Krause Publications
Krause Publications

12 Lesser Known Star Wars Characters That Got Action Figures

Krause Publications
Krause Publications

Every member of modern civilization—from the most casual spectator of the award-winning Star Wars trilogy to those diehard aficionados who’ve memorized even the most banal lines of the original Star Wars films—will recognize Chewbacca and Yoda, Greedo or a random Sand Person, and even a diminutive Jawa or the odd furry Ewok. But what about some of the lesser known Star Wars characters from the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) whose toys could be found hanging on retail pegs across the country for nearly a decade?

Although the screen time for many of the following bipedal, humanoid creatures was often quite limited, children and collectors alike have always shared an affinity for these curious aliens. Whether these singular beings busied themselves downing an intergalactic beverage at Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina in A New Hope or played the role of resident toady/sycophant in Jabba the Hutt’s throne room in The Return of the Jedi, there were a few oddballs that the Kenner toy company manufactured during the heyday of one of the most revered toy franchises in the history of the medium.

All of the following information is gleaned from my latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars: 1977-1985, on sale at finer retailers everywhere in the known galaxy.

1. Amanaman

The Toy: Released by Kenner for their highly-prized Power of the Force assortment in 1985, Amanaman’s action figure sports the appearance of a withered flatworm holding a wooden stick chock full of skulls. However, according to the Star Wars Expanded Universe (as of April 14, 2014, indicated by the non-canonical Star Wars Legends banner), this peculiar alien was in actuality a far more complex character.

The Character: As one member of the primitive Amanin species from the woodland world of Maridun, the male Amani known as Amanaman was a bounty hunter who exhibited precisely the same physical traits as the rest of his sentient race: terribly long arms, elongated lithe fingers, short stubby legs, the aforementioned body resembling that of a giant planarian (similar to a flatworm), and wrinkled yellow skin on the front of his body—with a dark green hood that ran from the tip of his head to the top of his short legs. To keep their skin moist and protect them against predation, Amanin secreted a poisonous slime all over their craggy epidermis. Further planetary adaptations included a pair of tiny red eyes that allowed them to see well in darkness (since Maridun was a dimly-lit sphere), a mouth full of sharp teeth with an elongated tongue to aid the species in consuming game, a keen sense of smell for the sake of tracking prey, and a redundant system of organs—multiple organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, and brain (which is full of multiple nerve clusters) that allowed the Amanin to survive near-fatal injuries with relative ease.

Furthermore, Amanin had two different modes of transportation: brachiation—using their long arms and thin fingers to swing from branch to branch in the forest canopy like Tarzan, and ground rolling—manipulating their flexible body into a ball that allowed them to roll at very high speeds: up to 50 kilometers per hour over level surfaces.

Like the rest of his species, Amanaman’s reputation as a “head hunter” was well-founded due to his Amanin tendency to collect the heads of victims as souvenirs. Amanaman was regularly found at Jabba’s Palace, where he sported a fear-provoking staff decorated with three of his favorite victims’ heads, while he dragged a decapitated, desiccated corpse behind him; the corpse was not included with his action figure.

2. Squid Head/Tessek

The Toy: With a long, nicely textured desert cloak, cream-colored moisture-retaining robe, a broad yet pliable silver “Vand” belt worn around his midriff, and a gray DH-17 blaster pistol, the quick-witted Quarren known as Squid Head was one of the more interesting and detailed action figures offered in Kenner’s first wave of Return of the Jedi action figures in 1983.

The Character: As a Quarren, Squid Head was one member of several fascinating species hailing from the planet Dac (dubbed “Mon Calamari,” “Calamari,” or “Mon Cala” by offworlders), where the Quarren were sentient aquatics that inhabited their planet’s ocean-covered surface. Sporting squid-like heads (hence the figure’s nickname), leathery skin that required moisture for maintenance, suction-tipped fingers, a small mouth with two fangs/teeth protruding outward with a long tongue between them, and four (or more) prehensile tentacles that could manipulate food, Quarren were odd looking creatures. With two holes on the sides of the neck most likely for breathing purposes, two sac-like organs that hung on the back of their heads (for reasons unknown), and two triangular flaps that jut out from the sides of their heads with built-in gills that assist in the hearing process, the Quarrens have an exceptionally unique physiology. Furthermore, as aquatic creatures, they could descend to depths of 300 meters without use of breathing apparatus.

