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PCHOF’15 – Funko Pops Into The Collector Hall

funko pops lead

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Funko Toys, best known for Wacky Wobblers and Pop! vinyl toys, is the latest addition to the Pop Culture Hall of Fame. Founded in 1998 by Mike Becker, the company was originally conceived as a small project to bring back low-tech, nostalgia-themed toys.

The first Funko toys were based on vintage advertising figures such as Reddy Kilowatt and Big Boy. Later characters included gone (but not forgotten) cereal spokescharacters such as  Quisp and Boo Berry. For much of their early years, FunKo’s main products were Wacky Wobblers and vinyl banks based on various pop culture characters. The subject range expanded into pop culture themes like Ed Roth’s Rat Fink, Speed Racer, and various old Saturday morning cartoons.

funko big boy

But then they stumbled onto a whole new market. As they expanded into newer and then current comic and pop culture areas, they also began to add different types of figures. Key chains and plush toys entered into the mix, and the number of FunKo products increased exponentially.

funko scooby dooThe range of characters and pop culture icons available from Funko is staggering. It seems every major movie will show up in Pop! form, yet no comic book, video game, vintage spokescharacter, or cult movie is too small to be represented.

Their line of Pop! figures, with large squarish heads and round beady eyes, were an instant hit. Soon After, the ultra-cute Dorbz line debuted, and collectors had another range of characters to find.

The entire Funko brand shows no signs of slowing down, with dozens of new characters from every range introduced every month.

funko dc Bombshells

PCHOF’15 – The Force of Rey from Star Wars is Strong

star wars rey

star wars rey action figureWhen plans emerged for the next trilogy of “Star Wars” movies to come out in 2015, writers created a mix of old, familiar faces with exciting new characters. Rey (so far, that’s the only name she’s known by) is a desert scavenger who discovers a robot with a secret, which leads to a hero’s journey.

If the backstory of her character sounds like a cross between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, that’s not by accident. Those early clues are foreshadowing her eventual revelation as a Jedi.

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star wars rey action lego minifigAs important as Leia was to the first three “Star Wars” movies, she was often presented as a damsel in distress. Rey, on the other hand, is more of a hands-on action hero right out of the gate in “The Force Awakens” and really takes over the proceedings in “The Last Jedi.” As the anchor of the final trilogy of films (and all attached merchandising), Rey from Star Wars is a 2015 inductee in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

star wars rey wobbler

Fans were puzzled and disappointed when the first merchandising from “The Force Awakens” did not include much representing Rey. The outrage sparked various online campaigns such as “#wheresrey.” As it turns out, Hasbro had intentionally kept her designs under wraps at first to avoid giving away any spoilers to her identity. Once the movie was out and everyone knew the storyline, Rey merchandise started flowing with great force.

In fact, delaying her toys may have only added to the buildup, creating even more hype when they were finally released. Rey is often paired up with BB-8 or her junk speeder vehicle in Lego, bobblehead, or action figure form, which only makes those toys more appealing.

In hindsight, it seems silly to think a science fiction franchise with a female lead was considered a big risk. Regardless of age or gender, fan response has been overwhelmingly positive for the latest movies. The box office and merchandising, along with critical acclaim certainly suggest otherwise. Fans are more than willing ready follow Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8 anywhere in the universe.


PCHOF’15 – Barbie Sashays Into Pop Culture Hall of Fame

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In 1959, Barbie Millicent Roberts made her worldwide debut, and the world of toys has never been the same. For Barbie’s legendary contribution to toy and pop culture, she is inducted into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

barbie evolutionThe Barbie doll bucked the trend of plush toys and porcelain dolls to create a playable, realistic icon. At first, Barbie was considered a “fashion doll,” very glamorous and beautiful but without. Girls could pretend to share her fabulous lifestyle, but more potential was around the corner.

Originally intended for teenage girls to play with, Mattel discovered that their audience skewed much younger, to an age that still dreamed of being a teenager. With that power of imagination and possibility, Barbie’s potential took off as well. No longer a typical teenager, she could be portrayed as a doctor, a vet, an astronaut, or as the participant in hundreds of other occupations and pastimes.

barbie austin healyBarbie has driven some amazing cars over the years, getting the attention of male collectors. An Austin Healy roadster, several generations of Corvettes, a Rolls Royce, a giant GM camper and several others. Her various playsets such the Friendship airliner or her Dreamhouse have become highly collectible.

In the 1990s, Barbie took on a heightened status as a collecitible toy with the special edition Holliday dolls. The limited edition dolls were hard to find in stores, and prices escalated quickly. But she would get back to her toy-like roots soon enough.

