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Funko Review:  Making Fun - The Story of Funko

My brush with fame.

Two years ago, give or take, I’m in line at Fundays and a guy with a camera asks me if I want to be interviewed for a documentary about Funko.  I said ‘Why not’, signed a release, did the interview, showed off my HOF t-shirt, and that was that.  I didn’t think much about it.

The following year, they previewed a trailer for the movie, and there I was saying something about coming for the toys and staying for the people (which a lot of us say).  Holy crap!  I was in the movie.   

In the final cut, I’m just showing off the t-shirt.  They cut my lines.  Apparently I am NOT ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Oh well.  I was this close to being ‘Funko Famous’.  So damn close.  I was going to brag to my friends, set up an IMDB page, and charge people for autographs.   But now…nuthin’.  Goodbye hopes.  Goodbye dreams.  Hollywood is a cruel mistress.  So is fate.  And fickle, too.  Even though I’m pretty sure that’s love.  I’ll have my people call Bartlett’s people and maybe we’ll do lunch and get the quote straight. 

Or maybe I’ll give up this crazy business we call ‘show’ and just review Making Fun: The Story of Funko (currently streaming on Netflix) instead.

First Reactions:

I really enjoyed it.

I started collecting a few years after Becker sold the company to Brian, so to see him talking about the early days and how he set out to create a business that was all about having fun was fantastic.  I knew parts of the story, and had certainly heard about the ‘Becker days’, but I had no clue what the early days of Funko were like.  To hear the history of the company and of some of our most beloved Funko traditions (Fundays) made me appreciate what we have today even more.  I think this will be my eighth Fundays, and even though its now a rave, wrapped in a riot, covered in melee, it wasn’t always.  Those early Fundays were pretty small and were all about giving back to those ‘knuckleheads’ who liked what Mike liked.  I know for the group of people that I hang with, it’s still about connecting with Funko and each other, but for a lot of people it’s about getting some prizes.  Maybe they’ll see this and lighten up a little bit.  Swag is nice, people are nicer.

Even though I got cut (bitter-party of one), a fair number of my friends did not.  Seeing them talk about their collections and how they got started was pretty cool, too.  I knew Bo worked with troubled kids, but I didn’t know about the significance of Red Hat Rick (the bobblehead he took pictures of).  That made me appreciate mine a little more.  Same goes with the Zillas and Kim, Pete and Rev, Kroffty and Carol.  Seeing how they connect with Funko made me think more about how and why I connect with Funko.  I especially loved the interview with Travis, which proved that white SoCal kids can’t play basketball.  I also got a kick out of him calling himself on the ‘old school pops’ comment, then threatening to beat people up.  Make a basket first tough guy.

The celebrity interviews were a little hit and miss.  More hit than miss, though.  Zack Ryder’s was fantastic because all he did was nerd out, which was kind of the point.  Some seemed to embrace the chaos, others I felt were too serious, or in the case of Tony Hawk, too corporate.  I thought the Jason David Frank comment about pop collectors being ‘picky’ was one of the most understated statements ever made regarding pop collectors. I have NEVER been that kind.  Maybe I should take Alice Cooper’s advice and be a little less serious.

Mmmm….nope.  Still got a beef with the box nazis and sticker freaks.

The interviews with Brian were very telling of how much Funko has changed.  Mike reminisces about the family garage, Brian’s gushes about the new HQ.  Mike says they designed toys to make themselves laugh, Brian talks about exploring the essence of ‘cute’.  Pay attention and you’ll see sketches and drawings pinned to the walls in the Becker segments.  In Brian’s, the artists are sculpting and drawing on high-end workstations.  What Funko was, what Funko is.  It’s an interesting contrast. I’ll be honest, I find it amazing that Brian and Mike are friends.  ‘Secret sauce’ and ‘knuckleheads’ don’t usually get along.

Upon further reflection:

I didn’t write this review right away.  I wanted to think on it a bit.  I also wanted to see what others were saying.  This is going to get a little ranty.

