Toy Fair: 2019 NYC – The Old, New and the Funko!!!
2019 is off to a great year as Toy Fair 2019 touched down in NYC at the Jacob Javitz Center. I was able to attend this event and as I entered the mighty building which is home to multiple conventions, most notably, New York City Comic Con, The New York International Auto Show and Anime NYC; Toy Fair 2019 adds to the famous collective as they showcase their newest and innovative toy products, both physical and digital. Searching for the newest collectibles and products that cater to a diverse market, I decided to attend this convention as I look for the Odd, New and surprisingly the Funko for the pop culture scene.
Brian Mariotti - #FunkoGOD
There he stood, #FunkoGOD himself, the CEO Brian Mariotti. The man who was able to take a Bobble Head idea from founder, Mike Becker and significantly expand the company through hardcore product licensing and creative innovation to create product lines that caters to multiple niche markets. As I saw him with his spiked hair and signature blue jeans, I can’t help but imagine a few things: 1. How is it that he was able to create such great products for Pop Culture America’ ? and 2. Does he have that Benjamin Button disease?! I mean really, the guy doesn’t age at all.
We all know the Funko brand at this point and how they function in the collectibles market. Heavy hitters in the toy industry, they have invaded the toy market with those lovable POPS, like Spider-Man, The Notorious BIG and WWF Legends such as SGT. Slaughter (RIP). Although they’ve been in the market for quite sometime, they have definitely ‘changed the game’ in regards to collectibles and because of their low price points, they have been the sought after item in toy retail stores across America. As I looked at their booth, there were some notables that excited me. This year at the Fair, they unveiled their upcoming products for the world to see.
Traveling through Funko’s Alley-Way, I saw a few notable Pops that caught my eye:
The Stan Lee Patina Pop
In its iconic glory, the Marvel O.G., StanLee (RIP) has once again from beyond blessed us with his presence in Pop Form. This Pop resembles more of a cryptic shrine in memoriam than anything else. In all my Funko searches, I was able to grab one Stan Lee POP in my life, but this one right here is great. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost swear a piece of his soul is entrenched in this collectible!!!
BTS: Beyond the Scene
The first South Korean boy band to hit 1 million+ in album sales; BTS also known as the Bangtan Boys have now been idolized in vinyl thanks to the innovative marketing genius of the Funko Team. For those who are unfamiliar with BTS, they are the hottest South Korean boy band around with hits like ‘IDOL’, ‘MicDrop’ and their album Love Yourself: Tear which appeared #1 on the Billboard 200. Not an avid listener myself, I have given an ear to their work and I must say, some of their songs are pretty dope. I personally like Mic Drop
If any of you have seen the Netflix Series: Castlevania; Funko has capitalized on that anime quick and is releasing their line of honor Pops of the series. For those who have never played any Castlevania game, in the Netflix series, it follows the story of Dracula and his goals of decimating Eastern Europe because the common folk decided that his wife, who was a doctor, was an alleged witch and using ‘GOD’ references, decided to burn her alive. Well, all hell broke loose, figuratively and literally as Drac decided to use the powers of Hell to get his revenge. Saving the world and preventing more unholy mistakes, Trevor Belmont, the last survivor of the Belmont Clan, Alucard, Dracula’s only son and a mage named Sypha Belnades are set out to destroy him and end his rampage. These POPs look great.
Post Malone: Didn’t see that one coming.
Yeah they did it and made a Post Malone Pop. Scheduled release for April 2019, I have a feeling that this one might actually sell. However, I have my reservations…While Post Malone might have his own Pop, please tell me why the following artists haven’t been immortalized in Vinyl:
1. Cardi B
2. 21 Savage
3. Lil Wayne
4. Amber Rose
7. Nicki Minaj
I’m just saying…. I’ll also buy these too!!!
Notable Mention: Fortnite Wall and LoungeFly
Familiar with the franchise by Epic Games; Funko had the entire Fortnite tribe on display in Pop form, Pint Size Heroes, Vynl, and 5 Star. They totally went hardcore with their licensing on this one, but I have some reservations here on this license: When the series becomes outdated will they still continue to make the Pops? Right now rumors are whispering of another game taking some Fortnite followers…Dare I say it…..Apex Legends. I heard this game is quite possibly the best battle royale game yet!!!
Loungfly is a premiere accessory store that displays the best in licensed merchandise. Some licensed notables that LoungeFly caters to are Star Wars, Marvel, and Winnie the Pooh (which are really all under Disney) and other brands are Hello Kitty, Rick and Morty and a host of many others. Loungfly has definitely been propelling themselves as the must have accessories in the pop culture market and they really shined as they played background and foreground to the Funko collectibles legacy.
