To those that aren't familiar with the vinyl toy phenomenon, Disney’s description doesn't tell you very much. 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 artists. 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 many more!) helped design six-foot-tall Mickey Mouse statues to honor Mickey's 75th birthday.
In 2008, Disney joined the fun and introduced Vinylmation to Disney enthusiasts by having a handful of artist create designs for these 3" and 9" collectibles. The very first series was called the 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 different 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
The sides of a 3" vinyl box.
Note the angles where you can see the vinyl designs. The "?" represents the chaser.
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. When the store displays the vinyls for sale, they display them in a tray of 24 blind 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 (ex: 3 of Monorail Red, 2 of everything else except the chaser, and 1 chaser). There will never be two chasers in the same tray.
Front and back of a collector's card.
The Vinylmation figures don't always look 100% exactly like their 2D counterparts.
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. Most passionate Vinylmation collectors will buy an entire tray to guarantee they receive one of everything and then they may sell or trade the extra twelve they do not need.
The contents of a 3" blind box.
Starting with Urban Series #1 both the figures and collector's cards are sealed inside the bag.
The 9" loses its guessing game appeal. Instead of a blind box, the 9" vinyls are visible before opened so you know exactly what you are purchasing. Like the 3” vinyls, these also include a small collector's card showing the artist design. The 9" vinyls aren't displayed in a tray, but rather individual boxes and there obviously is not a chaser for these.
The sides of a "it's a small world" 9" Vinylmation box.
With the 9" vinyls you know exactly what it is you are purchasing.
Underside of an "iasw" 9" Vinyl
The underside of the 9" vinyls show the amount made of that particular design. Both the 3" and 9" sized have a printed signature of the artist.
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 doesn't come in a box. Despite having no design, it cost the same amount as the decorated vinyls.
The 9" Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Vinyl Toy
The price of the 3" vinyl is $9.95, while the 9" will typically set you back $39.95. Occasionally there will be 9"/3" sets that cost $74.95. Each series is extremely Limited Edition and once they are gone they are gone for good.