By Jarrett Kruse

ALL THINGS FUNKO: http://bit.ly/2fiuwRv

 

 

The time for calling Funko’s flagship line of POP! vinyls a passing fad has officially ended. Funko has planted their flag and is here to stay as the company continues to gain new voracious and dedicated customers every day. Their products are not the 21st Century’s version of Beanie Babies by any stretch as Funko has been able to pivot their good POP! fortune into more and more new and exciting products under their company’s fast-growing umbrella. The devotion to Funko and their wide and varied offerings from a record number of licensed properties continues to branch out at a record pace and Junkies cannot get enough. Even casual collectors I encounter have a solid 20 POP! figures in their collection while the die-hard Funko-ites literally schedule their lives around landing POP! exclusives from retailers and conventions across the country.

It is brand loyalty like I have never seen before and the Funko snowball is moving faster than Barry Allen! The Everett, Washington based toy giant is outselling comic books and gaining new collectors of literally all ages and genders every day. Throw in a massive new Willy Wonka style headquarters and a fan shopping experience like no other and Funko is set on complete toy market domination led by CEO Brian Mariotti; a pop culture junkie like no other. And it is not just POP’s; it’s Dorbz, plush, mystery minis, apparel, subscription boxes, home decor, and a dope new line called VNYL that Brian swears by in our interview. The Funko phenomenon has become more than just vinyl toys for a niche audience of collectors, it has fostered an entirely new way of doing business in toys and created a fan culture that has used social media to expand their customer base at a record pace. Collectively, fans cannot wait to see what Brian and his Funko team have in store for us next and to be honest, neither can I. I also can’t wait to invest my hard earned money into what is fast turning into a toy empire.

 

First off Brian, thank you for taking the time to speak with AFJ & MIDTOWN COMICS. Tell us about the new Funko headquarters and flagship store in Everett, Washington? The launch looked like a blast!
Yes it was a fun project. 90,000 sq feet to totally renovate. Bunch of great stuff for the employees including a 4 lane bowling alley, a bar, an arcade and a huge TV area to watch sports! The flagship store exceeded expectations as well. A 17,000 sq. foot shopping/experience that is unlike anything I have ever seen!

New Funko HQ!

 

Please tell us your own personal origin story. I know you are a big collector yourself, but how did you get started in the toy/pop culture business?
I have been collecting Hanna Barbera, Japanese Batman 66′ tin and MOTU action figures and my first love was PEZ for nearly 20 years. So I love my job to say the least! This love affair of collectibles influenced my decision to purchase Funko in 2005. It has been a wild ride the last 12 years.

What were some of your favorite toys growing up? What was your go-to line of figures as a kid?
Not much as a kid except PEZ. Love PEZ and collected them my entire life. The rest of my collections began in college.

Okay so we accumulated a lot of POP! intel over the past few weeks for this interview. How does FUNKO decide which IP to make next? And how long does it take to go from getting the license to production to being in stores?
We go where the buzz and fun is. TV, movies, video games; whatever is hot. And of course, everyone at Funko has their favorite retro properties too that we love to bring to life. Funko can go from design to production in as little as 75 days…so I think our world-class speed to market is a big reason that we have been successful.
One of the top questions we receive is, “what qualifies a retailer or online store for an exclusive?”
A combination of the total sales to that account and their influence in pop culture.

 

This question is from one of my first Admins on the AFJ page that got me into seriously collecting POP’s: “We know that Funko exclusives, specifically numbered major con exclusives, are limited to that many in the North America market. However, more are typically available in the overseas markets. Personally, I would like to see a return to legit exclusives, as in if it says on it “LE 1008,” that there are only 1008 produced period. Not so much a question but a concern among Funko Junkies!”
If we say something is 1008 pieces, trust me it is 1008 pieces on Funko Shop. If we share internationally we sometimes add for that market. But we do view different markets as their own territory.

 

Both Junkies and casual collectors love the thrill of finding a Chase POP. Do you think that 1:6 is a little too common, and does every wave of each property have to have one or two now?
No, not every wave has Chases…but we love them, and since it brings an experience into collecting to try and find one in the wild, we think it adds to the fun.

AFJ MEMBER: Exclusives to some large retailers have seen some problem receiving boxes that are already damaged. Is there a way to insist that these stores that get them do better to not damage the boxes or lose exclusives?
We try. They leave Funko’s facilities in great shape.
Which licenses have been your personal “white whale” that you would love to have for Funko?
Nintendo and Pokemon…and man have we tried!

