If there's one trend underway at Walt Disney World, it's adding Pixar characters and story lines to the parks in the form of attractions and merchandise. While some folks dislike the use of the Pixar brand to the level at which it's used today, you cannot doubt the popularity of the brand and the films they encompass. The recent success of Wall E and the opening of Toy Story Midway Mania a couple of months ago, Pixar is riding high and this week we take a look at some of the Pixar merchandise that Jason Zucker and the other Disney Character Sketch Artists at Disney's Hollywood Studios have been working on to bring an element of Pixar merchandise for guests to buy.
Some of the special merchandise like watches, sketches and watch art, there are a few Pixar merchandise items for sale that feature characters from select Pixar films. Jason Zucker indicated that he and the other artists work closely with Pixar to determine what they can make merchandise for that is in line with Pixar's opinion of how the characters can be portrayed. Here's a short list of the characters available...
Jason mentions that it's interesting to note that the character of Boo from Monsters Inc. is one of the most requested characters over Sully and Mike, "She really just stands out as a character on her own. Very, very popular especially with the little girls." Families, however, have clamored over the Incredibles characters for keepsakes that the entire family can enjoy, "When the Incredibles came out, that was actually a big movie...especially with families. We were actually selling multiple watches because a family of four or five would wanted their own Incredibles characters." These characters of the Incredibles are a natural fit for families who want something that has a common connection but with unique designs that can appeal to each member of the family. Speaking of popular characters, the Cars characters have been one of the more popular Pixar characters Zucker and other artists have run into despite the fact the film was not one of the better grossing films of all time by Pixar. Jason mentions the popularity of the characters, "I've done at least a dozen Lightning McQueens and Maters. Believe it or not, Mater is more popular than Lightning McQueen because we put the funny sayings on the watches." It seems many of the funny metaphors that Mater uses in the film have struck a chord with those looking for something special to purchase, such as "I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park". Jason mentioned a special moment where a Pixar artist happened to be in Walt Disney World and complimented him on his workmanship, "He saw some of my watch art on the desk and actually gave me some nice compliments so that was a cool thing." Jason adds that of all of the characters they sell, the Cars characters are the top selling Pixar characters in his shop. Right now Jason is working out some designs for Wall E for something that could be potentially for sale in the parks soon. Jason explains the process for getting new merchandise for sale is for the Disney sketch artists to submit designs directly to Pixar's designers to make sure they look good. Jason also noted that already guests are coming in and requesting Wall E merchandise because of the great success of the film, "We have the merchandise in the parks as far as toys and plush and things like that but I'm sure eventually you will see Wall E himself running through the parks and maybe even an attraction down the road. You never know!".
In regards to the actual design that Jason is working on for Wall E, Jason is working on developing a good idea to use for a sketch but he is trying to work something around the idea of having Wall E and Eve together in the sketch, "I did a design where Wall E and Eve from the movie where they are tied up with Christmas lights and it might be nice for the holidays." Jason also noted that there is an increased sense of difficulty with drawing Wall E because of the character's design, "Being that Wall E is kind of like the Cars characters where has a lot of detail to him, we kind of scaled him down a little bit to make it easier for the artist to draw. And also Wall E is kind of challenging doing a full color watch because he has so many colors on him." Jason hopes the designs will go through in the next few weeks so the Wall E merchandise can start to be drawn and put on sale.
Speaking of Pixar, Jason had a unique opportunity to get a tour of the real Pixar Studios campus out in Emeryville, California. Jason took a trip last year and was blown away by the experience, "Just walking into the facility, you can literally smell the creativity. Everybody is like a big kid and in their offices they have toys and it's such a creative and fun atmosphere...it's wild." Jason got an inside look into computer animation, which was a major change for Jason, who had been trained as a traditional artist and coming from that background lead him to see animation in an entirely new light using computers, "You can see why they are as successful as they are because of the closeness of the people that work there and the environment, like I said, is a creative soup." Looking back at the trip, what really impressed Jason was how much input there is in a computer animated film. During his tour, he was shown an entire wing of a building of rendering art for just one scene in a film, "It's something like 12 hours for one second to be fully rendered and that to me is amazing how much work is involved once the animation is done to put it all together." For Jason, the experience put everything in perspective in terms of how computer generated films differ from traditionally animated films.
For the full color watches, they run $350 and includes the original artwork from the artist. There are also sketch watches, which consist of black and a color selected by the guest, that run for about $200. There are also photo watches that allow guests to take photos with the Pixar characters in the parks via the Disney Photopass Cast Members and then they can bring the photo to Jason and the other artists for them to make a watch out of and those run for $75. Jason also adds that there are some limited edition Toy Story Midway Mania watches, limited to a set of 50, also for sale that will cost $200. Jason expects the limited edition Toy Story Midway Mania to sell out fast and be gone by the end of the year.