One of the more oft complaints I’ve seen is that the movie didn’t show how pops were made.  I can understand that a little bit, I’d like to see more of the process myself.  However, for the last two years that Funko’s been working on the film, I’ve only ever heard of it being a ‘love letter to the fans’.  Now, I don’t write too many love letters anymore (none), but when I did write them, they mostly compared thee to a summer’s day without getting too bogged down in the details.  Admittedly, I wrote a couple that got way into the how’s of expressing that love, but that was back in my ribalding days (they were smut).  What I’m trying to say, though, is that Funko has never given the impression that Making Fun was going to be a how-to video.  If that’s what you thought it was going to be, you’re either new, not paying attention, or didn’t read anybody’s review of the premier.  It was always going to be about the fans. Maybe we’ll see that other stuff in the sequel, Revenge of the Wobblers.

Another beef, the interviews with the fans.  Personally, I loved them, but I’m also biased because many of the people featured are my friends.  I posted this on FB and somebody tried to call me out for name-dropping.  I’m sure if that guy had any friends, he’d like seeing them in a movie, too.  My point was that knowing people in the movie was pretty cool, and it made it more enjoyable to me.  I also enjoyed seeing people I know in the crowd scenes and quick cuts.  Quite honestly, parts of the movie were like watching a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book come to life.  There’s Huse and Montez and Claire and Ness.  There’s the Triad, and they’re not nude.  There’s me and Will and Deadpool!!!! 

You get the point.  Having friends is cool. 

That being said, I will admit that the fan interviews were not all of equal quality and/or tone.  The same holds true for the celebrity interviews as well.  Some were very good, some not so much.  Because they didn’t stick to a common narrative or theme (Nerds! Pop Culture! Bullying?) I felt that the overall message of the film was hard to pick out.  Was it about connecting to a greater community that likes the same stuff, or was it connecting to Funko as a release or an escape.  I guess you could say that every fan connects to Funko somehow, and that it’s those connections that make Funko what it is.  Maybe it’s the people that matter, not so much the toys.  Maybe.  Or maybe I’m making that up to fit in with my criticism.  It’s a fine line.   

Oh...and speaking of people, get over the Funko Fiends already.  Reddit has been particularly unpleasant in bagging on the ‘Funko Biker Gang’.  If you don’t like the Fiends, so be it.  Don’t let that stop you from enjoying the movie.  I know several and they’re good people.  I’ve helped some of them, they’ve helped some of me.  Yes, they’ve had some asshole members run down their reputation in spots, but show me a group that hasn’t had a couple of ‘those guys’.  I don’t know (or care about) how they came to be, but I’ve always thought they were meant to be like the Disney Pin Traders.  Instead of lanyards, they went with vests.  And if you think they think they’re tough, you should have seen the message boards when they were trying to decide on what vests to get and where to get them.  The very antithesis of tough.  So please, stop with the Funko tribalism already.  We’re all loyal to a forum or a Facebook page or a local collectors group, but we’ve got to stop thinking that our group is better than all the rest.  It’s playground shit.  We all vibe differently and that’s okay.  You know, kind of like how all those people connect to Funko differently in the interviews you don’t like.  Whoa….see what I just did there?  How I related one thing to the other?  Writing love letters to English majors finally pays off. 

In Conclusion:

If you’re a fan of Funko, and glad to be part of the Funko community, see the movie.  I think you’ll get a lot out of it.  The interviews are interesting (if uneven) and there does seem to be a theme tying the film together like the rug in Lebowski’s apartment.  If you’re looking for how to make a pop, or worse, how to flip one (a real complaint- not enough about the secondary market), then you’re going to be disappointed.  If you’re in the later group, I ask that you give it a chance.  Here’s hoping you’ll learn why so many of us came for the toys but stayed for the people.

(I really wish they had left me in there saying that.  I could have been Funko famous.)


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