The Quarren male known as Tessek was once a supporter of the Republic, but when the Galactic Empire invaded his home planet, he escaped the conflict. Always a crafty opportunist with conflicting loyalties, Tessek would find his way to the desert planet of Tatooine—a world largely ignored by the Empire—where he joined the court of interplanetary gangster Jabba Desilijic Tiure as his accountant. Although miserable on Tatooine due to the effect of the planet’s blistering heat on his delicate skin (he needed to soak in a tub for many hours a day) and the fact that his master was an abusive sociopath, Tessek hatched a complex scheme to kill the Hutt crime lord. Though he successfully avoided death when Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa destroyed Jabba’s large sail skiff and all of the entities aboard the Khetanna, the accountant would meet his doom a bit later.

Upon returning to the palace after Jabba’s death, Tessek’s brain was (forcibly) removed from his body, and placed into the mechanical frame of a B’omarr Monk—essentially becoming a member of the B’omarr Order. As a mysterious religious organization which believed cutting oneself off from all physical sensation was the only way to achieve enlightenment, the B’omarr Monks allowed their brains to be detached from their corporeal bodies, and the disembodied brains of the order’s members were placed into specially modified BT-16 perimeter droids and left to ponder the mysteries of the cosmos.

3. Hammerhead/Momaw Nadon

The Toy: Concocting an action figure that appeared nothing like his film manifestation, Hammerhead was one of the first four alien toys (apart from Chewbacca the Wookiee, the Sand People, and the Jawas) created by Kenner during the second wave of Star Wars product solicited in late 1978.

Considered highly offensive by the Ithorian race, the derogatory nickname of “Hammerhead” was sometimes applied to a lone member of the mammalian, herbivorous, sentient species of creatures hailing from Ithor. With two mouths located on the side of his neck, four throats (affording Ithorians the ability to speak “in stereo” or to let out a destructively concussive scream), glossy brown skin, and slightly slow reflexes, Kenner’s Hammerhead action figure essentially portrays the form of an average, fully grown male Ithorian.

Kenner’s designers had little more than stock photos of the four cantina patron’s masks available to them from Lucasfilm. The artists had to construct the bodies of Hammerhead, Greedo, Snaggletooth, and Walrus Man from the waist down without any reference photos whatsoever. The result: a Hammerhead figure without his staff, and with boldly incorrect colors and uniform details.

The Character: Possessing a long, curved neck and T-shaped head reminiscent of Earth's hammerhead sharks, Hammerhead was actually the name Kenner Toys gave to Momaw Nadon—an Ithorian high priest (of the floating city of Tafanda Bay) who was exiled upon revealing his planet’s agricultural secrets to the Galactic Empire in order to prevent further destruction to his homeworld. Although Nadon saved Ithor from devastation, the Ithorian Elders punished him for his sacrilege through exile. Therefore, “Hammerhead” settled on Tatooine, and was seeking respite in Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina (aka the Mos Eisley Cantina) when Luke Skywalker and Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi were searching for a ship to provide them passage to the planet of Alderaan in A New Hope.

4. Walrus Man/Ponda Baba (Sawkee)

The Toy: Although vintage toy collectors know this distinctive Kenner action figure as Walrus Man (since the alien’s face resembles a tusked walrus), in the larger Star Wars mythos the character’s proper name is Ponda Baba (aka Sawkee)—an appellation utilized for the character in every version of the toy produced by Hasbro since they bought the license in 1995, beginning with their Power of the Force II line.

