Spotlight On: Vinylmation Custom Artist Keith Lapinig

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“Quick” Editorial: We don’t want to take the spotlight off Keith’s customs below, but must mention a word about yesterday’s post with custom artist Justin Marshall. Justin sent us pictures of a custom Vinylmation Claw Machine he made, but it quickly came to our attention there was another claw machine out there, done by Keith Lapinig. This “original” Claw Machine” was made back in 2009. Now although original idea can be debated in many ways, credit must be given where it is due. Our first inclination was not to pull the post, but after talking with both Justin and Keith yesterday and getting the full story, we mutually decided it best for everyone to pull that post. There was, a now deleted, great comment on yesterday’s post. It basically said that a man named Walt took classic Fairytales and enhanced them for our entertainment. It also pointed out of course that even Keith’s Claw Machine is based upon someone at Pixar’s idea. And that was based upon an idea that’s in every arcade. It goes on and on, but that’s a subject for a different time. It all came down to a lack of acknowledgement. One other quick note, with these Spotlight On articles, we are not endorsing any custom figure, custom artist or choosing one over another, it is only a platform to share artist’s work. We don’t have a weeding out process. Anyone who contacts us eventually gets an article. We may feature other customs by Justin in the future, but today is Keith’s spotlight.
Keith Lapinig is a custom artist born and raised in Queens, New York. He has created many fantastic custom Vinylmation that we would like to share with you today.
Destination Vinylmation: As an artist, what mediums have you worked with before Vinylmation?
Keith Lapinig: I’ve actually never painted before Vinylmation. I’m a computer graphics person, so I deal more with video editing, animation, and graphic design. I think my background in vector art actually came in handy since I became obsessed with mathematically-accurate smooth curves in my paint jobs. Sorry, that sounds really nerdy of me.

DV: Don’t worry, at Disney, Nerds Rock! So, what turned you on to working with Vinylmation?
Keith: I first heard about Vinylmation when I was a Cast Member at the World of Disney NYC. In a gallery meeting, only the name of it was brought up since it was still in development, but I immediately knew what to expect since my friend had been obsessed with the KidRobot vinyl toys. He actually tried to get me into collecting those, but I told him I will only collect vinyls if Disney starts making their own since I have to keep to the theme of my bedroom. Sure enough… it happened, and I have been collecting and creating since the first day of Vinylmation in 2008.

DV: Describe the features of your Claw Machine Custom?
Keith: The body is pretty much just a solid paint job, but the head consists of a custom plastic window, alien toys, and a claw model I made myself using PVC, clay, and aluminum. The final result isn’t actually how I originally planned it. I had planned on making the PRIZE chute to be a working door with another alien toy inside. I also wanted the back hatch to be another working door where a mini-Woody and Buzz could be found. I have grown a lot as an artist since then and actually implemented those techniques in some of my customs over time.
One example is the Snow White custom in my Fairytale Females series, so I just may get around to a second refurb of the custom if I ever have the time!
DV: Are those real toy aliens?
Keith: Yes! However, those are the only pieces of the custom that I did not create myself. I thank the Disney Theme Parks for making and selling the Bucket of Aliens!
DV: You have many great designs on your website, but my eye, as a gamer, was drawn to the Kingdom Hearts custom.
Keith: My Kingdom Hearts Vinylmation is definitely one of my favorite customs I have made. It came out exactly how I imagined it, and that is very rare for me. This was another big “first” experiment for me since I decided to use oil paints for the planets. I didn’t know what to expect nor did I really know what I was doing. I also decided to add a caved space to the Vinylmation with the keyhole in the back.
DV: You have a lot of designs under your belt now, what have you learned while creating custom Vinylmation?
Keith: Practice is essential. I actually have a couple of early customs that I no longer have up on my site because they’re just embarrassing. Ha. I definitely don’t think I’m the best artist out there and I continue working on my craft because I love learning new techniques and aspire for that artistic growth. Although I am now embarrassed of some of my early work, I know I wouldn’t be the artist that I am today without taking those beginning steps.

DV: What is the biggest challenge in creating a custom Vinylmation?
Keith: I think the biggest challenge for me is solidifying an idea. I don’t like wasting my time with customs that other people might make. For example, a character Vinylmation. I will always try to come up with a unique approach at translating a fresh design to the Vinylmation platform. While I have made many character Vinylmations in the past due to commissions, I prefer making fun designs that one wouldn’t normally think of when looking at a Vinylmation.

DV: Do you have any advice for custom artists?
Keith: The internet can be your best friend. For every single one of my designs that break the mold in a unique way, I thought of the idea first. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I wanted to do it. Once I had my extremely far fetched idea, I Googled various ways I could accomplish exactly what I wanted. Sure enough, I found a technique that allowed me to do so without breaking the bank (completely)! Just like Walt said – If you can dream it, you can do it!

DV: Where can people go to view and purchase your work?
Keith: My official website is www.mametchi.com. I’m actually going to have a Facebook page soon. Keep an eye out for that! As far as customs for purchase, I do have a waiting list going on right now, but I am open for commissions.

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About the author

Nick LoCicero

Nick LoCicero has almost 20 years experience in the media industry. He has worked on numerous Disney related media projects, most know at WDWNT for WDW News Tonight. He has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1982. After moving to Orlando in the late 90's he became a passholder, developed a fascination with the history of the vacation kingdom and has spent way too much money on park merchandise.

9 Comments

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  • Beautiful, beautiful work! The kingdom hearts vinyl is incredible! Also on the site there’s a set of vinyls he did, fairytale females, that has to be some of my favorite stuff. Especially the beauty and the beast stained glass window one!

  • Yes giving someone credit to where credit is due is one thing, but not to rub it in everyone’s face because of the circumstances is another. If everyone who is a true Disney Vinylmation fan, there are NO copyrights to any style of figure. One can say, “Oh you stole my idea”, but when it all comes down to it, Disney Artists are in one division as a whole, not in it for competition. Walt Disney’s famous quote for Disneyland still holds true for all who is inspired by the mouse, films and Parks, “It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”—Walt Disney

  • I was awed by Keith’s work when he first started making his custom Vinylmations, and even if he doesn’t think they were that good in those early days, I was still impressed with the quality. Glad to see he has been given credit and hope he continues to inspire others with his work for a long time.

  • Omg, I love your designs Keith! Thank you destination Vinylmation for correcting the copy cat thing! Keith is very talented!!!

  • MadameFORCE Kristin, are you aware that these custom artists aren’t real Disney artists so they don’t surrender their original ideas to the Disney company? They are their own designs that the artist creates. True, they may not own the characters, but they have a right to the original designs that they have mused over on how to assemble the creation together. Do you not have any respect for that?

  • MadameForceKristin,

    I’m not sure what you mean by there being no copyrights? When there is a newly created piece of art, the artist automatically owns the rights. Do people not realize this? The only issue is proving you created it first, which is why it’s important to timestamp things. This is why people often mail their work to themselves, so they can have a legit date stamped on the envelope in case they need to prove it in court. But theres copyright to…well, everything. I don’t see how figures would suddenly be exempt?

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