Looking Back: Funko at Star Wars Celebration

As our wonderful memories of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim fade away, and we gear up for San Diego Comic-Con and the D23 Expo, we have a few more Celebration recaps to share. One of the standouts of Celebration was Funko.  Funko is obviously well known for their fun and cute Pop! Vinyl line. Their Star Wars collectibles are unique, cute and very fun; I particularly enjoy the family friendly nature of their offerings. What makes Funko also particularly unique is that they offer a TON of exclusives–that includes con exclusives, retailer exclusives, and even e-tailer exclusives. At Celebration Funko had no less than six con exclusives and one retailer exclusive for Toy Tokyo. For fans, all the exclusives make for some fun hunting (although for completionists that can be a bit of a headache). The Funko line at the Celebration exhibit floor was ridiculous: their booth was dead center and the line was so long that on the first day I couldn’t even fathom what the line was for until I asked the people waiting. While they were waiting, the Director of Marketing, Mark Robben, was kind enough to take the time to speak with us.

Q: How is Celebration going?

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A: It’s going really well.  Really busy.  Sold out of all our exclusives within a couple of hours of people being allowed in.  We’re pretty much sold out for today but we’ll restock tomorrow so people can still grab our exclusives.

Q: About how many units of each exclusives do you have today?

A: It depends on the exclusive–The Super Shogun Shadow Trooper is 1,000, Boba Fett is 500, Hikari is between 500-1,000.  I’m not sure how many of the Pops! we brought but they’re limited, too.

Q: You have quite a few exclusives and the Vader is first to market right?

A: Yes the Vader unmasked will be available later this year in retail but we have it first here.  But the Shock Trooper, chrome E-3PO, and R2-Q5 are only available here.  There’s also a R5 unit which is only available at the Toy Tokyo booth which is exclusive.  Vader will be available everywhere.  We also brought some reissues: the Clone Trooper, Slave Leia, Jedi Luke, some things that we unretired for the show.

Q: A lot of people are excited about the reissues.  How do you choose which characters you will unretire?

A: We look at when they were retired, the initial production run, and what the demand is.  We try to be careful so that we’re strategic about it.  It’s a balancing act because we want to respect the fact that the collectors got the first run and those are worth something, but we also want new collectors to not have to pay $300 for like the first edition Greedo.  So we’re changing the package to be more distinctive for unretired figures so that you can get a Greedo, but collectors know that that’s not a first edition.

Q: Are there future plans for more unretired characters?

A: Absolutely.  We have someone who’s pretty much exclusively focused on deciding what our strategy is going to be “from the Funko vault.”  So we make a concerted effort that’s fair to collectors and fair to new customers as well.

Q: Any teases on what figures are next to be unretired?

A: Nope!  I think we’ve announced the Clone Trooper and that’s the most recent one.  (Editor’s Note: Recently the latest unretired item announced is Han Solo).

Q: For the exclusives, how did you go about deciding which characters were chosen?

A: Those were chosen months and months ago.  It’s working with our retailers who also have exclusives, and determining what our retailers are going to have, and what are we as Funko going to have at SDCC and NYCC, so we look at the whole year and decide.  We let our retailers get the first pick because we want them to be satisfied first and foremost, and then we decide what we think will be cool.

Q: When will the SDCC exclusive be announced?

A: Probably in the next couple of weeks.  As soon as we get back from Celebration we’ll sit down and talk about SDCC.  We’ve also got some retailer exclusives that will come out soon–some that are two-packs and vehicle packs–that we want the retailers to be able to announce themselves.  We’ve got some cool stuff coming!  (Editor’s Note: Today Funko announced the first of what will likely be several Star Wars exclusives: Hikari Infrared Boba Fett)

Q; We’ve seen vehicle packs in other lines, are those coming for Star Wars?

A: Yes!  We’re definitely going to have more extensive two-packs with some larger characters and some vehicles.  The vehicles–we’re not talking about an AT-AT at this point, we’re talking about some smaller vehicles.

Q: So we’ll look forward to that Death Star coming out then?

A: [Laughing] Yes, one exclusive… $70,000!

Q: What about more larger characters?  More creatures?

A: Definitely larger creatures are coming.  We’re also looking into doing more of the Fabrikations that have been really popular.  So we’ll see more classic characters in that line, as well as larger creatures that are coming.  I can think of one larger creature that’s coming that’s a retailer exclusive that definitely fits that bill.