The Character: As a character, this pirate/smuggler owed much of his bad humor to his species’ innate ill temper. As a member of the Aqualish race from the planet Ando—a class of amphibious, tusked bipeds who were renowned across the galaxy for their disagreeable manner and belligerence—Baba possessed characteristics of both pinnipeds (i.e., seals, sea lions) and arachnids (spiders, scorpions), a truly bizarre physical amalgamation. The fact that Baba’s walrus-like facial tusks curved downwards over his mouth like a spider only further reinforced this peculiar, frightening combination.

Baba and his partner, infamous sociopathic surgeon Dr. Evazan (who “has the death sentence on 12 systems”) were eventually pursued by bounty hunters due to their illicit ventures. Fearing for their lives, Baba and Evazan holed up on the Outer Rim world of Tatooine, eager to escape prosecution. During their exile—and while patronizing Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina—the two criminals encountered a young moisture farmer and his wizened old mentor. Although Luke Skywalker and Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi were non-confrontational, Baba and Evazan bullied the humans regardless. Kenobi tried to diffuse the situation, yet Evazan egged on the dim-witted (and possibly drunk) Baba, who assaulted the younger of the two humans. The veteran Jedi Knight engaged Baba in melee combat, slicing off Walrus Man’s right arm during the fracas.

Oddly enough, a continuity error exists within Walrus Man’s lone scene in A New Hope. Ponda Baba’s arms end with finned appendages before his combat with Ben Kenobi, yet after Obi-Wan cuts off the creature’s arm, Baba’s hand appears distinctly furry when it is observed lying on the cantina floor. Perhaps this incident inspired West End Games’ postulation that there are two different species of Aqualish “…easily recognized by the configuration of their hands… [one was] a cupped, fin-like hand, with no fingers, and only a stubbed opposable thumb. The other … by five-fingered, fur covered, claw-like hands.”

5. Ugnaught

The Toy: Although they appeared only in brief bursts throughout the narrative of The Empire Strikes Back on Bespin’s Cloud City, the Ugnaughts provided Kenner with yet another opportunity to craft a figure based upon a diminutive alien race, with a couple of interesting accessories to boot: a blue (or sometimes purple) fabric apron/smock, and a white, hard plastic toolkit.

The Character: Sporting the slightly-upturned snout of a short-statured porcine, tusked humanoid, three tribes of the creatures known as Ugnaughts were brought to Cloud City by an eccentric explorer (Lord Ecclessis Figg) to help build the manufacturing plant many generations ago—where, in return, they had free reign of the facility and were honorably represented in Cloud City’s Parliament of Guilds. Found working within the processing plants of the outpost, they assisted in the production of tibanna gas—a valuable natural element excreted by immensely-large, gas-filled creatures known as “beldons.” Most importantly, the tibanna vapors were utilized as a heating fuel by weapons manufacturers to power blasters or other offensive weapons such as explosives. The Ugnaughts would process this gas then package it for transport off-world in carbonite bricks or blocks; these diminutive workers certainly kept Lando Calrissian in the black.

Ugnaughts were sold into slavery many generations ago (and thanks to added machiantions of evil Separatist leader and Supreme Commander of the Droid Army, General Grievous) before the rise of the Galactic Empire, and were stolen en masse from their volcano-dotted, swampy homeworld of Gentes. They were targeted by slavers due to their intelligence, loyalty, high level of resistance to the elements, long lifespans (maxing out at 200 years), and ability to work for long periods of time at their “blood profession”—a trade taught to Ugnaught children (aka Ugletts) by their parents, and one they would pursue until their deaths.

6. Nien Nunb

The Toy: Originally solicited as a mail-away offer on the back of Kenner’s very first Return of the Jedi action figure package (ROTJ 48-A card back), the alien known as Nien Nunb was also offered as part of the first wave of Kenner’s Return of the Jedi action figures as well.

