Film and TV

Designer Toy Documentary The Vinyl Frontier Screens at FilmBar

Daniel Zana's documentary The Vinyl Frontier is one helluva toy story.

The neophyte filmmaker spent almost two years creating this epic documentary, which screens at FilmBar on Monday evening and is devoted to the madness and mania behind the designer toy craze.

Many of the big-name artists who create the collectible playthings are featured, as are the horde of frenzied fans who buy 'em up. Vinyl toy icon Frank Kozik and 29 other toy designers who've helped fuel the vinyl toy boom are interviewed -- including such curiously named creators as Bwana Spoons, Dalek, Jamungo, Huck Gee, and Sucklord. They each provide insight into the trend and the psychosis of collecting behavior.

"Collecting is a sickness," Kozik says in the film. "You get the fever. You literally, physically, start freaking the fuck out."

​In addition to tracking down a "who's who" of vinyl artists, Zana also delves into the history of the urban vinyl trend.

Designer toys have been a multimillion-dollar trend since the mid-'90s by such Asian urban artists as China's Michael Lau. Migrating to America in the last decade, the stylish-looking playthings have made major money for manufacturers like NYC's Kidrobot, and caused shops like the Valley's Red Hot Robot to spring up nationwide.

As the film explains, the popularity of the bizarre-yet-beautiful toys is in their hipster appeal, uniqueness, and, ultimately, collectibility. Some are virtual masterpieces, created in limited amounts by renowned artists like Kozik and Dalek.

Most of the major collectible toys from the past two decades are covered, from Munnies and Dunnies to Malfis, and Kozik's smoking rabbits.

The Vinyl Frontier is more than just a retrospective and collection of talking heads, as it also goes into great detail on how toys are designed and manufactured (including a step-by-step demonstration), the competitive nature of collecting, and the bitter rivalries that exist between some artists.

Since it was produced on a shoestring budget, The Vinyl Frontier has only been screened at a few film festivals and art house cinemas. Its sort of a shame, really, considering that the film is a great primer on the nutty world of designer toys. 

The Arizona chapter of design guild AIGA will be showing the doc at FilmBar, which is the first time it's been screened in the Valley.

The Vinyl Frontier will be screened at 8 p.m. on Monday, September 26, at FilmBar, 815 North Second Street. Admission is $5. Call 602-595-9187 or click here for more info.

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