More recently, Barbie has taken a more inclusive attitude towards body shapes and ethnicity, resulting in a cast of more diverse characters. As she approaches her 60th birthday, Barbie has the same appeal to girls everywhere.

barbie diversity

PCHOF’15 – Johnny Jimenez Jr., Toy Dealer to the Stars

johnny jimenez jr toy shack

johnny jimenez jr turtleOne of the eternal questions for collectors is trying to figure out what a toy or other rare item might be worth. On the TV show “Pawn Stars,” viewers got a look at how that value changes based on whether you’re a buyer or a seller. Johnny Jimenez Jr., one of the hosts of the show, is an inductee of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame for those lessons and other reasons.

“Pawn Stars” focused on all kinds of unusual vintage items, but toys were frequently featured on the show. Such interest played well into Jimenez’ other line of work, running a toy store.

Jimenez is also the owner of Toy Shack, an amazing toys and collectibles shop in Las Vegas. In fact, the Toy Shack is one of those Vegas destinations for people who don’t want to gamble or see an expensive show. In addition to new toys, Toy Shack sells vintage items, especially toy lines from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The store also features several vintage arcade video games, which can be a lot less expensive than playing slot machines. There’s also a working Zoltar machine in the store for good luck.

Because of his dual tracks to collecting fame, Jimenez is popular at all kinds of collector conventions, be they comics, action figures, or any other toys.

johnny jimenez jr toy shack

PCHOF’15 – Ron Rudat, Real Action Figure Hero

ron rudat g.i. joe

ron rudatWhen Hasbro decided to revive the G.I. Joe brand in the 1980s, they found a real hero in the company. Ron Rudat, a 2015 inductee in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame, was tapped to design not only the figures but the philosophy of the new line.

The original G.I.Joe line faded out with the end of the Vietnam War, so Hasbro was taking something of a risk by reviving the brand. Though the new line, debuting in 1982 called Joe “A Real American Hero,” the team’s exploits were centered around fighting a fictional, nationless terrorist group instead of more real-life enemies.

Instead of 12-inch dolls with changeable clothes, Rudat and company went with a smaller 3.75 inch size. By making them less expensive and more compact, kids were likely to buy multiple figures instead of one main doll with a lot of accessories. In turn, a much larger cast of characters, including the forces of COBRA were developed.

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Not only was he in charge of the figures, but he revolutionized the very process Hasbro used to create action figures. Team brainstorming sessions and multiple phases of skecthing and more collaborative meetings led to consistent, well-designed characters.

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Despite being a fictionalized military force, Rudat insisted on basing weapons and accessories on actual modern examples. He also snuck in details from real military uniforms for realism and as a tribute. “I was in a living history group based on the American Civil War,” he said, “so I added several Civil War buckles to some of the Joes, and also a Kepi cap on one.” His father was a Marine, so he worked those details in whenever possible.

ron rudat summer-pickensRudat moved on to other projects in 1986, but the original run of of the new smaller Joes continued until 1994. The line has been revived every few years since in some form or another. Today, Rudat’s designs are a bit more serene, in his paintings that focus on the landscape and scenery of coastal New England.

Rudat’s contributions to G.I. Joe culture live on very literally in two specific characters. The face of the character know as “Leatherneck” is modeled after Rudat himself. And then there’s Dusty… “Look at his biography on his collector card. His name is Ronald W. ‘Tadur,’ which is my last name backwards.”

PCHOF’15 – Mattel WWE Rumbles Into Pop Culture Hall of Fame

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mattel randy mach man savageFor decades, professional wrestling has provided an incredible blend of energetic performance art and highly athletic sport. While there have been various toys and figures representing wrestlers, Mattel really upped the game with their WWE figures and accessories. For that maneuver, the Mattel WWE series is now a member of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

The Mattel WWE (Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment) includes highly sculpted display figures with realistic features, as well as more posable, more rugged, more tossable play figures. The toys are designed to take a beating, with kids mimicking all kids of moves including turnbuckle dives, piledrivers, and suplexes. There’s also a line of fashion dolls, compatible with Barbie, including the women of WWE in their civilian clothes.

But the range goes well beyond figures of the wrestlers. Ringside announcers, referees, even shady promoter types get their own figures. And best of all, there is a set of wrestling rings with props including folding chairs, breakaway tables, and other things to throw or be thrown into. Quite a few older legends are represented in vintage. Mattel also offers a series of wearable championship belts so kids can strut their stuff before and after matches.

The massive crossover appeal of stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena have certainly boosted WWE’s popularity of late. Cena, in addition to increasing his profile in movies (some of them definitely adult fare), has also appeared in various animated shows aimed at kids. As long as the sport continues to entertain, Mattel will continue to fuel kids’ imaginations.

mattel wwe cage match