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Funko Pop became a $686M business (vox.com)
48 points by jatsign 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

When I see the success of companies like Funko Pop I can't help but remember Simon (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Star Wars, etc) Pegg's excellent essay[1] on the infantilization of adults by modern culture, turning us all in to passive consumers who want a magical superhero to turn up and save the day instead of doing something ourselves.

"We are made passionate about the things that occupied us as children as a means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in, inequality, corruption, economic injustice etc. It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth?"

The fact that actual grown ups want to spend money on plastic caricatures of their favourite movie characters is fine in itself, but only if we also take responsibility of the state of the society we live in.

[1] http://simonpegg.net/2015/05/19/big-mouth-strikes-again/

On this subject, my go-to quote comes from C.S. Lewis

“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

Not that I wouldn't agree in some ways with Pegg. But, as with Adorno, I'm not going to throw the Jazz out with the bathwater.

I'm inclined to agree with Lewis over Pegg here. There is no reality where all adults set aside all "trivial" things to focus entirely on social issues, injustices, etc. That's just not how the world works. People can do multiple things. I can collect funkopops and care about social issues. I can build/collect Lego sets and care about injustices. The beauty of adulthood is the freedom to choose what you want to do (well, mostly).

If you put those "childish" things ahead of more important things, yeah that's a problem. But collecting something that brings you joy isn't inherently dangerous.

That statement, to me, is nothing but looking at history with rose tinted glasses. History is filled with horrible horrible things that society happily allowed to happen. Eventually people protested or revolted but that took decades of horrible abuse. That's not even getting into the horrible things people allowed if they happened to someone else.

Then again I guess it's easier to blame modern culture rather than inherent human nature. Blaming the latter doesn't sell well.

I think there's something to be said about our modern, ultra-connected existences, the omnipresence of entertainment and its influence on society.

Super hero movies and Funko Pops though? That doesn't seem particularly new to me. The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the story of "Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to stop Gilgamesh from oppressing the people of Uruk". Most of Greek mythology is about Gods behaving very much like modern super heroes. Actually many modern super heroes are molded more or less loosely on those. "Panem et circenses" is not a novel concept.

Let's not pretend that the average human being a century ago spent their days reading avant-guarde literature and complex political essays.

"Let's not pretend that the average human being a century ago spent their days reading avant-guarde literature and complex political essays."

Most of the reason it appears that way is that 100 years ago, only the most educated had access to the writing and publishing that is now our primary record of the time.

I am sympathetic to the idea that our intellectual culture has degraded, and even sometimes argued in favor of that proposition on HN, but I also acknowledge it's really hard to measure in light of the overwhelming democratization of access to such things and the resulting anti-selection effect, or removal of the previous selection effect, or however you like to phrase it. Maybe that's a bad thing, maybe it's a good thing, it's a non-trivial argument either way, but it certainly makes it hard to graph any of the relevant qualities of our society over time.

> Let's not pretend that the average human being a century ago spent their days reading avant-guarde literature and complex political essays.

^ this; I get where it's coming from though, because a hundred years ago was a time of huge scientific advancement (Einstein and co), philosophy, politics, etc; these are the things, and these are the thinkers of that age which are still remembered today.

The average joe in the street though, our (great) grandparents, nobody remembers them because they weren't extraordinary, influencers, or whatever - they too enjoyed to indulge in fiction and other such distractions. Einstein and co probably did as well, it's just not something that was mentioned much.

I'm sure that in a hundred years, that generation will idolize / idealize ours as well.

"means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in"

Lifestyle contents you find online or tv do exactly the same. Having gardening or cartoons as a hobby has nothing to do with the infantilisation of society. Not taking responsability for one's own actions is where the infantilisation lies at.

At some point the industry realized they can target adults with kids toys, and make an additional buck. There's no anti-political conspiracy at work, it's just about making money.

I think it's not far-fetched to say "if I were saintly, would I have so much leisure, or would I spend more time trying to making the world a better place?".

I think it's really easy to say people could be doing more to improve the world around them. Albeit, nobody's perfect and there's always going to be more anyone can do, not matter how hard they try.

Mostly I just want an excuse to link to this good blogpost discussing it. https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/19/nobody-is-perfect-ever...

The fact that actual grown ups want to spend money on plastic caricatures of their favourite movie characters is fine in itself, but only if we also take responsibility of the state of the society we live in.

Replace "spend money on plastic caricatures" with almost anything and your comment still applies. "playing around with their computers", "reading books", "wasting time on social media sites like Hacker News" and so on.

