Like the Disney bento box above? Well, there is more where that came from. Follow OMGIRI on Instagram immediately.
D23 met up with this Disney fan and Instagram sensation on our Fanniversary trip to Philadelphia. His name is Mike and he is super-talented, even though he says he is “not an artist.” OMGIRI has created more than 200 Disney-inspired bento boxes and has set a goal to create one a week. Here he is showing off his latest creation at a Disney park—even Disney Villains like his work.
“My interest in food art started with our trip to Tokyo Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland in May 2012,” Mike says. “I was amazed by the adorable and creative food both resorts served. It was springtime and Tokyo Disney had sandwiches shaped like Donald Duck’s feet, melon buns shaped like Mike Wazowski, and sweet mochi chicks in Donald egg cups.”
Michael was first inspired when he ate at the Crystal Lotus. “It’s home to the most amazing character-shaped dining experience,” he says. “They offer dim sum-shaped characters, including the Three Little Pigs, Chicken Little, Duffy the Bear, and the Little Green Men from Toy Story.”
While in Japan, Michael bought a couple of bento boxes to motivate him to take his lunch to work. “I had a bad habit of eating out of the vending machine, or worse, skipping lunch all together,” he says. “I wanted to see if I could start packing myself a healthy lunch. The first bento I ever tried to make was an Oswald. It was fun to make the bento, but what really got me hooked was how fun it was to have the character bento for lunch.”
In the beginning, Mike made whatever came to mind. “I’d make all sorts of characters,” he says. “I’d share them on Facebook. Eventually I found other bento makers on Instagram and really started becoming part of a community. Over time my interest in Disney took over and now I find myself doing all Disney characters. Bentos shaped like characters are referred to as kyaraben or charaben.”
“My bento style is to make an onigiri character,” he says. “Onigiri are normally a triangle or round ‘rice ball’ filled with fish or pickled ginger. They sell them in convenience stores like they sell sandwiches in the U.S. They are balled up rice with a filling. I’ve changed it up a bit, avoiding raw fish. Instead I fill them with cooked tuna or salmon mixed with a little mayo and spices. My favorite filling is a crab and cream cheese. I also use leftovers for filling. Leftover curries make perfect filling. The black lines are cut nori (roasted seaweed). I also accent with vegetables and cheeses, sometimes colored with food coloring.”
Mike decided that he needed a creative outlet in his life. “I work in an IT office, which just doesn’t fulfill my creative side, he says. “I spend my days being technical and very logical. Bentos are giving me a chance to explore my creative side before I go into the office each morning. Plus, it helps with my insatiable need for Disney in my life! I am horrible at planning, so most of my bentos start with me looking up a picture of the character online. I normally start from a photo or two of the character. Then I just sort of play around.”
Mike themes his bento creations on weeks celebrating the holidays, new movie releases, Star Wars May 4th celebrations, Disney park events, and more. “Sometimes the idea comes from a post I saw the previous day,” he says. “I also am really inspired by Disney artists like Jerrod Maruyama (Mickey Mouse Artist). I’ve made quite a few bentos inspired by his cute take on Disney characters. I love finding older Disney characters and forgotten friends, like Humphrey the Bear, too. I’m extra lucky that Disney now includes Marvel and Star Wars, which opened up so many more characters for me to make.”
His favorites are those bentos that show characters with a lot of expression. “I enjoy making fun facial expressions, like Olaf grabbing at his tiny carrot nose or a seriously, disgruntled Maximus,” Mike says. “The expression tends to be extremely challenging, but when it works out they are the most interesting to look at. Villains are also a joy to do, because they have such interesting designs.”
“One day, I hope bento gets popular in the U.S. and I could make bentos at a Disney Park for a living,” he says. “Until then, I’ll make them for my lunch.”