The Character: Fighting alongside the Rebel Alliance, Nien Nunb was featured in Return of the Jedi during the Battle of Endor, where the former smuggler functioned as Lando Calrissian’s first mate aboard the borrowed Millennium Falcon, and helped to discharge the ordnance which destroyed the superstructure of the (rebuilt) second Death Star.

It was Nunb who essentially fired the shot(s) that put an end to the reign of the Galactic Empire.

As a Sullustan (a species of “Near-Humans”), Nien Nunb—sporting his species’ trademark small ears and facial dewflaps—was raised in the subterranean caves of his homeworld on the planet Sullust, which possessed a toxic upper atmosphere yet a mineral-rich outer crust that forced the Sullustans underground, inhabiting a maze of myriad tunnels. Their below-ground existence afforded the members of this race an uncanny ability to see in the dark (to read/see up to 20 meters in pitch blackness), as well as a preternatural sense of intuition and direction (e.g., navigating a complex map after viewing it only once) which made them first-rate navigators and pilots for the Alliance.

7. Ree-Yees

The Toy: Ree-Yees is of the most peculiar of all of the aliens designed by Kenner in 1983 for the first wave of their Return of the Jedi product. Besides his odd physical attributes, Ree-Yees sported a peculiar sidearm as well—a gold-covered blaster-staff unique to the toy.

The Character: Ree-Yees (a phoneticism of “Three-Eyes”) was a male Gran—a sentient mammalian humanoid native to the pastoral planet of Kinyen. As a member of the Gran race, Ree-Yees had three eyes mounted on short stalks, a goat-like snout, a stocky build, and other characteristics possessed by earthbound bovids such as an herbivorous diet (Gran enjoyed eating Goatgrass, a local flora found on the plains of Kinyen), and a multi-chambered stomach that digested difficult-to-absorb plant matter like most ruminants. Ree-Yees personally suffered from an uncommon Granian genetic mutation which caused his hands to swell and appear deformed.

Although by-and-large Gran society was peaceful, Ree-Yees was the exception that proved the rule: He was a vicious criminal fleeing prosecution for murder on Kinyen, hiding on the desert planet Tatooine. There, he was featured in many scenes within Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, since he was responsible for taking care of the Hutt’s hideous-looking Frog-dog pet named Bubo (a species of sentient reptile with both frog and dog-like features).

In order to keep Ree-Yees “loyal,” the crafty Hutt crime lord planted a short-range explosive device within Ree-Yees’ body—when Jabba spoke a particular phrase, the Gran would explode to bits. This bomb served two purposes: to murder Ree-Yees if he were disloyal, and to thwart an assassination attempt if a potential killer came too close to Jabba’s resident Frog-dog walker. However, as a result of the abuse and risk involved in attending Jabba during his time at court, Ree-Yees conspired with Tessek to murder their master aboard his large sail skiff, the Khetanna. Unfortunately, Ree-Yees perished when Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa destroyed the Khetanna and all of the sentient beings aboard.

8. Prune Face/Orrimaarko

The Toy: From the picture featured on his toy package to the Kenner action figure itself (released in the second wave of Return of the Jedi offerings), the vintage version of Prune Face would stand out in any Star Wars aficionado’s collection. With his distinctive facial features, long hooded tan cape, green pants, and a brown-colored, 12-round (relatively primitive) projectile rifle with shoulder sling, Prune Face was peculiar indeed.

The Character: A noted leader of his planet’s struggle against Imperial forces, the xenophobic resistance fighter Orrimaarko (nicknamed “Prune Face” due to his characteristic facial qualities) was a member of the Dressellian race—a species of tall, thin, sentient humanoids with wrinkled skin and bulbous, hairless skulls. Although Dressellians originally maintained a peaceful presence in the galaxy, existing in isolation from all other races until the Empire threatened Prune Face’s homeworld, the Imperial threat forced the people of Dressel to reluctantly join the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and eventually, the New Republic.

