Yesterday, Stitch Kingdom was invited to preview Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story, an upcoming webseries produced by Disney Interactive. The following is a recap of the event — which included an advanced viewing of the webseries as well as a behind-the-scenes look at its creation — courtesy of Kiki Levin.
It’s not often you’d imagine members of the Walt Disney Company dumpster-diving for set pieces, but that’s exactly what happened during the production of Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story. Conceived and created by the Disney Interactive team in Burbank, the stop-motion animation was made on a shoe-string budget (hence the dumpster-diving) but radiates the high production values and heart-warming storylines Disney fans have come to know and love.
Set in a world that looks a little like Disneyland, Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story follows the journey of two Vinylmation figures, Blank and Bow, that don’t quite fit in with the world around them. In their world, Vinylmations are born blank before being given a paint-job that determines their identity. The story begins when one Vinylmation (Blank) encounters a fault in the paint machine and doesn’t get his paint-job. At first he tries to fix the error but after meeting the equally paint-free Bow, who takes Blank under her wing, he comes to terms with his lack of paint-job and soon finds himself fighting to protect it. ‘This is really a story about identity. So we’ve taken these blank characters and cast them in this world where it’s not yet acceptable to be born in such a way,’ explained Greg Shewchuk, lead producer. ‘And over the course of the story we see Blank figure out who he is through all these different means.’
With its limited budget, Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story hearkens back to the days of classic stop-motion animation where almost everything that appears on screen has been made and filmed in real life, since there was neither the time nor money for computer wizardry such as CGI: the backdrops were constructed using mixed media; the trains — based on the Vinylmation monorail mold — were 3D-printed and painted. One scene required a waterfall, which was made out of hundreds of threads of wool before the production team realized the process was far too slow and laborious to continue; another scene used paper that had literally been ripped from the office walls. Surprisingly, the Vinylmation company in Florida did not provide all the figurines that appear in the series and do the production team had to beg, borrow and eBay to ensure they had all the characters they needed for the storyline (Vinylmation fans will be pleased to see that all three sizes of Vinylmation — 1.5”, 3” and 9” — are represented).
Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story will premiere its first three episodes (each around three minutes long) at D23 Expo next month before going live online immediately after at Disney.com/Blank. The remaining nine episodes will then be released exclusively online every Saturday and viewers are in for a treat.
Despite no dialogue and, for the lead characters, no facial expressions, the series does an incredible job of breathing life into the tiny vinyl figures and is up there with the best of Disney’s silent cinema (Wall-E, Up, Paperman).
You’ll never look at a blank Vinylmation the same way again.
Kiki Levin is the founder and editor of MaisonMouse.com, a place where Disney meets fashion.
Photos by Kiki Levin for Stitch Kingdom. All rights reserved.