Remember the moment when Dobby receives a sock in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? There’s a Funko Pop! for that. How about when Jack Torrance freezes his tushy off in The Shining? There’s a Funko Pop! for that. Have you seen the episode of Schitt’s Creek when David and Moira fold in the cheese, or the episode of Stranger Things when Eleven unleashes her powers on a Demogorgon for the first time? Well, you guessed it: There are Funko Pops! for those, too.
Funko immortalizes iconic pop culture moments through fandom-specific collectibles that range from vinyl figures, such as the big-headed Funko Popsر! and plush characters to board games, backpacks, greeting cards, NFTs, and more. The company also powers the Loungefly, Funko Games, and Digital Pop! brands, allowing entertainment enthusiasts to display their favorite fandoms through the lens of Funko products in multiple mediums. This year brings even more growth to Funko as Andrew Perlmutter steps into the role of CEO.
MOVING ON UP
As Funko ballooned into a reputable pop culture company over the past decade, Perlmutter played a key role in getting the products into more stores and helping grow the brand in new ways when he officially joined the team in 2013 as senior vice president of sales, followed by a promotion to president in 2017. This past January, he transitioned to CEO as former CEO Brian Mariotti migrated to the newly created role of chief creative officer to focus on new product innovation and more fan-centric areas of the business.
Perlmutter was first introduced to Mariotti in 2010 at the New York Toy Fair trade show, where he helped connect Funko with Barnes & Noble. It was Mariotti who asked the Chicago native to move from Nashville to Seattle to run sales for the company in 2013, and Perlmutter says he made the leap because he believed in Mariotti and saw something special in Funko. Over the years, he worked hand-in-hand with Mariotti, saying, ”We’re kindred spirits in a lot of ways.”
As Perlmutter takes on his new leadership position, he says that his No. 1 job is to keep Funko fans happy. The brand has a very special, unique connection with the community of fans that make us who we are. That, to me, is the most special secret sauce that you can’t re-create that magic of Funko and the fact that we’re so interactive with our community.
It’s not just one community, either: Funko’s products cover more than 1,000 licensed properties. Through its massive library of IPs and constant stream of new releases, the company caters to what seems like every fandom under the sun across multiple genres, including comic books, superheroes, sci-fi, sports, horror, anime, video games, movies, TV, theme parks, retro toys, and more. I think that’s the other really special part about who Funko is,” Perlmutter says. “It’s a collection of communities that come together to create this really unique ecosystem that is Funko.”
A lot of people who work for Funko are also passionate fans themselves, and this new CEO is no exception. Perlmutter lives and breathes pop culture and like many people, he has a soft spot for the fandoms he grew up with ر — especially Star Wars. Both his father and grandfather worked in the toy industry, and his father often brought him home sneak peeks of the hottest toys. Looking back on when his geek culture first started, he recalls one specific Christmas morning in 1983 when he woke up to two giant boxes under the tree. He dug into one of them and revealed an entire set of Return of the Jedi action figures. ”I was like ’That’s the best Christmas present ever!'” he says. Then he ripped into the second box and it was the same exact thing. Perlmutter’s dad had gotten the toys from an industry friend, and his mom wrapped them up without looking inside. “The reason why I don’t open up all of my toys today — I’m one of those guys: I don’t take toys out of the box — is because I opened up both boxes of Return of the Jedi figures,” Perlmutter says. ”Had I kept one or my parents kept one up in the attic, it would be amazing right now.”
He knows exactly how Funko fans feel about their beloved collections, because he’s a collector himself. “I’ve got some pretty good collections of retro toys that I had when I was a kid,” Perlmutter says, citing G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and Star Wars. I try to re-create that youth through buying toys that I had as a kid and then putting them on display because all of my friends who were in my same sort-of youth group come in and then they’re like ’Oh man, I had that!’ and then we kind of nerd-out for 30 minutes talking about all the great toys we had when we were kids.”
Perhaps he’s haunted by his Return of the Jedi Christmas story, because he also admits to being obsessed with collecting not only retro toys, but also the original packaging. ”There have been times when I’ve gone on eBay just to buy the box. I’m looking at one right now,” he says, describing Dewback and Jabba the Hutt figures from Star Wars, as well as G.I. Joe battle armor. ”I’ve got all these boxes that I’ve acquired over time. I’ve got closets full of [them].”
PUMP UP THE PASSION
Funko always had a high level of interaction with the fan community, and Perlmutter credits that to fan events like Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC). Frequent convention-goers know that Funko is usually the star of the show with elaborate booths and sought-after exclusives that fans are willing to wait hours on end to secure. Perlmutter says comic cons are like Christmas for him and he attends SDCC, Emerald City Comic Con, and New York Comic Con whenever he can, although many convention plans were disrupted over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The sales are great, the market expansion and new territory geographically is great, but when you go to comic cons and you sit down with these fans who are so excited and passionate about what we do, that’s really what it’s about,” he says.
Perlmutter marvels that fans have been passionate enough to create their own Funko wedding cakes and even brand themselves with Funko tattoos over the years, and that enthusiasm is what makes the job so much fun. “I remember hearing about a marketing campaign where some company paid someone to get a tattoo, and Brian and I laugh about that because there are people in our community who get tattoos on their own because they love our brand.”
SCOUTING OUT NEW FANS
As crucial as the hardcore devotees are, it’s important to introduce the brand to new fans as well. Funko recently teamed up with Lucasfilm to debut a Funko Pop!-inspired Grogu balloon to 25 million viewers at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — marking the first time Funko or Star Wars has ever appeared in the parade. Grogu’s inaugural flight was supplemented with a limited-edition collection of products based on the balloon, including Funko Pop! Bobbleheads, a Pop! keychain, and apparel.
Perlmutter believes that the Grogu balloon was the hit of the parade — and many families that were ”oohing” and “aahing” over the inflatable Baby Yoda agreed. Funko brings a fresh perspective to things that have been around for a while, like an American holiday tradition that people have been celebrating for almost a century.
“There’s that quintessential Funko magic that we brought,” Perlmutter says. “If you go up to people on the street and ask them about Funko, they’ll look at you with a funny face. They’ll say, ’Oh yeah, they make those big-headed dolls, right?’ That’s the brand opportunity, in my opinion. Opportunities like that help introduce new people to Funko. That’s the perfect example. We exposed the brand to a lot of people who have never seen it before.”
Part of Perlmutter’s new role is to pull more people into the Funko community, growing the market both internationally and domestically, and rolling out more localized content in different areas of the world based on what IPs are popular there. This year, Funko will expand with new product lines that will help the brand reach different communities in the same way that Funko Games brought in the gaming community with licensed board games and Loungefly hooked fashion enthusiasts with backpacks and apparel. Funko’s newest endeavors include the Gold launch featuring vinyl figures of musicians and athletes from the NFL and the NBA, and the Walmart-exclusive debut of Popsies, giftable figures that will take the company into the greeting card aisle for the first time.
Mariotti says he’s excited to watch Perlmutter step into the CEO role. Not to be cliché with a Hamilton reference, but he’s been my right-hand man for many years and there’s no one better suited to take Funko through its next phase of growth.
From big events like comic cons and parades to securing real estate on desks and bedside tables, Funko is taking over the world one fandom at a time, and Perlmutter is excited to be at the helm of it all.
This article was originally published in Issue No. 12 of the Pop Insider. Click here to read the full issue!