I’m not the sort of person who really loves to spend my time thinking about and talking about things I dislike. It’s not for any moral reason, I just feel like being overly negative about things isn’t very productive, and if I’m honest, there’s not a lot of stuff out there that I truly hate but I still want to put my time and energy into. If there’s something I don’t like for reasons that I feel are interesting, or if I like something but dislike aspects of it, that’s different, but overall I see no productive reason to spend my time on this blog ranting.
Today, however, will be a little different.
You see, I am no stranger to the world of collectible toys. I have an entire shelf of Generation 1 My Little Ponies that faces my bed, and I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Tokidoki Unicornos and other blind-box collectible figurines meant to be opened, admired, and then put on a shelf for the world to see. I get the need to surround yourself with things that make you happy, even if those things happen to be made of plastic and usually associated with kids.
But guys… Funko Pops are the worst.
I understand that there is a dedicated community of people who love them, and collect them, and have shelves and shelves of them, and let me make it clear that I don’t mean this post to be vitriolic towards these people. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. I’m sure many of these people could make similar posts on my beloved ponies, and it would all be good, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
But I also must be true to myself and say what I think, and what I think is that Funko Pops are one of the worst toy lines out there. In fact, they may be one of the worst things out there. In my opinion, their very existence makes the world a worse place to be. I hope this post will be able to elegantly communicate my points in a way that might make even the most devoted Funko fan chuckle a bit. But I guess, if not, sorry?
I will be organizing my thoughts into several categories, starting with the most important reason I hate these things:
Many of the reasons I despise these cursed pieces of plastic come down to the design. Even if all the other aspects of Funko Pops remained the same, I think if they changed the design to something more palatable, I might be able to make peace with their existence. I might even be motivated to pick up a few myself. But as it is, Funko Pops represent the worst in collectible toy design I think I’ve ever seen.
Now, to be fair, I’ve never been much of a fan of the “chibi” style they’re based on. Chibi is a simplistic art style that uses huge heads and eyes alongside tiny bodies to emphasize cuteness. It’s a popular style for anime and Western cartoons alike, because it capitalizes on all of the design tropes that make for cute, irresistible characters. But, personally, it’s just never been my cup of tea.
I think it all comes down to the fact that the “cuteness” of chibi hasn’t really captured me since I was, like, a middle schooler. In general, I think there are more interesting and diverse ways to make a character look appealing than to just lean hard on the cuteness button. In fact, I think this over-emphasis on cute proportions can actually have the opposite effect on a design. The lack of diversity in many chibi styles and limited range of expression due to the de-emphasis of body language and body diversity is often boring at best and downright ugly at worst.
I do think the style can be done well, and has in some product lines (particularly in the case of Nendoroids), and I think the key to that is remembering that body shape and “cutesy” proportions are not the sole keys to an appealing design. Nendoroids, despite their chibi style, have a wide range of expression and poses, and offer a lot of design diversity.
To be fair, this is through having replaceable and movable parts, which makes them quite a bit more expensive than your average Funko Pop, but I also think it has to do with their expressive faces and careful proportions – the heads are big, but not too big, and their faces seem naturally-sized to fit.
Comparing the Nendoroid Miku to the Funko Pop Miku really illustrates the weaknesses of the Funko design, in my eyes. You can really see how much bigger Funko heads are, leading to a lot less capability for interesting poses. Plus, their faces have so much less detail.
But even without comparison, I just hate the design sense of Funko Pops in general. Their faces in particular boggle my mind. The usual aim of chibi designs is to put emphasis on the character’s face, which means a lot of chibi designs can put a lot of detail in there, but Funko opts to simplify the face to a point where the emphasis is all for naught. Why do I want to look at the huge, soulless bug eyes of a Funko? They would honestly be so much cuter if their heads were more proportional to their bodies, drawing my eye away from their overly-simplistic faces. Or, give them pupils, for goodness sakes! Put some life in those eyes.
Also, the face is just way too small for the size of the head. With no mouth and a tiny nose, even the large size of the eyes isn’t enough to fill the fleshy rectangular expanse of the head, meaning that all that space isn’t even being put to any sort of interesting use.
As a final point, I want to draw everyone’s attention to the Funko’s feet. Now, this doesn’t seem like such a problem when you’re just looking at a picture of one, but imagine that the Funko is a real object that wants to sit on a shelf. Can you imagine any obstacles to this purpose caused by the design?
