Monday, March 18, 2013

Interview with Jim Shore

Jim Shore's "Disney Traditions" line of figurines combines a traditional folk art style with the classic imagery of Disney's iconic characters. The result has been a wildly successful Enesco series, one in which Snow White has been well represented. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Jim a few questions about this work.

Filmic Light: Jim, when you were younger, you received a business degree in school and worked as an engineer. I'm sure you were good at your job, but we're all thankful that you didn't stick to that path. What happened to change your life's course to one of a full time artist?
Jim Shore: I kept working at my art, even while I was earning a living as an engineer. In fact I would take contract jobs for particular projects, work on them as hard and fast as I could, and earn enough quickly enough so I could work on my art between jobs. It was my wife Jan that finally talked me into working on art full time. She believed we could make enough money to support the family comfortably just on that. She was wrong for a very long time!

FL: Your Disney Traditions line was introduced back in 2005. How did this working relationship with Disney come about?
JS: Back then I was working with Enesco on my Heartwood Creek line. They had a longstanding relationship with Disney through their overseas subsidiary in the UK. We started talking about a possible co-branded effort and the idea seemed to appeal to everyone so we gave it a shot. It just seemed a natural fit. And of course I was thrilled.

Jim in his Studio...

Studio photos courtesy of Jim Shore.

FL: Do ideas for new figures come by way of suggestions from Disney or do you choose what characters you'd like to design next?
JS: We work closely with Disney on new items. They have certain anniversaries or initiatives they want to feature so we take our cue from that. And we have certain sentiments or seasonal directions we want to go in, and the Disney folks are very cooperative in helping us out. It's been a great partnership that seems to have worked well for everyone.

FL: As reference material, do you have access to any of the original Disney animation art?
JS: Not the originals, but digital copies. And I love it. Being able to work with that art is like holding a piece of my childhood in my hands. It's a great privilege and I'm honored to have the chance to be associated with the Disney name and history. That's why we call the line Disney Traditions.

FL: Take us through the process of how a figure is created, from initial idea to final stone resin piece, including how your team of creative artists gets involved.
JS: The first step is a brainstorm session with the folks at Disney along with myself and the Enesco team. We generate a list of ideas we'd like to work on and they put together the reference materials I'll need to make sure the final piece is in keeping with Disney standards. From the reference material I sketch out the new art and color it in my studio. We send it off to the Disney offices and they look it over and send back approvals. I'm proud to say I've never had a design rejected. We have a great working relationship. From there the art goes to a team of sculptors I've trained and worked with for years. I used to do the sculpting myself but there's just too much for one man these days. They produce an original sample, we look it over, tweak it if necessary and produce a final sample. The whole process from brainstorming to final sampling of a particular introduction takes about 8-9 months.

A couple of Jim's original sketches...

Sketch images courtesy of Jim Shore.

FL: What was your very first Snow White-themed sculpt? Do you have a favorite among all the Snow White pieces you've designed?
JS: My first is my favorite! It's the 7 Dwarfs on a log. It's just so much fun and colorful. I keep a copy on my work table in my studio. And just so you know I do whistle while I work!

Image via Loren Javier. Creative Commons License.

FL: Are there any new Snow White figures in the works that we can look forward to in the future?
JS: I'm working on a new collection of Disney princesses along with their princes in kind of a double figure. They'll be a little larger and more elaborate. Snow White will definitely be a part of that.

Learn more about Jim at his website:


  1. Wow! I love Mr. Shore's stuff. Fantastic mustache to boot! His studio looks very nice and inviting, yet down to earth. I like the fact that although his stuff looks fantastic and I can spot it out at the Disneyland Gallery all the tools I see paint, pencils, etc are available at a local craft store! Too bad I couldn't pick up some of his creativity, or drawing skills at the same place!

    Great interview,


    1. Thanks DT. Jim and his people were very approachable. Down-to-earth and professional. Plus massively creative. An amazing artist for sure. :)