That's not comparable at all. Nobody gets hurt if you read a book or waste time with social media.

The only practical purpose of a plastic doll is to sit for a very long time in a landfill, with the only exception the short time at the beginning where it sits on a shelf instead.

What a narrow minded, cynical and absolutist take on escapism through physical objects.

While cynical I think it's more narrow minded to consider only the benefit to purchasing such escapism objects.

Let's keep in mind the long term costs to future generations as we indulge, shall we?

These indulgences account for the most modest percentage versus other things that could be deemed "wasteful", unless we're throwing relativism out the window.

Where do you think precious metals come from for your electronics? Who do you think assembles your iPhone? It’s not always green energy powering the servers that provide you your social media high either.

Presumably people buy these objects because they derive some sense of pleasure while viewing/organizing them. I personally hate them and have never owned one but let’s not try and squeeze out some social commentary over a few toys.

A phone is useful. These plastic dolls are not. That's the difference. Nobody buys them to use them. They are only bought in some post-ironic manifestation of inherent uselessness.

The argument could be made that they are art but that's a hard argument to make. The only commentary on society here is the involuntary one.


The amount of racist and sexist dog-whistling in that image is deafening. I hope that the reason it's not [dead] after more than one hour here is because the people reading this thread haven't wasted quite as much time on 4chan as I did to get all these very clever references. Although even beyond that I hope that HN will manage to stay strong and not devolve into macro-image posting.

This is basically the entire 4chan /pol/ mythos condensed into one single picture. Very convenient.

For the clueless, uninitiated types and people with hearing too poor to pick up on the sound of a dog whistle -- raises hand -- perhaps you could kindly explain it like I'm five.

So the figure at the bottom left represents a "nu-male", that is an unmanly, childish guy who's used to caricature any opposing viewpoint.

The presence of Soylent on the right is not to criticize junk food or the pressure to eat fast, it's because it contains (and is named after) soy which is associated with female hormones which in that mythology make man less manly (i.e. turns them into the nu-males I talked before). That's both stupid and sexist.

Similarly the porn site blacked.com might be here to point out that the easy access to huge amounts of porn by the entire population might have perverse side effects, but the choice of blacked over something more mainstream like pornhub is probably more about complaining about race mixing (blacked is about black men having sex with white women). It also meshes into the weird fascination these circles have with cuckholding, but I won't even bother touching that.

Then you have the whole specter of left-wing and/or liberal "stuff" with no rhyme or reason, from John Oliver to Che Guevara to CNN. You see when people have a different political opinion from your own they're all being mindless sheeple while you're the true enlightened beacon of truth (unfortunately I can't pretend that the alt-right are the only ones using this particular fallacy).

Then you have the picture of Star Wars. Again, could be just about complaining about mass-produced entertainment but notice that this one uses a live shot of the actors instead of simply the Star Wars logo. Notice that it showcases one black man and two women, one being asian. Meanwhile Marvel and GoT have only logos.

Then you have the Apple logo, which I'm sure you've noticed used the old "gay flag" colors, not the modern one. An interesting choice to be sure. It was probably more aesthetically pleasing.

Frankly there's one thing I'm impressed with this screenshot: I can't see any obvious antisemitic dogwhistles. It's quite notable because all the things I've written above are usually and invariably blamed on the Jews.

Thank you.

I feel a bit lost. I can't match up your descriptions with anything in the graphics for this article. Is this stuff in the 21 minute video? Or am I just missing something in a really big way?

I'm talking about the gif linked by the poster, not the article.


(Boy, do I feel dumb now. Way to go to completely miss the context.)

How is it sexist?

The whole thing about Soylent and how men need to be manly and there's a whole conspiracy to make men less men. Also the Star Wars stuff I suppose, can't have no strong female leads. There's nothing precise I can point out, but then again that's the point of dogwhistles. Everything can be plausibly denied, yet to anybody "in the know" the message is absolutely clear.

>CEO Brian Mariotti called his company “recession proof.”

