Tom “Thor” Thordarson is a highly-respected artist and senior creative director within the themed entertainment industry working for companies such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Creative, Thinkwell, and BRC Imagination Arts. His work has been featured in Hawaiian galleries, and can be found adorning the walls of some of the world’s most famous tiki restaurants and bars, including Damon’s Steakhouse, in Glendale, California. In fact, Theme Park Adventure fans may also know that Thor is the creator of our TPA Tikis that are featured each month on our Trader Sam’s mixer buttons. His style is extremely vibrant, and the attention to detail even in Thor’s more cartoonish works is fantastic.
What fans may not know, is that since 2005, Thor has produced and sold astounding shrunken heads that are considered to be the best models money can buy. Enthusiasts from all over the world seek out these carefully hand-crafted oddities for personal collections, tiki bars and other bizarre showcases.
“I have always loved the ‘dark side’ of tribal art,” explains Thor. “As a kid, my favorite part of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland was seeing the head-hunter – Trader Sam – ‘selling’ the shrunken heads at the end of the ride. I would beg my parents to buy me a rubber shrunken head from the old mercantile shack as we exited. When I ‘grew up’, physically at least, I wanted a shrunken head that friends would believe was authentic to sit in my studio as a conversation piece… but never found one that had a quality level that satisfied me. This inspired me to research the real thing, and as an artist, develop ways to make my own.”
These strange pieces of art sell usually before they’ve even been completed; to say that demand is high for Thor’s shrunken heads is an understatement, to say the least. That’s why he’s now employed the skills of his daughter, Katelyn Thordarson, to help him attempt to produce his line of incredibly high-quality pieces. “She has been watching me do this for years,” says Thor. “Katelyn is so talented, that she picks up on my direction like a sponge. Having her help really is what makes it possible for me to even begin to sell these shrunken heads again, and it’s a real blast working side by side!”
Even with Katelyn assisting him, Thor can only produce about one shrunken head model every several days; more complicated pieces can take more than a week to complete. It’s a painstaking process, because the Thordarsons are insistent that each piece receives the highest level of detail possible. It’s this attention to detail that has fans and collectors scrambling to get their hands on one of these little gems!
“I have sold these to every type,” says Thor. “Many collectors, including a guy from South America, who plans to open a bar there and feature one of these as a centerpiece. He said he has seen the real thing in museums all his life in that area, and my heads looked ‘more real than the real thing’, according to him! There is also one currently at Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas. I also have been told by a former curator of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! that my museum-level heads trumped anything he had seen in the specimen drawers there.”
One of the main questions that fans have is, how much will one of Thor’s shrunken heads set them back? The answer may surprise you! “Real heads sell to museums for tens of thousands of dollars,” says Thor. “A lot of research on materials that look authentic went into what we create. Since I don’t sell this line of my work through a gallery, I keep the prices very reasonable. They start at about $250.00 for a basic head, and go up to around $750.00 or more for a fully-decorated ceremonial head with hand-punched facial hairs, and real beetle wings and Amazon parrot feathers. Some come with glass domes or lit cases as well.”
Each one of Thor’s shrunken heads is a unique, really fantastic work of art that absolutely is the show-stopper for anyone’s tiki bar or collection. He and Katelyn have created a page on Etsy where new heads will be posted once they are completed and ready for sale. Considering how popular these models are, we suggest you bookmark Thor’s page and check in often so you don’t… lose your head!
Theme Park Adventure is thrilled to support Thor and Katelyn in this endeavor, and we know tiki fans and themed entertainment enthusiasts everywhere will appreciate how incredible cool their work is. It looks like the only thing not shrinking here is their success!
Be sure to follow Thor on Facebook to communicate with him and follow his many adventures!
TPAers, have you seen any of Thor’s artwork in a tiki bar or restaurant in your travels? If so, where? And what do you think about his line of shrunken head models? Does one belong in your collection? Sound off below and share your thoughts with other fans!