Funko’s massive Funkoville booth at this year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) was certainly a sight to behold. But aside from its impressive footprint, one thing about the booth was hard to miss: The addition of a storefront for Mondo, the Texas-based company that Funko recently acquired. Known for its high-quality collectibles, art, vinyl albums, and more, Mondo was originally founded as a subset of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater chain. At SDCC, we chatted with Mondo’s associate director of marketing, Brandon Wainerdi, about this new chapter for the company, the Mondo vibe, and more.
The Pop Insider: Hi, I want to start by saying I’m a huge Mondo fan, so I’m very excited to chat with you. Obviously, we know my first question’s going to be about the Funko acquisition. Can you tell me about how that came about, why Funko was the right fit, and why Mondo is excited for this new stage?
Brandon Wainerdi: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it came about by a lot of very talented people that all got in a room and figured it all out. And in that regard, we’re very, very lucky that it ended up being Funko and finding a home like that. And we look around here in Funkoville and it feels just so natural and it feels so great for us. And what we are most excited for is just the amount of people that we can reach now, right, who have the same love and same passions that we do. But also who might not have heard of us before. And vice versa. So we’re able to bring so much with our art and with what we can do, but now with the opportunities with Funko — whether it’s more licenses or more eyes or more conventions, or more resources, whatever it might be — we’re really excited for what that future brings. And it is just, like you said, a really great fit.
PI: I was wondering, as a frequent Alamo Drafthouse visitor, do you know if the Mondo storefronts are going to stay in the Alamo theaters that have them? Or is that still kind of up in the air right now?
BW: So we still are in close communication with Alamo. So we’ll still be working with them as time goes on, whether for special events or for whatever it might be. Who knows what the storefront side of it all holds, but definitely that relationship will continue just because we’ve been a part of that for so long.
PI: That’s great to hear. So I have to ask about your vinyl albums because that is something I collect. What is the process of deciding which movies and shows you’re going to put onto these special, collector’s vinyl? And what is the process for designing them? Do you work with the composers? Or is it mostly with the studios?
BW: So it’s our team — Mo Shafeek and Spencer Hickman are the two creative directors for music and they’re the ones that really dictate everything. Their tastes and what they love and what they’re passionate about. And that both comes with the movies that are selected, the soundtracks that are selected, but also the artists that we work with and the composers that we work with. Especially this year, we work a lot with Michael Giacchino. Because we love Michael Giacchino and he’s one of the greatest. He’s not only one of the greatest composures but also just he’s just so great to work with. And so, in situations like that, it’s a lot easier for us to produce a lot of a composer’s material. And then secondarily, like you asked, I think a lot of it comes down to which artist is the best for which property, right? Again, the creative directors across the board — whether it’s for composers or music or toys and collectibles — are just the experts at finding incredible artists that are the best fits for everything. And so that’s kind of the whole process
PI: Across the board, but especially for the high-end collectibles, how would you describe something that is the right fit for Mondo? Like, what are the brands that you think fit your identity — Not specifically by name, but more so vibe?
BW: Yeah, for sure. I mean, a lot of the animated shows that we grew up with. A lot of the things that we still have nostalgia for that might not have that niche filled yet. Like, you think about the Masters of the Universe 1:6-scale collection, which are realistic figures. Which is not really something that was really being filled, and doing it in such a passionate way and such an overwhelming way is really kind of a joy for all of us, because that is very much in our niche and very much something that all of us are very passionate about.
PI: Can you share anything about what’s to come from Mondo this year? Either big-picture goals or specific things that are in the pipeline?
BW: Big picture-wise, what we’d really love is just more opportunities to connect with fans in person. So whether it’s going to more Comic-Cons, or doing galleries again, or whatever that might be, that’s really our main priority. Figuring out ways to go other places, not just Texas, but also staying rooted within our Austin roots. So those are kind of the main things that we’re really focusing on — Both continuing the quality, continuing the quantity, exploring our opportunities as now part of the Funko brand, but then seeing as many fans and making as many new fans as possible.
PI: Just curious, do you ever take fan feedback on albums and things? Like, how do you work with the fans?
BW: For sure. Do you have specific requests?
PI: Oh, I do. I mean, but mine are crazy niche. [laughs]
BW: Well, we definitely take them. I mean, we get so many feedback requests on our website and on social, and it’s shared constantly within our own channels. And it is just something that we are constantly trying to improve and constantly trying to think about, especially when it is on social. Cause I’m the one who checks all the mentions. And when I see everyone asking for a certain title, then that’s me being like, “Hey, look at this. I think that’s an opportunity for us.” And that goes across the board, everyone gets their own types of feedback. Customer service gets a bunch of the stuff, and they’re incredible at responding to fans. … I’d like to go on the record saying our customer service team is the number one customer service team.
PI: To go back to the vinyl, it’s just so interesting how you continue to innovate and find new things in that space. I bought the Queen’s Gambit album, and it has that amazing shape. I feel like it’s a niche thing, movie and TV scores on vinyl. But why do you think it’s important to cater to those fans, and how did you kind of find that space? Because obviously, people are passionate about it.
BW: Yeah. I’m glad you brought up the Queen’s Gambit vinyl because that was a huge passion project for our creative director, Spencer Hickman. Spencer really worked hard with Alan Hynes, who’s done a lot of our packaging, especially the Wizard of Oz packaging as well, which was just a piece of art in itself. And it really is trying to find that balance of playability — because you wanna be able to play the record — but also, like, what makes this record special? What makes it tied in with the movie even more so, because the whole point of the physical media is feeling like you’re connected with it, right? You’re opening it up, you’re putting it on, you’re having an experience. And if you can add to that experience with packaging or with how it’s cut or the spot varnish or the foil, whatever it might be, then you’re really just continuing that experience as a whole.
PI: Okay, final question, if you could pick one movie or property that Mondo hasn’t worked with yet that you would love to, what would it be?
BW: Okay. I’ve been asked this, and I have to be a little cagey. This is me, Brandon Wainerdi, personally, because I’ve bugged every single category for it. And so hopefully it happens — If it does happen, you’ll know it’s because I just kept Slacking them every day, which is Indiana Jones. I would love more Indiana Jones stuff, especially with Indy 5 coming. I really would love to see, um, all of it. So, that’s kind of my white whale. But we’ll see.
PI: Is there anything else you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?
BW: I think, again, we’re just really excited for what the future holds, especially, you know, this whole week being inside Funkoville and meeting everyone that works within Funko. It really is just an incredible time for the company. And we’re really excited for fans to see, what we still have got going. Because we are the same team. The entire team came over, and so it’s just us still doing what we love to do and hoping that people love what we do still.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.