POP! Vinyl

The figures have large squarish heads, disproportionately small bodies, and large, circular black eyes.

The Funko company began in 1998 when toy collector Mike Becker embraced his passion and founded a small company producing a nostalgia-themed bobblehead line called Wacky Wobblers. The company’s first manufactured bobblehead was of the well-known restaurant advertising icon, the Big Boy mascot.

At the time, I was living in Redmond, Washington, the high-tech capital of the world. Microsoft, Nintendo and then Adobe were all headquartered there. I saw what the crowd was doing, and I decided to do the exact opposite; the most low-tech thing I could do. I was going to swap meets and garage sales and I always liked to collect old junk. I decided to bring back bobbleheads. They were made from paper mache, and a lot of them were cracked and broken. I brought back old characters, made them from plastic and they were affordable. I was going to China a lot for my job at the time, so I knew making the molds for the bobbleheads was possible. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do something that was basically a hobby and a love and turn it into a dinky company? My goal was to earn exactly half the money from my job at the time, which meant I would make $25,000. That would be a dream come true. That was the goal and that’s how Funko started.

Mike Becker

Mike Becker sold the company in 2005 and Funko as we know it was born but it wasn’t until 2010 that Pop Vinyl figures made their debut and a new collection addiction started with fans. The company’s most successful line, the Funko Pop Vinyl figure, officially debuted in 2010 (called initially Funko Force 2.0) and started a new addiction that fans never knew they were craving. One of the very first was Batman Pop.

Funko’s Pop! Vinyl lines are figures modeled in a style similar to the Japanese chibi[1] style. The figures have large squarish heads, disproportionately small bodies, and large, circular black eyes.

Production

Products are designed at the Funko headquarters in Everett, Washington, and in other locations throughout the U.S. New figures are designed with input from licensors, in-studio artists, and fans through social media. Funko artists use ZBrush[2] to create digital models that are revised before being made into prototype sculptures, which are sent for approval from manufacturers and licensors. The completed figures are manufactured at factories in China and Vietnam.

The figures typically depict licensed characters from franchises such as Doctor Who, Marvel, DC, Disney, Star Wars, Wizarding World, Dragon Ball, My Hero Academia, and other pop culture entities. After a preview line of DC Comics characters was released at San Diego Comic-Con 2010, the original Funko Pop! line of products was fully revealed in 2011 at the New York Toy Fair.

A mint, original, 01 Batman will now cost you anywhere between $100-$150… not bad on a $10 item but the rarest Funko Pops were and are produced in very low numbers and sell for thousands and thousands of dollars.

It is easy to see why Funko Pops are so huge. Whenever you walk into the shopping center or a comic bookstore Funko Pop figures are everywhere. They are relatively inexpensive to buy and make the perfect gift and become quite addictive when you buy them. Come on… you can’t just buy one of the Avengers, can you?

A nation’s addiction to Pop collecting has created a community of fans that spawns friendships spanning the entire globe. Funko has created a friendly world of collectors who share their passion for their collections and unashamed fondness for being kids again and that is why Funko fans collect Funko Pops.

Funko has over 1,100 licenses with different companies. Another aspect of their business model is tracking the popularity of a certain item and knowing when to move on to a different character. Funko creates items that appeal to children and adults. This can be noted by their range of figures from Golden Girls to superheroes. Funko comes up with an initial design in 24 hours and can have a product from concept to shelf in 70 days.

CCO Brian Mariotti believes that the company’s eagerness to gain so many licenses and have a range of products from music icons, and video game characters, to action heroes, is what has made them successful.



Footnotes
  1. Chibi is a Japanese slang word describing something or someone short. It comes from the verb chibiru, which means ‘to wear out and become shorter’ (the tip of something). The term is widely used in Japan to describe a specific style of caricature where characters are drawn in an exaggerated way. Typically, these characters are small and chubby with stubby limbs and oversized heads. This style, also known as super-deformed, has since found its way into anime and manga fandom through its usage in manga works. Chibi can be translated as ‘little’ (e.g. Chibi Maruko-chan, which means Little Miss Maruko), but it is not used the same way as chiisana and chiisai (‘tiny’, ‘small’, ‘little’ in Japanese), but rather ‘cute’. [Back]
  2. Pixologic ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It uses a proprietary “pixol” technology which stores lighting, color, material, orientation, and depth information for the points making up all objects on the screen. The main difference between ZBrush and more traditional modeling packages is that it is more akin to traditional sculpting. ZBrush is used for creating “high-resolution” models (able to reach 40+ million polygons) for use in movies, games, and animations, by companies ranging from ILM and Weta Digital to Epic Games and Electronic Arts. ZBrush uses dynamic levels of resolution to allow sculptors to make global or local changes to their models. ZBrush is most known for being able to sculpt medium- to high-frequency details that were traditionally painted in bump maps. The resulting mesh details can then be exported as normal maps to be used on a low poly version of that same model. They can also be exported as a displacement map, although, in that case, the lower poly version generally requires more resolution. Or, once completed, the 3D model can be projected onto the background, becoming a 2.5D image (upon which further effects can be applied). Work can then begin on another 3D model which can be used in the same scene. This feature lets users work within complicated scenes without a heavy processor overhead. [Back]

Sources

Wikipedia
Action Figure Geek
Funko
Coronado Eagle & Journal


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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