Funko Pops: A Staple in Modern Pop Culture
Thu, April 22, 2021

Funko Pops: A Staple in Modern Pop Culture

Widely known as Funko Pops, these vinyl figurines are taking over not only display cases but also pop culture itself / Photo by: Thomson20192 via Wikimedia Commons

 

Whether it's a superhero, a musical figure, or a character from the latest HBO series, it's likely that you've seen one of them before. They have grown to become one of the staples of a collector's shelf and is sometimes the cause for brawls at a certain merch booth during conventions. Widely known as Funko Pops, these vinyl figurines are taking over not only display cases but also pop culture itself.

 

Innovating Nostalgia Collectibles

Funko began as a low-tech collectible company in the 90s that focuses on making vinyl figurines, hand puppets, and bobbleheads. The company was supposed to close down a decade later but was saved by its popular CEO Brian Mariotti.

After buying Funko with two other investors, Mariotti started to read up on licensing the company and "then just started trying idea after idea, most of which were like 'meh,'" he told The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter is an American digital and print magazine and website that provides breaking news about Hollywood and entertainment, including movies, TV, reviews and industry blogs.

It says the company had little room for innovating nostalgia collectibles, but that didn't stop Funko's in-house design team from giving something new to the market. They took inspiration from online fan culture, which is continuously churning out noble caricatures based on the chibi style of Japanese anime and manga characters.

Those were the first iteration of the vinyl figures seen today.

Funko already landed a global licensing contract with Mattel by the time Warner Brothers approached them, meaning they had little authority in which they could design a consumer product for the entertainment company. The collectible company showed Warner Bros. the Pop, which Mariotti said had given them the Batman license.

Their debut at Comic-Con 2010 wasn't a pleasant one, especially for the hardcore male DC fans. But they didn't exactly flop either, as "girls after girls coming into the booth," according to the CEO, something that they never had before.

After its positive launch at the 2011 American International Toy Fair, Mariotti was dead set to get "every damn license I can, [and] make this the format for collecting." The Hollywood Reporter says Funko now has 1,100 licenses for films, TV shows, individual characters, and real-life people that allow the company to offer figurines of Harry Potter, Ursula, George R.R. Martin, and even George Washington.

Venturing Into New Territory

Funko Pops are thriving today, as it should as the world is filled with nostalgia and people being drawn to brands and shows from the '80s and '90s. These figurines are taking the market by storm with its constant releases of new and rare designs.

The company continues to live up to its motto, "Everyone is a collector of something," taking on a new approach to the toy market. According to The Motley Fool, a private financial and investing advice company based in Australia, Funko is going beyond vinyl figurines and is extending to plush toys, electronic games, apparel, housewares, and even makeup.

Odd as it may seem, the collectible company braved new waters to introduce a cosmetics line based on four of Disney's iconic villains: Ursula, Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, and the Evil Queen from "Snow White." The Motley Fool says these new offerings are meant to be add-ons that would boost the lucrative licensing the company secured from Disney to join its line up of Disney-themed handbags and backpacks.

"Our Funko Pop and Disney cosmetics collection based on the Disney villain franchise is another whimsical way for fans, collectors, and beauty aficionados to wear, travel with and display their fandom," Molly Hartney, Funko's chief marketing officer, told the investing advice company.

As for Disney, the new offering is a fun way to shine the spotlight on its most glamorous villains.

Funko Pops are thriving today, as it should as the world is filled with nostalgia and people being drawn to brands and shows from the '80s and '90s. These figurines are taking the market by storm with its constant releases of new and rare designs / Photo by: Marco Verch via Flickr

 

A Way to Unite

Mariotti sees their Pops as the "gateway drug to collection," and he isn't wrong. With every new major movie or TV show, Funko is already set to release "Pop-ified" versions of major characters. Their uniqueness and affordable prices are what mostly attracts collectors, along with limited editions and custom-made Pops.

Add that to the nostalgic value from the vinyl material, which also showcases a higher quality of the product, and you get a winning combination for a toy or collectible. And it seems that these collectibles aren't going away anytime soon.

"The company’s wealth has been growing exponentially, from $40 million pulled in 2013 to an insane $686.1 million just five years later," Medium writer Rachel Wayne says. "Love ’em or hate ’em (and I’m betting you love ‘em), Funko Pops aren’t going anywhere any time soon."

Wayne adds that Funko Pops are among the positive aspects of pop and geek culture. It gives everyone who is part of a fandom the chance to show their love for their favorite character or person in a fun way and bring people together.