Leaving Funko Alley, I had to take mental note as to the longevity of the Funko brand and how they continue to be around in an ever-crowding toy ecosystem that’s monolithic to companies such as Hasbro and Mattel. Initially starting off as bobble heads, they found a way to enter a very crunched toy market and carve a nice piece of pie for themselves against the ‘Gods of Toy-dom’ becoming the 3rd leg on the collectible toy market. Pretty soon, if they continue to grow at this pace, they might end up being the whole chair.
My pop culture search led me to the land of Q-Fig; an up and coming collectible company also known as (Quantum Mechanix). They too have carved a nice niche-lane for themselves by creating Movie, Marvel and DC collectibles through the use of still life and environmental scenes. Their still-life collectibles are based on scenes from comics and movies and their price points are also low compared to the Hasbro based Marvel legends. Their inventory however is very limited and that leads to mass sell out early. In my examination of this company, one still life collectible figure stood out and tall amongst them all. It was the Batman: Family Limited Edition Master Diorama.
This diorama deserves a shout out because: 1) I’ve never seen anything like this in physical form and 2) It was a warm and heart felt collectible. Here you have Batman and every person he has brought under his wing as Children: Batgirl - Barbara Gordon, Nightwing – Dick Grayson, Red Hood – Jason Todd, Robin –Tim Drake, and Robin – Damian Wayne. Even if you’re not a hardcore Batman fan, this piece is nostalgic for a few reasons: Everyone loves kids and looking from the perspective of Batman, his view of them makes him smile letting us know that there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for any of them. I am definitely buying this item!!!
Leaving the Q-fig block, I wondered the streets of the Toy Fair in hopes of looking at something that could shock and wow me. As I turned right on one of the levels, I saw those ‘shock and awe’ items that caught my attention:
Pocket Box Office: Desi Superverse – Ijoo Life
Definitely haven’t seen these figures before. Fashioned in the form of Funko Pops, ijoo-life has created state of the art collectibles fashioned in the form of famous Bollywood characters. I was completely blown back by the detail of these characters. For those who are unfamiliar with Bollywood, it is a form of Hindi cinema based in Mumbai, India. Considered, the world’s largest film industry, with an annual feature film production of about 1900+ films a year, it is becoming very powerful and influential in oversea markets and exerting a strong influence in America. Strengthening their influence in the Bollywood market, Pocket Box Office started producing these wonderful Ijoolife collectibles. The details are phenomenal as the company pays very close attention to the eyes and color schemes. I actually like these figures and can’t wait for theme to be released in retail stores.
If you grew up in the 80s, I’m sure you’ve heard and saw the Smurfs on TV during your Saturday morning cartoon rituals as you ate cereal. If not, I’m sure you’re heard of them through those millennial based movies starring Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria or that animated cartoon that did better than the live action shows. Whatever the case, the toy company PopLyfe, who actually designs some great Funko products for the brand most certainly came out with a Smurf series of collectibles. Nostalgic and teary-eyed, these minute blue pieces of my 80s childhood filled me with awe as I saw them in small and large form. Inquiring about the price, a representative informed me that these collectibles were based in Japan only! I Was not happy about this at all. As I collapsed to my knees in sorrow, he did inform me that there were ways to have them shipped here…
Arcade1Up….80’s made a come back!!!
Considered the tech toy of 2019, Arcade1Up has infiltrated the video game scene with retro video games ranging from Space Invaders and PAC-MAN to international hits like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II thus placing this company in a market all their own. Using reduced sized to on-the-counter arcade models, Arcade1Up has revolutionized the gaming industry with authentic arcade controls paralleling the classic arcade hits of yore and reduced sizing to easily situate the man cave or a child’s room. Arcade1Up has capitalized on the industry by providing arcade classics that have paved the way to the now PS4/XBOX hits that we have now. Catering to a wide demographic; from pre-teens to adults, Arcade1Up has certainly made a name for themselves in the tech toy industry as they bring actual ‘arcading’ to the home at a reasonable price.
Attending the 2019 Toy Fair was more than just a showcase of the latest physical and digital products in the toy industry. It also confirmed how pop culture has evolved and through the use of imagination and innovation, companies are creating new products that stem from the foundations of the past. Using prior products like bobble heads to arcade games, companies have created new waves of products that introduce a new audience into the fold. Although this is common practice in the toy ecosystem, the practice is reaching an all time high and I can’t be more happy with this habit as new products are crafting new bonds between parents and their children.
Overall, pop culture is now the driving force behind innovation reaching unimaginable heights in today’s society. From Funko to Arcade games, the pop culture market has revolutionized the term ‘collectible’ and is now driving the ever-growing toy industry. Funko said something that is now, what I feel, the current gospel of the toy industry: “Everyone is a fan of something”. Those words, my dear readers, is the mantra that Toy Fair 2019 provided this year and I hope they continue to create bonds between the old and the new.