The “White Whale” licenses FUNKO is after!

How is Funko able to mop up new licenses at such an exponential rate? What is the current number/estimate of licenses that Funko has? I read that it is north of 200 while most major toy companies have just a dozen or so.
We are pop culture Junkies. My philosophy has always been: Make Cool Products x World Class Speed to Market x Diversity of Licenses. Diversity is key because we have something for everyone. We have well over 250 licenses.
In your view, how has social media helped grow the Funko craze? The amount of Facebook groups & Instagram/Twitter accounts dedicated to your brand is overwhelming!
We love our fans…we show it on a daily basis and I think people see it as authentic.
Hearing about the POP! Factory & Funko University at the new HQ is very exciting. I even mapped a route to drive to it from LA! Do you think that this can become something in the malls of America and then the world in the future?
I do. I agree and I think it could be possible…

 

Can POP! Factory & Funko University be online at some point with Junkies designing their own POP figures right from their phones, tablets & laptops?
We are shooting for 2018 where you design a POP of yourself on our POP! Yourself App and then click a button and we build it for you in the USA!

 

Funko University where creators can learn from the pros!

Okay, so one of the questions we get on AFJ a lot is, “Why have we not seen a Funko POP! of (fill in licensed property here)?” For example, Seinfeld, The Sorpranos, Cheers, etc. Does the issue of actors likenesses and permission to use them come into play with licensing POP figures? If so, is it more difficult for older properties?
Yes, trust me if it is often requested and we haven’t done it, it is because of licensing difficulties with the property or actor.
One of the things I hear a lot about for POP! is Junkies looking for “real life” properties like the Bob Ross ones that people really flipped out over. A lot of Junkies ask if Funko is going to make POP figures for famous directors (Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, etc) and both classic/modern stand-up comics and SNL performers. Is more of that coming in the Funko-Verse?
SNL is coming out very soon. Also Mr Rogers. Things like Einstein, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart etc as well. And yes we will be expanding our director series soon.

 

With more and more people turning to Facebook groups to sell POP figures, what is your take on the scalping issue of hard to find chase or con exclusives? The high profile ones sell out in seconds either online or at cons and are sold for, in some cases, thousands of dollars within minutes. Is there a way to level the playing field for the collector without access to those events?
We have gone to great lengths at Comic-Con to not allow vendors in our lines. We have some things where we hit our Funko communities first to get access and we try very hard to get die-hard fans into things like our Fundays Party at Comic-Con so we don’t have flippers there. We try very hard! We also have battle BOTS on our websites etc.

 

I love DORBZ!!

What do you think of the professional custom POP makers? Some are absolutely amazing and sell for hundreds. They even do the box art!
LOVE IT! Love love love it. Very cool.
Funko has a slew of burgeoning lines like DORBZ, plush, and the newly announced VYNL line that I love. What happened to the Legacy figures? Fans were thrilled to get articulated Firefly and Rocketeer figures!

Legacy isn’t dead..we will see Mad Max: Fury Road soon. I am absolutely strung out on VNYL…it is my favorite line. We have an amazing new action figure line coming out soon that people will like very much!

 

The LEGACY line is NOT dead!

What is your reaction as both a collector and toymaker of the recent Toys R Us Chapter 11 announcement? How will this effect Funko as a company and business culture?
We are pulling for them to make it through.
What are your 5 desert island POPs? Ones you could not live without. In fact, how about 5 favorite Funko items?
Huckleberry Hound, Yummy Mummy, Fruit Brute, Moss Man (coming out soon) and Ramona Flowers. VNYL sets! We have so many coming out…including Steve Zissou!!!!!

No way! A Zissou POP! was one in my, “probably never going to be POP-ified” category. I am a huge Wes Anderson fan and watch his movies all the time. Zissou is my favorite.
Cool. I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan; huge. We have done a Royal Tennenbaums set, a Rushmore set and a Life Aquatic set all in VNYL! Amazing stuff.

 

The Zissou is coming!

And my standard final question, because I may never get another chance! After the AFJ comic book eventually sells out at MIDTOWN COMICS, can we get a CAPTAIN JUNKIE & SCALPER POP?
Let’s see what we can do!

 

Captain Junkie & Scalper from DC/MARVEL cover artist Dave Wilkins.

 

ALL THINGS FUNKO: http://bit.ly/2fiuwRv

 

Comments are closed.



   
%d bloggers like this: