This post is largely reworked from comments I wrote for Firefly confirmed for “Funko Legacy 6″ line (and ReAction as well).” It got me thinking about Funko’s ReAction as a style and brand, not just a set of remolded Kenner protoypes (speaking of, here’s CollectionDX’s review of the Alien ReAction figures). Super7 originally developed the toys, but then Funko bought both the Alien figures and the “ReAction” style and brand from Super7.
PGPoA staff member Nemo Eight expressed doubt that ReAction’s appeal would extend beyond the Alien prototypes, at least for non-1980s properties like Firefly:
I’m both surprised and not surprised about the Re-Action stuff. Honestly, I think that Funko is WAY overestimating the appeal of those figures based on the huge response ALIEN got. I think it’s a big mistake to do anything from after 1992 in the style, especially at the beginning of that range ESPECIALLY when you have the accurate 6″ figures coming 6-8 months later. [...] I’m certainly open to Re-Action but psychologically they need to hook the audience on wish fulfillment for properties we’ve grew up with and never had (or never had “proper”) toys from – ALIEN, Back to the Future, Goonies, Escape From New York, etc. Those are movies OF that era. Firefly and Buffy… those are 90s properties and don’t make a whole lot of sense going backwards in nostalgia.
I think the distinction I would make is that the nostalgia is focused on the property, not the “vintage Kenner figure” style. I think Funko’s idea is that the figures’ style isn’t to be viewed as “vintage Kenner-style as opposed to modern figures” but rather its own retro style.
Put another way, the target audience for ReAction shouldn’t be modern action figure collectors or even nostalgic fans of vintage action figures, but rather (and I hate to use this word but it’s the best shorthand I can think of) hipster-ish fans of those properties. These figures should be sold at Hot Topic and Newbury Comics. ReAction might be best marketed like POP or Mighty Muggs or Mattel’s recent MOTU Minis – novelty items, not collector-oriented action figure lines. I think Nemo Eight is probably right that the 1980s-era properties will do better than the post-1990 ones, at least initially. Can Funko successfully divorce the retro-Kenner style from the era in consumers’ minds?
The only similar endeavor I can think of are all the Mego-style figures that have been done for modern properties, but I don’t think those aren’t a great example. Mego figures have unique attributes that are going to turn people off in a way Kenner-style figures won’t. For many people (especially casual consumers) fabric=doll.* Mego figures are relatively large and tend to have loose joints and other issues relating to rubber-bands, which is another reason I generally avoid them. Perhaps most significantly, many more of today’s adults owned Kenner Star Wars figures than owned Mego figures. Star Wars was a phenomenon and arguably touched off modern geek culture, and the toys are intimately entwined with its pop culture legacy (just think of Elliot showing E.T. his Star Wars figures).
That said, here’s a thought experiment: let’s say someone makes a new 5″ DC Comics toy line in the squat, over-the-top-muscled style of vintage Masters of the Universe/Remco. The outfits are modern but the style is vintage. Would that be appealing, or ridiculous?
To wrap up, will the ReAction concept prove successful? My initial response to the idea was a big yes – doing retro-style 3.75″ figures, with their cheap sculpts and basic articulation, seemed like a no-brainer and I couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to anyone before. Nemo Eight thinks the figures look terrible and outside of the novelty of having been Kenner prototypes, the Alien ReAction figures have little appeal and the concept will fail for all but popular 1980s “might have been” licenses like Goonies and Back to the Future. But JoshB of CollectionDX tells me he’ll buy every single ReAction figure Funko makes (though he added he thinks a great deal of the appeal lies in the retro packaging, and that from now on he’ll probably display them all on his wall on their cards).
After some reflection, I think the figures will appeal to both casual consumers and action figure collectors. Casual buyers will enjoy tossing a figure or two up on their desk as a kind of novelty item. Some action figure collectors, through a combination of natural interest, nostalgia and sheer compulsion (we’re called collectors for a reason), will get sucked in as well.
However, appeal and success aren’t always the same thing. The major limiting factor here is the price point. $15 is too much for these when a super-articulated G.I. Joe or Marvel Universe figure won’t run you more than $10. If Funko can get it down to $12 or even better, $10, I think the ReAction brand could do quite well for them.
*For me, fabric=looks terrible on sub-12″ action figures, is perishable, and is difficult to clean.