Ding-ding-ding! You got it! Funko Pops are massively top-heavy. Now, I know some actually do come with stands, but strangely enough, this is not consistent. In preliminary research, I found that inexplicably some Funkos just don’t come with stands, leading to the creation of many YouTube guides on how to MacGyver a method to keep them standing, but… guys. Guys. These things were made to be shelf displays. Don’t you think the first thing you’d want in a product meant to be put on a shelf is the ability to stand on its own (or with an included – always included – stand?) It just doesn’t make any sense!
The Waste Factor
Now Gillian, you might be saying, you make a lot of fine points about the design (thank you), but there are so many badly-designed toy lines out there! What is it about Funko Pops that causes you to so openly hate them? What have they ever done to you?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Because that leads us into a huge reason why Funko Pops grind my gears so much.
They take up so much space.
Probably because they are popular (I assume? I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen anyone buy one, but I would assume) and also probably because there are so many different kinds of them, it seems like any time a store carries Funkos, they have to devote a whole entire wall to them. It feels like big Funko has mandated any store that carries their product has to stack them, like, fifty rows high. Plus, there are all those special edition… playsets, I guess, that have extra-big boxes, requiring even more space.
Which means that if you, a humble vintage My Little Pony collector, will be digging through boxes at your local vintage toy store, and when all you find are a few scattered Generation Fours, some 35th Anniversary ponies in boxes, and one actual Generation One who’s so battered and beaten that when you shake her she rattles, it feels bad to turn around and see a fortress of Funkos built behind you.
Now, that isn’t Funko Pop’s fault, exactly. But the amount of space they take up always feels like overkill compared to the space allotted for any other product. And as I said, while I assume they are popular, I don’t see enough people buying them out in the wild that I believe they deserve the amount of space they take up. If they were an online-only sort of deal, or if their displays were a little smaller, maybe I wouldn’t feel so much ire upon seeing them.
And, add on to that the fact that there are now Funko Pop products that aren’t just the toys. Now, not even apparel sections can’t escape the ugly designs, taking up space that could go to more unique or well-designed merchandise.
And that would be enough for me to declare war on the things. But there’s one last reason I despise them, and it’s:
The Missed Opportunities
After I’ve dragged Funko Pops through the mud, you might be surprised to hear that I do think there’s one aspect of them that is quite a neat thing, and that is the extreme diversity of characters and franchises they represent.
I am legitimately surprised by how many Funko Pops there are for so many different types of media and beyond. There are Funkos for books, movies, TV shows, celebrities, comic books, and more, and I’ve often found myself impressed by how willing the brand seems to make products for even less-popular franchises that don’t get much merchandise anyway. Plus, even for well-represented franchises, Funko Pop often makes figures of less-popular and less-represented characters.
But this is a double-edged sword, because, unfortunately, I still hate the way Funko Pops look, so no number of deserving but underrepresented characters or franchises could convince me to purchase one of them. So, I worry that for many franchises, the Funko Pop is all they’re going to get. If you’re a fan of an underrepresented character or franchise, and a Funko Pop gets made of it, that often feels like the only chance it’s ever going to get to get a piece of merchandise.
I can’t know this for sure, but it often feels like Funko Pops are actively contributing to making sure that underrepresented franchises and characters stay underrepresented. It’s a real shame that lesser-known figures might never get any products besides the Funko Pop, because the companies in charge might think that the Funko Pop is all people need.
And that sucks! I feel like Funko Pops are consolation prizes that keep people from being able to find better-made, high-quality merchandise. And sure, that’s not the end of the world, but I can imagine it would suck for fans who don’t like Funko Pops to only have Funko Pop to represent the underrepresented.
But hey, maybe that’s just me. I’m not in charge. And maybe the existence of a Funko Pop is not a deterrent to a company to make other kinds of figures and merch of certain characters. But it still feels a little hollow when I see a Funko Pop of a cool character and think, “Is that the only thing we’re gonna get?”
Anyway, rant over. I got it all off my chest. To all the Funko Pop collectors out there, I’m glad you have something that makes you happy, and best of luck in your future collections.
But to all my fellow Funko haters… I know you’re out there… I hope this was as therapeutic for you to read as it was for me to write.
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