Q; Does he rhythm with “Pancor”?

A; [Laughing] No comment!

Q: Are there any plans for characters from the TV shows–Clone Wars or Rebels–for the Pop! line?

A: I’m not sure.  I know that for some of the stuff for the rest of this year is still Original Trilogy focused.  And then we’ll be getting into Episode VII later in the year.  It’s hard because I love Clone Wars and I love Rebels, and I would love to see us get into more of that too, but we’re getting into a period where there’s going to be a lot of pressure to merchandise Episode VII.  So if I have anything to say about it–definitely–but right now it’s more Original Trilogy-focused and then Episode VII.

Q: Can you talk about the production timeline–once you decide on doing a character, how long until that item is produced?

A: Honestly it completely varies.  If they want to make it a rush job, they can do it in a manner of weeks.  The Dancing Groot is a great example where Brian saw the movie and decided “we gotta do this.”  And then it’s working with the licensor, getting a sculpt done, getting approval, getting an actual art sample and then getting it created and shipped over here.  It can be done but that’s a short timeline.  Usually it’s a couple of months in terms of getting the approvals and getting it shipped.

Q: So there’s still hope for an Ahsoka before Episode VII comes out?  That’s my pitch to you and the powers that be!

A: Fair enough.  I would like to see Captain Rex, he’s one of my favorites.  But it’s not up to me.  There are a lot of people we have to serve and it’s also about what’s going to sell.  And we have to think about what the licensor wants.  And if the licensor wants to push in a certain direction, then we have to respect that.

Q: What are some of your favorite characters that we’ve seen and that you’d like to see?

A: If it was just up to me, I’d love to see a Rex and Count Dooku.  Those are two of my favorite characters.  Last year’s SDCC exclusive with the Wampa and Luke hanging upside down–I really like it when they take an existing sculpt and do something cute and funny like that.  The box looked great–it was the way it was displayed.

Q: What’s been the response to the Hikari line?

A: The fan response has been great.  I think the Hikari collectors are definitely more of the collector types that are really excited about the line and like the Japanese vinyl.  It’s a higher price point.  I’m surprised with the limited runs that we’ve done, how quickly they go.  We’ve done runs of 500 and they’re gone in a blink of an eye.  We’ve pushed as high as 1,000 recently.  They’re a higher price point and we keep the run numbers down but they get snapped up.  It’s certainly not the level of Pop! Vinyl but collectors are out there and they’re big fans.  The artwork is beautiful.

Q: How broad will the character selections be for that line?

A: If we’re just talking Star Wars, today we have Greedo, Boba Fett, Stormtroopers and we’ve got Darth Vader at home and all kinds of different characters.  But we’ve done Marvel Hikari–there’s Spiderman, Deadpool–there’s Ghostbusters… in my mind the line is just as wide as what we’ve done in Pop!.  There are tons of licensors that we work with and we’ll continue to see that.

Q: This Celebration is the introduction of the Super Shogun with Super 7.  How did that come about and your expectations for that line?

A: I just know that Brian has been wanting to do that line for years.  It’s a throwback to the 1970s action figure style, limited articulation–three points–but it’s high-quality vinyl.  They’re very heavy; I’ve heard people saying that it’s the heaviest exclusive.  The sculpts are beautiful.  It’s a high price point ($200 a piece) but they’re meant to be limited.  It’s not something we expect everyone is going to want to do.  It’s for the collectors who want to harken back to that retro-style toy.  We’ll see how it does, and if today is any indication, then I certainly think we’ll make more of the line.  It’s our first effort into seeing what something like that will do at that price point.  So it’s a new step for us.

Q: I know you can’t talk about Episode VII, but beyond that what else is coming?

A: I can say one thing: we are making Pops! and Wobblers for Episode VII! 

This summer we have the unmasked Vader, Luke Tatooine, Leia in Boushh disguise, Bib Fortuna, TIE Fighter Pilot, Nalan Cheel, the Bith member of the Cantina band.  We have the retailer exclusives that will be announced shortly.  We have some new Fabrikations coming that are original trilogy characters that I think are adorable.  So all of that will be out before any Episode VII merchandise comes out.

Q: Okay great.  It was great speaking with you.  Thank you for your time!

A: Alright, appreciate it!

Thanks to Mark and the Funko team for taking the time to speak with us.  Be sure to check back as we cover the latest exclusives announced for SDCC by Funko every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until June 29th!

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