In conjunction with their old allies, the Bothans (a species of short, furry, humanoid mammalians), Orrimaarko and his Dressellian brethren developed his species’ favored weapon: the Dressellian projectile rifle. Issued with its distinctive sling, this firearm—although considered primitive when compared to the blasters used by Rebel and Imperial soldiers—still packed a wallop. Enough to pierce eve the tough plastoid armor of an Imperial Scout Trooper (aka Biker Scout) with relative ease.

9. Yak Face/Saelt-Marae

The Toy: Yak Face is one of the most sought after of all vintage Star Wars action figures since he was never distributed in the United States. In total, the action figure was only available on two different packages, two different cards with vastly different values. The first and most common was on a Tri-Logo card. This internationally-distributed card is dubbed “Tri-Logo” because there are three Star Wars logos emblazoned on the card front: English, French, and Spanish. Unfortunately, this Tri-Logo version of Yak Face did not come with a silver-plated collector’s coin, just the figure itself. The second package—distributed on a Canadian Power of the Force card—featured only English and French language on the front: “The Power of the Force/Le Pouvoire de la Force” with “SPECIAL Collectors Coin/Piece de Collèction” included. Purchasing this Canadian Power of the Force cardback was the only way to obtain Yak Face’s rare collector’s coin, and the figure was packaged with an accessory as well. More often than not, Yak-Face could be found either with a Palace Blaster (gray or black) or a Bespin Blaster, yet many more times he was found a Skiff Guard battle staff (precisely the same accessory as the one included with Barada).

The Character: Although his character was not given his proper name until the debut of West End Games’ magnificent Star Wars Trilogy Sourcebook, Special Edition, in the Star Wars canon Yak Face is dubbed Saelt-Marae, where the character appeared as a member of Jabba’s court in Return of the Jedi.

As a Yarkora informant and con-man, Marae was a highly-secretive alien and little information is known regarding his formative existence. It is known he was married, spawned at least one child, yet left his family—as did most Yarkorans—to keep engaged in his favorite criminal enterprises, many of which he excelled. As an information broker and confidence trickster, Marae’s large ears, highly sensitive whiskers, and interpersonal intelligence all assisted him in wheedling and divining information out of his wealthy targets almost effortlessly. Although at one point in his career, Marae sold secrets to both the Rebel Alliance and to the Empire, his real profit-making-machine was peddling these tidbits to Jabba Desilijic Tiure—and, therefore, earning the Hutt crime lord’s trust. So valuable was he to Jabba that the gangster kept him on as a member of his court where he was handsomely paid. Posing as a simple-minded merchant, Saelt-Marae sussed out the disparate plots, conspiracies, and subversions conceived by the other members of Jabba’s scheming entourage, and related every nefarious detail to his Hutt master.

Following Jabba’s death aboard the Khetanna, “Yak Face” steals the gangster’s important financial records and goes underground.

Sy Snootles & the Rebo Band

The Toys: The final three entries contain the members of the galactically-renowned Sy Snootles and the Rebo Band, an action figure solicitation which was the first non-exclusive/non re-packaged action figure “set” offered by Kenner for their vintage Star Wars toy line. Comprised of three action figures, a circular organ, two microphone accessories, and a woodwind instrument, this popular set of musicians were denizens of Jabba the Hutt’s ostentatious palace.

10. Droopy McCool (aka Snit)

The Character: With a name utterly incomprehensible to most sentient beings due to its delivery in the manner of a series of sharp whistles, the Kitonak with the alias of “Snit” was born on his homeworld of Kirdo III, yet was sold off planet into servitude by a slaver company. Reaching Orvax IV, Snit was bought by impresario Evar Orbus, the talented lead singer of a popular musical group, Evar Orbus and his Galactic Jizz-Wailers (!!!)—where “Jizz” is an upbeat, optimistic, swinging form of music; “jizz-wailers” are the talented musicians who perform in this style. Paired with his longtime bandmates Max Rebo and Sy Snootles, Snit followed Orbus to the desert planet of Tatooine, where the group pursued a gig at an infamous Wookiee-managed hotpot: Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina (aka. the Mos Eisley Cantina).

