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Looking into how Bob Olszewski makes his Disney Parks miniatures

The process behind Bob Olszewski's iconic miniature art and a look into how it all started
Bob Olszewski pointing out the tools he used in his book
Popverse

Bob Olszewski is best known for his widely collected miniature art sold in Disney Parks, and he's particularly popular at D23 Expo, where eager fans gather at his booth to listen to stories he shares about his career. Popverse had a chance to stop by his booth and chat with Olszewskia bit, and he told us that when he's at shows, he gets asked three main questions: When did you get started? How do you do your work? How did you get involved with Disney?

So let's get to those answers!

When did you get started?

Olszewski wasn't always a master of the miniature. He actually used to paint very large paintings. But everything changed when, in 1968, a 6x6 foot painting he was showing was stolen. The police asked him to submit a photo of the stolen painting, but he didn’t have one. So, he decided to make a mini painting from memory, a 3x3 inch painting. He looked at that smaller painting and thought, 'Wow, this is as good as the big one.' From then on, he was hooked to the miniature.

How do you do your work?

The next step Olszewski took towards making the kind of art that we all know him for came from building his daughter a doll house. He spent four years carving figures and trying to perfect a process for these tiny objects. One day, he was talking to a dentist, and that dentist gave him a piece of wax around the size of a fifty-cent piece. He started carving with that wax, and did his very first miniature carving with a nail and a screwdriver.

As for how his process works, Olszewski still sculpts in wax, and his miniatures are made through the 'lost wax process.' This means that a piece is first sculpted in wax, then a mold is made on that wax (the wax is melted out, hence 'lost') and then that mold is used to cast a figure in sterling silver. However, due to the amount of small detail in Olszewski's work, oftentimes the molds created include flaws. He told us that "to get ten good molds for production, we're cutting 100 molds."

How did you get involved with Disney?

How did Olszewski get involved with the Disney company? Well, they approached him! In the '90s, Disney commissioned Olszewski to work on prototype miniatures for their Enchanted Places collection, and their relationship has continued ever since, as he continues to release limited edition art for sale at Disney Parks today (you may recognize his distinct shadowbox 'Gallery of Light' art).

If you'd like to learn more about Olszewski and the history of his work, you're in luck. He's in the process of writing his story (by hand!) in a series of books that you can purchase on his website. As for what he might write about next, he says, "I've got a great history of PokitPals [Olszewski's small but meticulously decorated pocket containers] I'd like to tell."


Interested in the history of Disney Parks? Check out this Popverse article on Imagineer Bob Gurr's favorite design!

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About the Author
Tiffany Babb avatar

Tiffany Babb

Deputy Editor

Tiffany Babb is Popverse's deputy editor and resident Sondheim enthusiast. Before she came to PopVerse, she wrote for cool places like Paste Magazine, The Comics Journal, and The AV Club. She currently also serves as the co-editor of PanelxPanel Magazine. Tiffany likes stories that understand genre conventions (whether they play into them or against them), and she cries very easily at the movies— but rarely at the moments that are meant to be tearjerkers.

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