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.


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