As an artist who has worked for Crazy Shirts and The Walt Disney Company, Eric Robison has created many collectibles, so it’s no surprise he owns an eclectic collection of toys and memorabilia of his own.
Robison has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California Irvine and a degree in industrial car design from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. After college, he began working for Walt Disney Imagineering, the research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company, and he worked on projects at all its theme parks and rides around the world. “I loved the job and loved the experience,” he says.
One day, he started doodling and created alternates and variations of classic Disney characters. He started with a painting of Goofy, his favorite Disney character.
“I thought it’d be a great idea to take the traditional Disney characters and mess with them a little bit, make them modern, in color and texture, and abstraction,” he says. “Some traditional people thought, what are you doing man? But I love art and I love to experiment with art.”
He painted roughly a dozen paintings and people liked them, so he wanted to impress the president of the Imagineer- ing department. He asked the secretary if he could place the paintings in the boss’ office so it would surprise him when he returned.
He painted roughly a dozen paintings and people liked them, so he wanted to impress the president of the Imagineering department. He asked the secretary if he could place the paintings in the boss’ office so it would surprise him when he returned.
The next day, the secretary called Robison and said he needed to take the paintings out quickly. Robison thought he was going to be fired. While his boss did not like how he got his attention, he loved the paintings and said they should be displayed at the Disney Gallery at Disneyland. The paintings became a huge success and over the next 10 years, whenever a Disney movie premiered, he painted the characters for the company’s art galleries. “I always did it in a flamboyant style,” he says. “My style is splashy, colorful, and loose.” During the ’90s, he worked on gallery prints for Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan and The Nightmare Before Christmas, among others. He still has many of the sketches and printed lithographs in his home.
For the 100th birthday of Walt Disney in 2001, the company asked him to create 100 variations of Mickey Mouse.
“I spent the next 12 months of my life painting Mickey Mouse in every which way I could,” Robison shares, but eventually he became internationally known as “the 100 Mickeys guy.”
Paintings from the 100 Mickeys project will appear at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco for Mickey’s 90th birthday celebration, displayed next to works by acclaimed artists like Andy Warhol.
After each signing for his paintings in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the company would gift him pewter statues of Disney characters.
“That’s what started the collection,” he says. “Then you get hooked and say, ‘Hey, this is really fun to look at.’ And then you start collecting things on your own, and it basically started to multiply.” He also collects toys (he had a college internship at Mattel) and he doesn’t contain himself to one category. “Does it look cool? I want it!” he says with a laugh, adding that he’s not embarrassed to receive action figures for his birthday and Christmas. “I’m just never going to grow up, I guess, accord- ing to some people.”
Among Disney fans, pins are hot collector items. Disney capitalized on the 100 Mickey pieces and turned each painting into a pin. He has one complete set framed and another in a collectible case. The company also made released limited edition popcorn cups with the 100 Mickey paintings on them, and Robinson owns several.
These days, he’s the creative director at Crazy Shirts. Years ago, he golfed with a friend of a friend who worked at the Crazy Shirts, and he casually said that if a creative director position ever opened up at the company, let him know. Three years later, he got a call from president Mark Hollander and he’s been in his position since 2006.
“I am so blessed,” Robison says. “Look at the jobs I’ve had. Every job I have is one that makes people happy. Disney makes people happy. Crazy shirts makes people happy. It’s an uplifting product. I’m always doing something that’s designing something to make people smile.”