The Vinyl Frontier

Guys who grew up playing with "Star Wars" action figures now have an entirely new world of toys to collect.

With:
With: Paola Antonelli, Attaboy, Gary Basemen, Tim Biskup, Paul Budnitz, Luke Chueh, Dalek, Tristan Eaton, Ron English, Huck Gee, Thomas Han, Frank Kozik, Joe Ledbetter, Jonathan Levine, Brian McCarty, Bill McMullen, Tara McPherson, Keith Poon, Jermaine Rogers, Bwana Spoons, Sucklord, Derek Welch.

Thanks to the designer vinyl craze, guys who grew up playing with “Star Wars” action figures now have an entirely new world of toys to collect — and now, thanks to “The Vinyl Frontier,” they have (another) documentary to validate their habit. A bit too casual for anything more than over-the-counter DVD sales, Daniel Zana’s four-year survey explores the curious buying bug that drives this niche phenom, in which fans amass limited-edition sculptures (some of them remarkably creative and highly sought after) fashioned by their favorite underground art stars — a gateway drug for fine-art collecting, the film argues.

Unfulfilled by his reality-TV day job, Zana dedicated his free time to tracking down the scene’s top designers, refusing to let inconvenient locations or distracting background noise sabotage his quest for Q&As. Though production values are rough, the discussion topics prove unusually philosophical, attempting to situate these “toys” in the broader art conversation (Ron English views variants as not unlike prints, while Gotham gallerist Jonathan Levine sees it as a sucker’s game). Highlights include animated chapter headers and a behind-the-scenes look at Keith Poon’s “Sharky” figure, from initial sketch to Comic-Con debut.

The Vinyl Frontier

Production: A Straylight Collective production. Directed, produced, edited by Daniel Zana.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Zana. Reviewed at Comic-Con Independent Film Festival, San Diego, July 23, 2010. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Paola Antonelli, Attaboy, Gary Basemen, Tim Biskup, Paul Budnitz, Luke Chueh, Dalek, Tristan Eaton, Ron English, Huck Gee, Thomas Han, Frank Kozik, Joe Ledbetter, Jonathan Levine, Brian McCarty, Bill McMullen, Tara McPherson, Keith Poon, Jermaine Rogers, Bwana Spoons, Sucklord, Derek Welch.

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