Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Toy Fair 2013- Special excerpt: Funko

Over the last few years, Funko has gone from a bobblehead company to a real force for market share amongst the collectors. A couple of years ago they introduced their POP! vinyl line of figures and bobbleheads. The snagged some big licenses off the bat such as Marvel, DC, and Star Wars. They landed an even bigger fish in Disney. I never quite got a feel for how well they were doing with those figures until this year. Target seemingly has dropped or reduced their stake in the line but that is less of a worry than it would appear.

This holiday season I saw their figures crowding shelves in Barnes & Noble and wondered how well they could be doing as B&N seemed to be doing everything they could to get rid of them. The Game of Thrones license was a huge hit as now you rarely find any of those figures on the shelves except for an odd Ned Stark and Hound here and there. Apart from GOT, I never felt that the line would stick around. It looked like DC had dropped their support, but that was more about the new emphasis on the New 52 than anything else.

What is my point? Well, all of this is to say that if anyone had any doubts about Funko's ambition then Toy Fair 2013 should have put those doubts to rest. Funko dropped one of the largest spreads of licenses of any company and with a fair amount of depth to back it up. What we saw in the display cases was impressive enough, but then photos of their 2013 catalogue started popping up and that's when everyone's head started to spin.

I am not an analyst and I do not have access to sales reports so all of this is just speculation, but when a company drops the amount and variety of product that Funko did this year, you get the feeling that business is very good indeed. Funko's use of the urban vinyl styling combined with big top licenses has made them the main player in a category that very few of the big companies know how to compete in let alone do it well. The "urban vinyl" or "art toy" market is still strong, but it isn't anywhere as ubiquitous as it was in 2006/07. Nevertheless, the core concepts that those toys are built on is really strong. Simple materials and construction with great design is a really appealing concept. Funko's success is that they grabbed mainstream licenses and were able to produce their goods at a price level far more appealing than their art toy cousins.

So this year they continued their assault with pop culture wolves in art toy sheep's clothing. They have moved into paper craft and more importantly into blind-boxed toys. Blind boxed toys have been a big success for a lot of vinyl toy makers like Kid Robot and their Dunny series. Funko is rolling out five blind boxed series this year with Disney, DC (Batman family), Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and horror movie characters. I'm a little worried about the lack of diversity in characters, but they are including alternate poses as rare and super rare variants should help drive any collector frenzy left over

The takeaway for me is the licenses themselves. Standing out to me were Mass Effect, Adventure Time, Alien Vs. Predator, Pulp Fiction, Masters of the Universe, Power Rangers and the list goes on extensively. Obviously, the look of the POP! design will turn some people off, but those who are charmed by the design will have no trouble finding a character to fill their shelves or even just sit next to a computer. I count myself in the latter category and am in whole hog for the second series of Game of Thrones and a number of other licenses that are going to make me question my spending habits.

All of this is to say that there is too much to say. I haven't even touched on some of their other products that look fantastic in their own right but simply don't do it for me. The one question mark for Funko will be their production quality control. Many of their products show up on shelves with sloppy paint application which really shouldn't happen given the simplicity of the figures. I hope Funko is able to fine tune the process so that the end product reflects the high quality of the design work, otherwise pre-ordering figures as most collectors normally do becomes a bit of a crapshoot. If you want to find the best possible versions, you are forced to trek down to a Barnes and Noble or your local comic shop and hope they received a good batch to sift through.

