Growing up, we’ve all had a time when something special and niche that we loved becomes officially mainstream and becomes a little less cool. It might be your favorite band that finally has a huge hit album. It might just be a great little movie you discovered getting a big Hollywood remake. The sad reality is that with anything smart and successful, it’s virtually inevitable that something bigger will take over and spoil everything good about it.
For fans of the Mondo collection brandit was one of the first thoughts when the poster, vinyl and toy company was bought by Funko in June 2022. There aren’t many brands in the collectible space these days bigger than funko. It’s a name synonymous with having something for everyone and being available everywhere. Which is basically the reverse of Mondo. Mondo products are generally limited and available in one location. That’s a big part of making them cool.
When San Diego Comic-Con 2022 was originally announced, Mondo—which was then owned by Alamo Drafthouse—was on the west side of the convention hall, surrounded by small shops and dealers. But after it was acquired by Funko, it was moved to the other side of the convention, part of a huge booth called Funkoville, which included several storefronts for Funko’s brands, huge photo ops and a area that dwarfed every other stand on the floor.
I have collect Mondo posters since about 2008. At first I bought them online or at special events, and eventually it turned into a queue for exhibitions and gallery conventions. I’ve been collecting Funko for a while too, most commenting celebrates their decimation in 2015. But the brands feel so diametrically opposed to each other that when I was offered to speak to Funko CEO Andrew Perlmutter at Comic-Con, I had to find out why his massive brand acquired this little one in Mondo, and what it meant to both of them. Read our conversation below.
Germain Lussier, io9: I’ve been a fan of Mondo and Funko for a long time, but when I heard that you had acquired Mondo, I thought: “It’s a very weird marriage”, because it’s obviously pop culture, but Mondo is such a niche thing, and Funko is very, very mainstream. So to start, I just want to know how it went?
Andrew Perlmutter: We have been admirers of the Mondo brand for many years, for the same reason as you. They make great products [there’s] a very unique look and feel to their products. And so we have admired them for a long time. We always have conversations with various brands that we admire. And so, when the opportunity arose to potentially be able to have a conversation about acquiring them and bringing them into our portfolio of brands, we took full advantage of it. We had a conversation and we decided that Funko would be a really good home for them and they agreed. So it was mutual. They were very excited about it.
And I think the most important thing for someone like you who is a Mondo fan is that our goal is to build the Mondo brand. Our goal is not to turn Mondo into Funko. That’s not what we do. Because you are right. We have an opening price, low entry in collectibles. That’s what Funko does. Not only do we do it at a good price, but we do it for 1,100 different licensees.
io9: Exactly. Yes.
Perlmutter: So we’re going a mile wide, and sometimes an inch deep, which is why we’re still here and it’s going so well because we don’t have to optimize every SKU. So with Mondo it’s a completely different proposition and we know that and are happy to help them grow in different ways. Could we put Mondo in every Wal-Mart store tomorrow? Yes. are we going? No. It will not happen. We see Mondo as an opportunity for growth globally and also do our direct-to-consumer sales, continue to grow our direct-to-consumer business through Mondo[shop].com.
io9: That’s great to hear. Now, when I asked a bunch of Mondo fans online what they wanted to know about this new property, the bottom line was licensing. As you said, you have access to almost all licenses. I’m sure there’s no license you couldn’t acquire if you wanted to. Maybe one or two. Mondo, when it comes to their posters, sometimes there are issues with that. They can’t get all the licenses, there are like rights issues, they need approval for all the credits. Fans want to know if being owned by Funko will make it easier for them? Is that something you talked to them about?
Perlmutter: Yes. I would say one of the benefits for Mondo, for the Mondo brand, of partnering with Funko is the idea that we’re able to help them with some of the things that were difficult for them to unlock as a small, niche company . Of course, we work closely with the licensors. Licensors enjoy working with Funko. So we think there will be some unlocks to do there. Some things like resemblance will always be an issue, right? And so I can’t say that we have a magic bullet for the resemblance. But I can say that whether it’s expanding the ability to access different licenses or unlocking some things that have been a barrier for them, I believe we can help them.
io9: Yeah, I guess with Funko Pops you don’t really have to worry about lookalike, do you?
Perlmutter: No. We had conversations about it. We never have to worry about it but it does come up every once in a while that’s why I’m saying I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for this for posters but I think we have l ear of many of our licensing partners who are ready to have conversations.
io9: One of the things that Mondo did so well, and that Covid really hurt, was in-person events. They had a gallery, they had MondoConthey had detective films, is that the stuff you’re hoping to bring back?
Perlmutter: Absolutely. You know, it’s so central to our DNA. We love interacting with our fans. So you can see more.
io9: Where do you see Mondo in the next five years?
Perlmutter: I would say that as you would, you will see an expansion of their licenses that they are working on and I think we will try to make it easier for international Mondo fans to acquire the products.
io9: Yes, sometimes they can only ship to certain countries.
Perlmutter: It’s so expensive too. And we have distribution in all those places. So if we can locate inventory closer to fans, they’ll pay a lot less for shipping. We therefore believe that there are opportunities for growth on a global scale. Of course we will help grow Mondo[shop].com. Funko.com has just been named one of the fastest growing e-commerce websites in the collectibles industry, which is very exciting for us, by Newsweek. And so we think there are a lot of synergies to help develop them. But again, cultivate the Mondo Mark. It’s important to us and making sure the brand continues to thrive because that’s what we’ve acquired. I mean, we could have done high-end collectibles. We could have made posters. We could have done, probably, vinyl. I do not know. But it wouldn’t have been Mondo. And that’s what was important to us.
io9: Mondo started with posters and continued to expand into vinyl, toys, games, do you see this expansion continuing?
Perlmutter: Absolutely, yeah. And, just like us, we keep our eyes peeled for what makes sense. For example, do we make Mondo shower curtains? Probably not. But when there are expansion opportunities and it will serve Mondo fans, then we will look into it.
io9: We talked about what Funko can do for Mondo, but what can Funko learn from Mondo?
Perlmutter: We can learn a lot from Mondo, can’t we? Like what an incredible brand. I think the way they present their products is something we can learn from. Again, we have a different demographic. We’re kind of talking about two different ends of the spectrum when it comes to pricing. But I mean, they just do such… It’s art. They make beautiful works of art. So yeah, I think they could teach us as much as we could teach them.
io9: As a fan, this is all very nice to hear. I know a lot of fans were just thinking “We don’t want Mondo posters with Funko Pops on them.”
Perlmutter: We neither. Like I said, we don’t want Mondo to be distributed the same way Funko is distributed. We don’t want Pop posters. We could do it ourselves. We are not interested. So we don’t want to, like, take album covers and turn them into Pop covers. It’s not, so don’t worry.
io9: Last thing. With Mondo, because everything tends to be so limited, it means the brand forces people to line up. It’s all about queuing. Funko also has lines but you also do lotteries and I know that this year at Comic-Con a lot of fans were really disappointed that when Mondo moved in with Funko it became a lot harder to win the lottery than to just line up for a poster. Is this something that will continue or will you perhaps reconsider?
Perlmutter: I think we will continue to evaluate it. The idea is that we want to make sure that we have this portfolio of brands together and we want to give access to as many people as possible. So we will continue to evaluate it as we move forward. Maybe there is an opportunity to have a specific line for Mondo.
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