Growing up, we’ve all had a moment where something special and niche we loved officially goes mainstream and becomes a bit less cool. Maybe it’s your favourite band finally having a massive hit album. Maybe it’s an awesome little movie you discovered getting a big Hollywood remake. The sad fact is, with anything smart and successful, it’s all but inevitable that something bigger will take it over and ruin everything good about it.
For fans of the collectible brand Mondo, that was among the initial thoughts when the poster, vinyl, and toy company was purchased by Funko in June 2022. These days, there aren’t many brands in the collectible space bigger than Funko. It’s a name synonymous with having something for everyone and being available everywhere. Which is basically the inverse of Mondo. Mondo products are usually limited and available in only one place. That’s a huge part of made them cool.
When San Diego Comic-Con 2022 was initially announced, Mondo — which was then owned by Alamo Drafthouse — was on the West side of the convention floor, surrounded by fellow small shops and dealers. But after it was acquired by Funko, it got moved to the complete opposite side of the convention, part of a massive booth called Funkoville, which was comprised of multiple store fronts for Funko’s brands, huge photo ops, and a square footage that dwarfed every other booth on the floor.
I’ve been collecting Mondo posters since about 2008. At first I’d buy them online or at special events, and eventually that turned into lining up for gallery shows and conventions. I’ve been collecting Funko for a while too, most famously commenting on their decimation in 2015. But the brands just feel so diametrically opposed from one and other that, when offered a chance to talk to the CEO of Funko, Andrew Perlmutter, at Comic-Con, I had to find out why his massive brand acquired this smaller one in Mondo, and what it meant for both. Read our conversation below.
Germain Lussier, Gizmodo: I’ve been a fan of both Mondo and Funko for a long time but when I heard you’d acquired Mondo I thought “That’s a very weird marriage,” because obviously it’s all pop culture but Mondo is such a niche thing, and Funko is is very, very mainstream. So to start I’d just love to hear how this happened?
Andrew Perlmutter: We’ve been admirers of the Mondo brand for many years, for the same reason you are. They make beautiful products, [there’s] a very unique look and feel to their products. And so we’ve admired them for a long time. We are always having conversations with various brands that we admire. And so when the opportunity came up that we could potentially have a conversation about acquiring them and bring them into our portfolio of brands, we took full advantage of that. 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 somebody like you who’s a Mondo fan is 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’re right. We have an opening price point, low entry into collectibles. That’s what Funko does. Not only do we do it at a good price point, but we do it for 1,100 different licensees.
Gizmodo: Exactly. Yes.
Perlmutter: So we go a mile wide, and sometimes an inch deep, which is why we’re still around and everything’s doing so well because we we don’t have to optimise every SKU. So with Mondo, it’s a completely different proposition and we know that and we’re excited about helping them grow in different ways. Could we put Mondo in every Wal-Mart store tomorrow? Yes. Are we going to? No. That’s not going to happen.We think of Mondo as an opportunity to grow globally and also do our direct to consumer, continue to build our direct to Consumer business through Mondo[shop].com.
Gizmodo: That great to hear. Now, when I asked a group of Mondo fans online what they wanted to know about this new ownership, the main thing was licenses. Like you said, you have access to almost every licence. I’m sure there’s not a licence you couldn’t acquire if you wanted to. Maybe one or two. Mondo, in regards to their posters, sometimes there are issues with that. They can’t get every licence, there are likeness rights issues, they need approval on all credits. Fans want to know if being owned by Funko is going to make that easier for them? Is that something you’ve talked to them about?
Perlmutter: Yes. I would say that one of the benefits to Mondo, to the Mondo brand, of partnering with Funko is the idea that we are able to help them with certain things that were hard for them to unlock as a small niche company. Obviously we work very closely with the licensors. The licensors like working with Funko. So we think there’ll be some unlocks to be had there. Certain things like likeness will always be a problem, right? And so I can’t say that we’ve got a silver bullet for likeness. But I can say that whether it’s the expansion of opportunity to access differnet licenses or if its the unlocking of certain things that have been a hurdle for them, I believe that we can help them.
Gizmodo: Yeah I guess with Funko Pops, you don’t really have to worry about likeness right?
Perlmutter: No. We’ve had conversations around that. We never have to worry about it, but it does get brought up every once in a while, which is why I’m saying I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for that for the posters, but I think that we’ve got the ear of a lot of our licensing partners who are open to having conversations.
Gizmodo: One of the things that Mondo did so well, and Covid really hurt, was in-person events. They had a gallery, they had MondoCon, they had mystery movies, is this stuff that you’re hoping to bring back?
Perlmutter: Absolutely. You know, it’s so core to our DNA. We love interacting with our fans. So you can look at more of that.
Gizmodo: Where do you see Mondo in the next five years?
Perlmutter: I would say that like you would, you will see an expansion of their licenses that they’re working off of and I think we’re going to try to make it easier for the international fans of Mondo to acquire the products.
Gizmodo: Yeah, sometimes they can only ship to certain countries.
Perlmutter: It’s so expensive too. And we’ve got distribution in all those places. So if we can locate the inventory closer to the fans, they’ll pay a lot less for shipping. So we think there’s opportunities to grow globally. Obviously, we’re going to help grow Mondo[shop].com. Funko.com was just named one of the fastest growing e-commerce websites in the collectible industry, which is super exciting to us, by Newsweek. And so we think that there’s a lot of synergies to help grow them. But again, grow the Mondo brand. That’s important to us and make sure that the brand continues to thrive because that’s what we acquired. I mean, we could have made high end collectibles. We could have made posters. We could have made, probably, vinyl. I don’t know. But it wouldn’t have been Mondo. And that’s what was important to us.
Gizmodo: Mondo started with posters and has continued to expand into vinyl, toys, games, do you see that expansion continuing?
Perlmutter: Absolutely, yeah. And, just like us, we’ve got our eye open on what makes sense. Like, are we do Mondo shower curtains? Probably not. But when there are opportunities to expand and it services the Mondo fans, then we’ll look at it.
Gizmodo: We’ve talked about what Funko can do for Mondo but what can Funko learn from Mondo?
Perlmutter: We can learn a a lot from Mondo, right? Like what an amazing brand. I think the way that they present their products is something that we can learn from. Again, we’ve got a different demographic. We’re sort of speaking to two different ends of the spectrum as far as price points concern. But I mean, they just make such…It’s artwork. They make beautiful artwork. So yeah, I think they could teach us as much as we could teach them.
Gizmodo: As a fan, this is all very great to hear. I know a lot of fans were just thinking “We don’t want Mondo posters with Funko Pops on them.”
Perlmutter: We don’t either. Like I like I said, we don’t want Mondo distributed in the same way that Funko is distributed. We don’t want Pop posters. We could do that ourselves. That is not interesting to us. So we don’t want to, like, take the album covers and turn them into Pop covers. That’s not happening, so don’t worry.
Gizmodo: Last thing. With Mondo, because everything tends to be so limited, that means the brand requires people wait in line. It’s all about waiting in line. Funko has lines too, but you also do lotteries and I know this year at Comic-Con, a lot of the fans were really disappointed that when Mondo has moved in with Funko its become much harder to win a lottery than to just line up for a poster. Is that something that will continue or will you possibly reconsider?
Perlmutter: I think we’re going continue to evaluate it. The idea is we want to make sure that we’ve got this portfolio of brands together and we want to give as much people access as we can. So we’ll continue to evaluate it as we move forward. Maybe there’s an opportunity to just have a specific line for Mondo.
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