Despite that, I am optimistic that Funko will continue to deliver great product throughout 2013. Their 2013 catalogue is available for download at if you want to check out the fantastic lineup.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Toy Fair 2013 - The Takeaway... Wow. Just as it seemed ToyFair was becoming irrelevant in the wake of San Diego Comic-Con, 2013's edition has arrived and many of us are still picking our jaws up off the ground. NECA is leading the charge to be sure. I felt they had started to drop off a couple of years ago as factory paint jobs were well falling short of prototypes and I worried a McFarlaneesque scenario was creeping into place where Gears of War would be the only license sustaining them.Those worries proved unfounded as NECA had a Company of the Year comeback in 2012 with huge releases on numerous properties across a couple of scales. 2013 will see the return of their Predator(s) series with Dutch in Series 8 and 9 and a re-imagining of the Kenner line. We also get a 1/4 scale Elder Predator, and Big Red. Oh yeah, the AVP Predators make their return to 7" scale. Damn. Some collector's have asked for a break from the ugly bastards, but anyone yearning for the most comprehensive of Predator lines got their wish.

I think we need to talk about 1/4 scale and the impact it is going to have on the industry. Now, Enterbay and Hot Toys have decidedto take their high end war into 1/4 scale which is breaking the piggy banks of most collectors. Their 1/4 scale figures are running between $360- $475 at the moment and will only get more expensive. You do get a lot for your money, tons of accessories and highly detailed sculpts and costuming. NECA has taken a very practical approach to their own entry. They keep up the level of quality in the sculpts, but by limiting articulation and fabric to a degree they are going to save collectors tons of money in the process. Consider that for the price of one Enterbay Batman or Joker, you can buy about 4 of NECA's new 1/4 scale figures. That means you can snag yourself Captain America, Iron Man, Batman 1989, and Batman 1966. Now most collectors who do any kind of displaying aren't going to be posing their figures daily. Do the math and ask yourself which is the better value when the look of these figures, while not quite a toss up between the high and low ends, it is pretty damn close.

Mezco has been a bit under the radar the last couple of years, but they came back in a big way by snagging the Breaking Bad license. That isn't what I want to talk about though. Staying in the lines of the 1/4 scale discussion, Mezco has very quietly put forth one of the best lines for any company in recent memory. Their "Mega" scale Thundercats figures are some of the best looking figures on the market right now and they go for a pittance of anything else in that scale range. Thundercats got a raw deal when Cartoon Network screwed the pooch on marketing the reboot, and Bandai false started on a really promising toy line. Pop Culture Shock put out a line of statues that died after Mumm-Ra and Lion-O got released because they were just too damned expensive. Icon Heroes and Hard Heroes both put out  lines of smaller scale statues that died after a few releases themselves. Mezco is still out there in the wild keeping the fires burning. They recently announced Cheetara for the line keeping hopes alive that we might just see the entire adult Cat roster in the same scale for the first time since the original line. Granted Diamond Select is doing mini mates, but that feels a little like cheating.

The other trend is the explosion of 1966 Batman merchandise coming from just about every major company. Wow, the selection is going to be immense. Collector's will have their pick although I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any fears for the longevity of such an endeavor with so many companies dipping their toes in. Sideshow and Hot Toys will have their say before everything is over so if you thought you couldn't get enough of the Barris Batmobile, you are about to get your fill.

I have so many thoughts on this Toy Fair they can't fit one post, so I'll call this good for the sake of timeliness. There is a lot to talk about because this is going to be an amazing year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Welcome to 2013 - We're still here! Well the Earth didn't implode. Evidently it was never supposed to in the first place, people just misinterpreted what the archaeologists were saying. What!?!? Crazy people misinterpreted something? Never... Well, It has been over a year since the last post for this blog officially making me look like a terrible slacker. I was anticipating a big year for pop culture and it did not disappoint. Avengers turned out to be the big winner taking in a ridiculous amount of money at the box office and sending collector's into a frenzy. Dark Knight also did very well and for the most part avoided the pitfalls of hyper inflated expectations. Hunger Games proved to be a huge force and turned Jennifer Lawrence into the star she was already poised to become. We definitely got some shocks though. The announcement that Star Wars would be returning shook the pop culture world to it's foundation. Then we found out that JJ Abrams would be double dipping in "Star" based franchises. The wait until 2015 will be grueling for wannabe Jedis and nerf herders everywhere.