Famous last words. When another major recession hits, one of the first costs to be cut is plastic junk. These are just beanie babies with more Disney branded characters. People will get sick of cluttering their house with dozens of the same item with mild variations at some point, until the next “gotta catch em all” toy comes out.

they have the last 100 or more "gotta catch em all" toys. essentially they are monopolising the whole genre

I get why people like figurines, but I don't understand how much love funkopop specifically gets. Their model quality is just so poor. No detail. No character expression. No differentiation between characters. They feel like just the absolute lowest effort throwaways. There are so many great toy modelers out there, and yet somehow the cheapest least effort one is the one that people know about because it's the one that, for some terrible reason, gets brand licensing deals.

edit: Just to add more...I mean...someone else linked this figure https://media.entertainmentearth.com/assets/images/e9792a6af... Every single funkopop figure looks exactly like that with only slightly more than a palette and hair swap. Compare that to the same series models from Banpresto: http://www.banpresto.jp/prize/0008.html

I've never bought a Funko and I would never consider those figures a work of art, but there's something to be said for a simple medium that meshes so effectively with any IP. You can show yourself as a fan of a TV drama, comic book, and sports team on the same shelf. Something as detailed as Banpresto is likely to clash with other decor/figures.

That said, some of their work (especially on real people) is bafflingly low-effort. Case in point, see the comparison between New Jersey Devils star player Taylor Hall and his Funko recreation:

Real life: https://specials-images.forbesimg.com/imageserve/5be4813ca7e...

Funko: https://www.characterstation.com/eshop/19246-large_default/f...

My Ron Swanson Funko is judging you for your lack of Funko Pop appreciation. https://i.imgur.com/aTIeVKi.jpg

Or maybe it's actually Tom Selleck or a young Sam Elliott or my dad. There's no way to know. Your visual indicators are white person with brown hair and a moustache who drinks liquids sometimes. It's not like there's only one of those. But, just so you know, it's a little weird that you bought a doll version of my dad.

Based on how the prices have been falling recently this seems like a puff piece to try and prevent a full bubble pop. I wouldn't be sad to see them go. There are a lot of sketchy scams around "mystery box" sales that are essentially unlicensed unregulated lotteries. I suspect that some YouTube personalities are complicit in the scams. The language used on many pop sites is masterfully devious https://popcollectorsalliance.com/resources/whats-a-grail-wh...

Very impressive, but it’s a shame to me that the vinyl figure company to lock down every IP imaginable has such horrible, dead eyes.

Seems like a market that is inflated by collectors that are hoping it will be worth more in the future. Could end up being another trading cards fiasco.

Or Beanie Babies. Or Bitcoin. Human nature is a funny thing.

Or garbage pail kids, or cabbage patch dolls. This phenomenon has been going on forever.

> Or Bitcoin

That sentiment always ages well


Hmm, it's the thing everybody would advise against with a passion.

- Who's your target customer?

- Everybody.

- Well good luck with that (snarky smily)

Good to see counter examples.

Disney springs to mind immediately. I suppose General Electric counts too?

Maybe for now, but everyone I know in my age group that was super into these (23-28) is currently trying to sell them because they have too many and the novelty wore off.

Feels basically like a Beanie Baby craze, except this time, the people who are into actual quality or give off the hobbyist vibe go to other products like Nendoroid.

How strange. I posted this 2 days ago and it didn't make it to the front page, but not for some reason it says I only posted it 6 hours ago?

Likely due to a mod re-upping the post as described here:


Content is often tinkered with on HN by the two mods but it’s usually noted and for a purpose, might be one of them just really likes pops.

Here is an interesting video essay of the business of Funko Pop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ513v8Pquw and looking the numbers, their future is very uncertain to say the least.

Does anyone know how plastic figurines like that are cast? I've been recently looking at some similar toys and they have many concave features and small details that seem impossible to make with simple injection moulding (as in, you wouldn't be able to remove them from the mould)

The remarkably simple answer is that they are pulled out of the mould while still hot and flexible. Here's an article about the process with a youtube video showing the casting process (in a very small-scale facility): http://rampage-toys.blogspot.com/2011/09/making-sofubi-how-i...

Interesting. Thank you for sharing this!

It probably isn't the exact Funko casting, but here's how someone made their own soft vinyl figures (including concave features) using rotocast molds: http://www.mnartists.org/article/how-make-your-own-vinyl-toy...

Basically, sculpt by hand with polymer clay, make a resin cast of your sculpture (from a local vendor or DIY), and send the resin cast to one of many rotocasting vendors, most in China. Here's some examples: https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/rotocast-toy-manufacturer.h....

Funk pops in particular are rather blob-like, their eyes protrude like raisins on a snowman so that casting is incredibly easy. For the intricate pieces (like a fish's fins) the main body just has holes, that then have a separate piece placed in them.

Here’s one that’s distinctly not blob-like (note the hair curls, I don’t think those are separate pieces):


Whoever came up with the idea of re-marketing children's toys to adults was a genius. It combines the passive consumerism of kids with the expendable income of adults in a way that simply wouldn't have been tolerated more than a few decades ago.

the documentary on netflix is pretty interesting

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