Unfortunately, landing an extended engagement at such a significant place as Chalmun’s was both prestigious and dangerous: As soon as they arrived on Tatooine, Evar Orbus was murdered in a melee organized by popular local jizz band and competitors, the Bith group known as Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes—those large-eyed, white-headed musicians who we witness performing at the cantina in A New Hope. Eschewing their promised performances at Chalmun’s, they auditioned for Jabba Desilijic Tiure—Jabba the Hutt—instead, and were awarded exclusive rights to perform at his palace … albeit under a terrible contract.

Snit was a laid-back, casual musician who was quite talented on his chosen instrument—the chidinkalu flute (carved from a hollowed chidinkalu plant), yet early on the Kitonak became dissatisfied with his stage name until Sy Snootles suggested “Droopy McCool,” which he promptly adopted. Possessing an aloof, quasi-mystical behavior, he did not fit in with the rest of Jabba’s court; Droopy was an outsider who spoke to almost no one but Sy for years, until the death of Jabba and most of the nefarious gangster’s entourage at the Battle of Carkoon during The Return of the Jedi. Following this incident, the Max Rebo Band broke up and went their separate ways—with Droopy wandering off into the desert, generating a long-held rumor that he secretly joined a gaggle of other music-playing Kitonians who inhabited Tatooine’s dusty wastes in the Dune Sea.

11. Sy Snootles (aka Mrs. Snooty)

The Character: The sultry, lipsticked Pa’lowick crooner known as Sy Snootles (originally dubbed “Mrs. Snooty” during the production of Return of the Jedi) was a sapient amphibian hailing from the planet of Lowick in the Outer Rim. As a Pa’lowick, Sy Snootles possessed a body shape that was perfectly suited for Lowick’s semi-aquatic environment: lithe arms and legs, powerful lungs, round and husky central masses, stalked eyes, and a long proboscis (not a snout) that ended in a pair of lips. Since storytelling was a prime aspect of Pa’lowick culture, their people wrote songs to satisfy a powerful creative impulse; singing was both a pastime and a sacred ritual.

Sy Snootles was a former part-time bounty hunter, tragic lover and murderer of Jabba the Hutt’s traitorous brother Ziro Desilijic Tiure, and also the lead singer for the Max Rebo Band—for although the group was named after their keyboardist, Sy led them from the shadows, allowing Rebo to attract the unwanted attention garnered by a band leader who travelled in precarious criminal circles. Throughout her tenure in the famous band, she functioned as a double agent for Jabba, feeding his enemies false information provided to her by the crime lord’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna.

After the death of Jabba and most of his entourage during the Battle of Carkoon, Sy Snootles and her bandmates went their separate ways, with Sy devoting her life to minor singing gigs on remote planets within the Outer Rim Territories.

12. Max Rebo (aka Siiruulian Phantele)

The Character: With this poseable figurine, Kenner expertly captured the essence of Siiruulian Phantele, a downy-furred alien and talented musician who went by the stage name of “Max Rebo.” As an Ortolan, Rebo was one member of a species of bipedal pachydermoids (elephant-like humanoids) who possessed trunks, beady black eyes, floppy ears, thick fuzzy skin which resembled hanging blue velvet, and hands that ended in odd suction-cupped fingers (and similarly-adapted toes) which allowed Ortolans to absorb food via these digits … as well as through their mouths.

Ortolans possessed a magnificent sense of hearing that reached into the subsonic range and an advanced sense of smell due to their homeworld’s dearth of available food. As a result, many Ortolans engaged in a lifelong pursuit of both music and food, as chefs and musicians. Hence, Max became a gourmand as well as a world-class organist.

