January 19, 2017

The Unfinished Disneyland

Being a Disney park fan is a good thing. Being a collector is a good thing. Being both can bring large doses of headaches, frustrations, disappointments, and empty wallets.

Case in point is my Olszewski Main Street Miniature collection. A good friend of mine, who is an avid Disney fan, had first mentioned these exquisitely detailed replicas way back in 2002. She had showed me Sleeping Beauty Castle, and while impressive, it wasn't something I was keen to collect. Fast forward to 2007, and I'm at the Disney Gallery above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square. Amazed by the intricacy and craftsmanship of the soon to be released Haunted Mansion, the deal closer for me is three interchangeable diorama scenes where you literally pull out one and swap it for another (Gallery, Ballroom, and Cemetery with Hitchhiking Ghosts). The cost was close to $300.00 so I convinced myself that I would limit it to this one iconic piece only and be happy. No sooner had I formed that delusional thought, when at the corner of my eye, I see a six foot table with a huge plexiglass cover. Disney, flexing its sneaky marketing muscles. has the entire Main Street pieces displayed on a custom platform. Now I could resist purchasing any single Olszewski piece in hand, much like I can turn down whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. But throw 'em all together in a bowl and add chocolate syrup and chopped nuts, well, hasta la vista baby! At that moment I was determined to collect the entire series so I could have my own little Disneyland back in Hawaii.

I had a bit of catching up to do, but with time and patience, I eventually completed all of Mani Street. It helped that Robert Olszewski made it a point to rotate out of stock pieces back into production. With the success of the initial releases, Bob forged on to produce Fantasyland. As with Main Street, collectors could order an exclusive base designed to house the pieces. Popular attractions like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland Tea Cups were issued as special commemorative issues earlier on, so Storybook Land and King Arthur's Carousel were the last two remaining pieces to be produced. Both were complicated and expensive, but crucial to finishing up the land. 

Somewhere about this time, Bob signed a new deal with Disney where they would handle all of the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of his products. I can see why this appealed to him as Olszewski (along with his dearly missed manager Travis Tokumura) did everything from working with the plants in China to helping box items up for shipping. With Disney handling the production/sales end, Bob would be free to work exclusively on the artistic/creative portion. In theory, this makes total sense, yet since the transition, exactly ZERO new pieces have been introduced. Not sure what it means for the health of the line, but each passing day brings me closer to the realization that my Disneyland may forever remain unfinished...

            (Photos copyright Len Yokoyama 2017)

1 comment:

Mark Taft said...

WOW, Len! This is very, very cool!