On Thursday, the beloved “The Mandalorian” character, also known as Baby Yoda and the Child, a larger-than-real Grogu portrait filled with helium, will make its aerial debut on the streets of New York.
Grogu’s balloon marks the first “Star Wars” that can be inflated at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This is a thrill for fans of that space franchise. But for Funko, a collectible toy company behind a small square-headed figurine after the balloons have been modeled, it’s an even more significant opportunity.
If the Force is with Funko and the wind is working together, the company and its vinyl figurine line could leap from a cool nerd lunch table to mainstream pop consciousness.
“Funko had a pretty great brand milestone, but it’s spectacular,” said Brian Maritti, CEO of the company, which acquired a toy company in 2005 and released it four years ago. He called the parade “a big moment for our brand, our employees, and our fans.”
Whether shopping on hot topics or attending comic conventions, these fans have been getting Funko Pop figures since their announcement at the San Diego Comic Con Convention in 2010. Each toy is a vinyl version of about 4 inches of pop culture figures. Superhero, TV character, movie star, music icon, sports champion, or filmmaker.
Paul Southern, Senior Vice President of Licensing for Lucasfilm, the company behind Star Wars, called the doll “a symbolic piece that our fans and collectors have come to look for.” Some are more enthusiastic than others. David Mebane of Knoxville, Tennessee set a Guinness World Record in May with a collection of over 7,000 Funko Pop figures that began accumulating in 2014.
“Collectors have rooms where the walls look like pop vinyl,” said Daniel Pickett, editor-in-chief of Action Figure Insider, a website for toy lovers. He himself has over 200 Funko Pop figures. “They are like sneaking up on you,” he said.
Funko was founded in 1998 by Mike Becker as a mom and pop maker of nostalgic “bobblehead dolls”. It is offered as a premium on special nights of sporting events. Mariotti is a fan of the big-headed bobble called Wacky Wobbler, who bought Funko and made him an international player in the licensed collection market. Sold to Fundamental Capital, a private equity firm in 2013, and to ACON Investments in 2015.
Funko’s range of products has expanded in recent years to include accessories such as character backpacks, wallets and headbands under its Loungefly brand, including stuffed animals, board games, pets dispensers.
“We are known to have one of the largest licensing portfolios in the world because we take our creative process and the IP integrity of our partners very seriously.” Said Mariotti.
Funko Pop’s TV catalog contains characters from “Golden Girls” and “WandaVision”. There are current hit makers like BTS as well as desktop versions of Duran Duran and Devo. Drag fans can buy the late model RuPaul, or the classic Bugs Bunny dressed as Carmen Miranda. Bram Stoker, who has a small copy of “Dracula”, is a doll inspired by the rides of “It’s a Small World” and the cast of the musical “Hamilton” at Disneyland, not to mention all kinds of “Star Wars” creatures. You can share the shelves (although not as big as the Baby Yoda Balloon).
“We are very intentional about the brands we work with to bring the credibility of Star Wars to our fans,” said Southern of Lucasfilm. We’ve been working with Funko for over a decade and they’re a notable part of our entire Star Wars licensing portfolio. The Grogu balloon is “a great extension of that relationship,” he said.
The idea of creating a balloon with the image of Grogu came from Funko’s brainstorming session. Dolly Alwaria, Funko’s Vice President of Licensing and Business Development, said: “It broke the internet.” (In fact, many fans were obscured by Lucasfilm and Disney for months following the premiere of “The Mandalorian” so as not to ruin the plot points of the show. I spent Christmas desperately looking for a baby yoda toy.)
The toy maker approached Macy’s and Lucasfilm with collaboration in mind. All parties agreed to go for it. “If we hadn’t worked together for years behind us, and hadn’t already had great success with The Mandalorian, it would have been a much harder conversation,” Alwaria said.
Balloons were already a hit with those who witnessed a test run at the Macy’s Balloon Fest in Citi Field on November 13. “Because of his short stature, Grogu received a larger reception than the real thing,” Southern said in an email.
Having balloons in the parade is Funko’s already delicious pumpkin pie whipped cream for a year. In September, Forbes reported that Funko had recovered from what was known as the “disaster” of its initial public offering in 2017. Stock prices plummeted by more than 40% on the first day and are now reporting the highest three quarters in history.
“A pandemic doesn’t change people’s love for pop culture,” Ahluwalia said. “They see what brings them comfort, and they are consuming more.”
One of the company’s latest innovations is the “Pop Yourself” program, which invites fans to Funkostor (the flagship store in Everett, Washington or the 40,000-square-foot Los Angeles outpost) to make pop figures. Their replica. The price is $ 25. Even during the pandemic, masked fans lined up on several blocks of Hollywood Boulevard every morning for the occasion.
During the parade, T-shirts, hoodies, figures and other glowing pop goods will be on sale at Herald Square Macy’s and Funko stores.
“We look forward to getting the product to the Macy’s flagship hit shelf in a few days,” Jordan Davy, senior director of partnership marketing and media at Macy’s Brand Entertainment, said in an interview last week. .. “We hope that products inspired by the limited edition Grogu Macy parade balloons will be available soon.”
Even before the Turkish day, he expects fans to devour them.