Following one series from conception to completion, learn how the Funko POP! series of vinyl figures are created using 3D modeling and 3D printing. It’s a veritable Saga, to be sure.
The Funko POP! toys have made popular culture into a serious business. The American company manufactures licensed vinyl figures and bobble-heads, and they’re wildly popular. The most recent set are based on the smash-hit comic book series Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples.
Writing for GeekWire, journalist Daniel Rasmus paid a visit to the new Funko HQ in Everett, Washington. There, he interviewed key personnel about the design process behind their mega-selling figurines. Naturally, 3D modeling and 3D printing play a big part.
Once an idea is agreed upon, one of the earliest stages is concept approval. Funko and licensors collaborate to approve the look of the prototype sculpt for the final vinyl figure. Designers will then incorporate feedback into later revisions of the sculpt.
Experienced digital sculptors use the ZBrush app by Pixologic to create the final design for rapid prototyping. Detailed sculpts can take a day to a day-and-a-half for an artist to complete.
For the initial prototype, Funko sends a ZBrush file in ZTL format to their manufacturing partners in China and Vietnam. They use this file to 3D print a prototype.
For the figure approval stage, detailed digital images are sent to ensure that the prototypes match the design. In special cases like new form factors, manufacturers will ship figures to Funko for review.
The Saga of Making a Funko POP! Figurine
The Funko team generally approves the final sculpts for production. The exception to this step is a partner, such as a major studio, where Funko may output the prototype locally and spend time going over the designs with the combined teams in a physical meeting. Otherwise, the process is completely virtual and turnaround is speedy.
The manufacturing partner then converts the final design ZBrush output into a production mold, using a 3D print as the foundation. A definitive version of the unpainted figure then requires final approval.
In the meantime, elements like packaging and print are pulled together. Funko takes about 30 to 45 days to collect all the branding elements required from the licensor for the packaging.
Overall, the production line appears to operate like well-oiled machine, despite spanning several continents and time-zones. And when selecting the next subject for a series, nothing is too obscure for the Funko pop culture juggernaut. Or is it?
VP of Creative Ben Butcher is still hoping to get a Hudson Hawk figure made. “That’s my white whale,” he says of the 1991 Bruce Willis film. “I keep trying to find someone else who loves that movie.”
Good luck with that, Ben.