR: ...Exactly! Initially, he was going to wrap around and the mouth was going to be on the back of the Vinylmation being choked, but because of cost issues and would it be true to the movie, it had to go. Everything from the colors to the designs, that was my favorite to work on.
    JIM: I have a favorite from this series and it's Rafiki. I just like the way he looks with the stick and everything; but my emotional favorite is "Villains" Series 1 Stromboli from Pinocchio. I was channeling my father who was a big Italian guy... he wasn't evil... but he was very expressive like Stromboli so I felt as if I was paying him homage as I was doing it.
    FIGURES: Guys, thanks so much for your time and we look forward to seeing more designs from you in the future!

    Story by David Yeh

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