Relative to other Ortolans, Max Rebo was actually quite lithe, yet his obsession with food certainly handicapped his business dealings as a musician, where he played his famous Red Ball Jett Organ (aka. nargalon, a 22-keyed air-powered organ with circular keyboard). Finding work on the planet Tatooine, Max was forced into the position of band leader since the group’s singer and true frontman, Sy Snootles, wished to protect her anonymity (and her very life) when pursuing typical yet deadly underhanded business negotiations. Unfortunately, when engaging a contract with Jabba Desilijic Tiure, Max “sold” the Rebo Band to the infamous Hutt for the promise of an unlimited food supply, yet no monetary compensation whatsoever—a pretty awful contract.

Following Jabba’s death, the three members of the Max Rebo Band separated, with Max himself eventually becoming a wealthy restaurant owner of a number of Max’s Flangth House(s) franchises on eight different worlds—serving the mysterious yet nutritious food known as flangth.

All images courtesy of Krause Publications.

Mohammed Baroon, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Pop Culture
11 Collectible Facts About Funko
Mohammed Baroon, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Mohammed Baroon, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Since 1998, vinyl figure factory Funko has been making it extremely simple to gift the pop culture fan in your life with a small-scale representation of their favorite movie, TV show, or video game. Engineered for maximum cuteness, their Pop! toys adorn million of desks and have inspired a devout following. If you’ve ever wondered about the larger story behind those button eyes and block-shaped heads, check out some facts about Funko’s history, its massive Washington headquarters that's open to fans, and why Tom Cruise may have shot down a chance at plastic immortality.


A Bob's Big Boy bobblehead package

Your familiarity with the Bob’s Big Boy burger franchise may depend on your age and geographical location. The chain’s mascot—a large, pompadour-sporting hamburger server—has become a nostalgic touchstone for many. One of Bob’s fans, Snohomish, Washington native and T-shirt designer Mike Becker, went in search of a collectible but found the vintage figurines on eBay too pricey. Becker realized he could simply buy the Bob’s license and produce his own bobblehead figures, which is exactly what he started doing in 1998. While Becker’s mom wasn’t enthused—she told her son no one was going to want the figure—the Big Boy helped launch Becker's toy venture, which he dubbed Funko.


A Wacky Wobbler bobblehead of the Austin Powers character Fat Bastard

Though Bob’s Big Boy did well, Funko wasn’t a success story out of the gate. Retailers leaving Becker with unpaid invoices cut into profits, and scores of unsold inventory were stacked in his garage. Looking to expand his bobblehead line, Becker put in a cold call to New Line Cinema to see if they had any properties available for license. They did: A sequel to 1997’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was due in 1999, so Becker made a deal for $2500 to produce bobbleheads of Powers and some of the supporting cast. Funko shipped 100,000 of the toys, cementing them as a viable player in the collectibles category.


A bobblehead of a Major League Baseball player

As Funko continued to grow, licensors started seeking out Becker. Some were surprised he had the temerity to turn them down. Major League Baseball teams wanted to license bobbles to hand out during games, but Becker shied away from athletes and their penchant for troublemaking. He preferred to stick with fictional characters and food mascots. “I know Betty Boop isn’t going to get a DUI,” he said. Funko also vetoed offers from Disney—they were very strict in approving designs—as well as from adult film stars.


A Funko Pop! of Skeletor poses with his staff
House of Geekdom, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Having grown tired of the demanding work schedule of his modestly-staffed company, Becker stepped down from Funko in 2005; golfing partner Brian Mariotti took over. In 2009, Mariotti agreed to work with DC Comics on a line of “cute” plush dolls of popular superheroes like Batman and Superman. But designers within Funko decided their anime-style look was a better fit for vinyl. The resulting Pop! line debuted at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con to a very tepid response. Funko fans were used to the bobblehead approach and kept their distance from the four-inch figurines. Licenses like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead eventually brought in new fans, and the Pop! figures went from a company pariah to their most successful line.


