Spotlight On: Custom Vinylmation Artist Brian Shapiro

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Destination Vinylmation: The Rose from Beauty and the Beast is a great example of less is more. Not to say it didn’t take great skill to paint the rose, but it is a simple design that uses the whole package to make an impact. I especially love the fallen petals painted on the base. Tell us a little about the design features. 
Brian Shapiro: Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney animated film, and I wanted to do a vinyl inspired by the movie. When I tried to think of which character to feature, I saw a lot of them had already been done by other custom artists. Then I noticed that a common thread in a lot of Beauty and the Beast merchandise like posters and DVD’s was the Enchanted Rose, and I realized that this was almost like another character in the film. It played such a huge part in the story, a little time-clock counting down. I thought it would adapt perfectly to the Vinylmation canvas. In the movie, the rose appears more wilted, but I took some artistic license to make the flower portion fill the entire head of the vinyl. The stem fitted perfectly on the torso, and the arms were an ideal place for falling petals to appear suspended in air. Since the rose was inside a glass dome in the movie, I planned from the start to place the completed Vinylmation in one too. I purchased a small glass domed pocket watch display case from eBay and removed the metal watch stand from the wood base. I then installed a red LED light in the base to cast a dim red glow on the figure at night.

The outside of the base was painted gold, but the inside of the base was painted black so it would blend in with the black areas of the Vinylmation to draw attention away from the Mickey shape. Lastly, I painted some petals on the base that coincided with the one’s painted on the figure’s feet to make them look like they had fallen off the figure. I was really happy with the finished product, and I was excited when Disney released the Animation Series #1 Beast to display it with. I NEVER take nine-inch figures out of the box, so this was the first time!

DV: With your Fantasmic set, I like the way you fit the dragon onto the mold. Did it take a few revisions to settle on the final design? 
Brian: While Beauty and the Beast is my favorite animated film, my favorite show at Walt Disney World, hands down, is Fantasmic, and I couldn’t wait to make a vinyl inspired by it. Of course, the thing that confounded me was that dragon! The body wasn’t a problem since the belly and feet suit a dragon as good as Mickey, but adapting the head was a mess. The fins on the side of the head were troublesome, and I didn’t think it would look right if I extended the dragon’s lower jaw onto the torso of the figure. Before creating this set, I had never made accessories for my figures. I looked at accessories as cheating, so it never occurred to me to glue fins on the side of the head or attach wings and a tail to the back. I decided as much as I hated not having a contiguous head painted on, I would paint the front of the face and the back of the head separately. Of course this made the figure look strange from the side, but I was willing to compromise that. Of course that’s when Disney started creating accessories for their figures like the Have a Laugh series, so I bit the bullet and made a sorcerer’s hat out of dental acrylic for Mickey. That was my very first accessory, and I remember feeling guilty about it! Also, please note that even though the piece is inspired by the Walt Disney World show, I designed the dragon to look more like the Maleficent dragon, which is what the current Disneyland version looks like. Now that Disney released the Animation Series #2 Maleficent dragon, I really like their design approach. In hindsight, I guess I could have painted a contiguous head on my dragon, but I’m proud of my finished set.

DV: You include a base with this 3″/Jr Fantasmic, as you did with the rose. Props or bases seem a common theme in your customs. Where do those “pluses” come in the design process? Do you finish the figures and feel they need a little extra? Or are they in the design from the initial drawing board stage? 
Brian: I really like to plan everything out from the start, because the extras usually affect the painting of the vinyl as you saw with the Enchanted Rose. The base for the Fantasmic set was also planned because I wanted to capture the essence of the scene occurring at the water’s edge. Obviously, I quickly got over my guilt about making accessories for my figures when Disney started to include them frequently in theirs. In fact, I try to include them in many of my designs, and it takes a lot of planning to coordinate them with my paint work. Being a dentist and having the access to the tools and techniques of working with dental resins, I think I’m in a unique position to make some really cool stuff. I think my Judge Doom figure really pushed the limits of what can be done, and as you can tell, the accessories played a large part in the design of that particular Vinylmation’s paint job.

As a side note, if anyone is interested in commissioning custom accessories for their designs, I would be happy to accommodate them. They can contact me at [email protected]

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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.

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