A Funko Pop! of Loki from 'The Avengers'

Like any collectible, supply and demand can force aftermarket prices on Funko Pops! to climb. A Loki figure from 2012’s The Avengers that was available only at that year’s San Diego Comic-Con routinely sells for over $1000. So does Headless Ned Stark, a gore-caked variant of the doomed Game of Thrones character. A glow-in-the-dark Green Lantern limited to just 240 figures was released in 2010; that one will set you back over $1500.


A Funko Pop! figure of Tom Cruise as Nick Morton from 'The Mummy'

When Universal was aiming to create a monstrous cinematic universe with 2017’s The Mummy, the studio struck a deal with Funko to create a line of Pops! based on the film. In addition to two versions of the title character, Funko also designed a Nick Morton, the character played by Tom Cruise in the film. The mummies escaped, but the Cruise figure—his first Pop!—never saw the light of day. No official reason was disclosed, but some speculated that the actor rarely allows his likeness to be used on merchandising and may have intervened.


A Funko Dorbz figure of He-Man

Funko’s streamlined approach to toymaking has impressed companies that might be considered rivals. With a design able to go from paper to shelves in as little as 70 days and sporting a distinctive face attractive to collectors, some brands like Hasbro and Mattel have licensed out their characters for the Pop! treatment. Transformers and Masters of the Universe are among the properties doing brisk business.


A Funko Pop! of Vault Boy
Tom Crouse, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Most Funko figures provoke an “Aww” reaction from people, and that’s purely by design. Funko art director Sean Wilkinson has said that putting the nose just below the line of the eyes results in a more endearing expression. Characters that appear generic can also be individualized by focusing on their hairline or using accessories. The otherwise nondescript Joey from Friends, for example, gets an identity boost by being packaged with his pet duck.


A Funko Pop! figure of Beetlejuice

Eager to explore new corners of pop culture, Funko is getting into the breakfast cereal game. Boxes of edible puffed corn are due to hit comic specialty shops this June based on movies like Beetlejuice, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Gremlins, and Stephen King’s It. True to their overly-sweetened influences, many of the cereals will turn the milk a distinctively gross color: Freddy Krueger’s is blood red. The boxes will also come with their own mini-Pop! figure.


A look inside the Funko gift shop in Everett, Washington

Part business tower and part tourist destination, Funko’s home base in Everett, Washington is a collector’s paradise. The 17,000-square-foot ground-floor store has oversized Pop! figures, custom toys, and themed areas based on popular licenses like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Some of the nods are less stylized: There’s a full-scale Batmobile based on the 1960s TV series that’s screen-accurate and even sports a replica Adam West in the driver’s seat. (Yes, you can take a photo next to him.) Funko staffers also host free workshops on weekends for people in Everett who want to learn more about art, sculpting, and illustration.


A blank Funko Pop! figure is pictured

Funko Pops! number in the thousands and span virtually every recognizable license in entertainment, but there’s still one figure the company hasn’t been able to realize. According to vice president of creative Ben Butcher, a Pop! of Bruce Willis as the title character in the 1991 action-comedy Hudson Hawk is still on top of his wish list. Apparently, the rest of the company needs convincing.

Build Your Own Harry Potter Characters With LEGO's New BrickHeadz Set

Harry Potter is looking pretty square these days. In a testament to the enduring appeal of the boy—and the franchise—who lived, LEGO has launched a line of Harry Potter BrickHeadz.

The gang’s all here in this latest collection, which was recently revealed during the toymaker’s Fall 2018 preview in New York City. Other highlights of that show included LEGO renderings of characters from Star Wars, Incredibles 2, and several Disney films, according to Inside The Magic.

The Harry Potter BrickHeadz collection will be released in July and includes figurines of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and even Hedwig. Some will be sold individually, while others come as a set.

A Ron Weasley figurine

A Hermione figurine

A Dumbledore figurine

Harry Potter fans can also look forward to a four-story, 878-piece LEGO model of the Hogwarts Great Hall, which will be available for purchase August 1. Sets depicting the Whomping Willow, Hogwarts Express, and a quidditch match will hit shelves that same day.

[h/t Inside The Magic]


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