Warner Animation Group (WAG) has optioned rights to toy company Funko for an animated feature based on its pop culture figurines, according to a report in Deadline.
The story is being developed by Mark Dindal (Cats Don’t Dance, The Emperor’s New Groove, Chicken Little) and Teddy Newton (Pixar’s Day & Night and longtime Brad Bird collaborator).
“Their fresh take on pop culture make these figurines incredibly appealing to fans of all ages,” Allison Abbate, executive vp of WAG, told Deadline.
“We’re thrilled for this opportunity and are committed to make an amazing Funko movie that stands on its own merit,” added Funko CEO Brian Mariotti. “This isn’t about selling toys or building a brand. The team at Warner Animation Group have a unique vision of what the first film should be and we are extremely excited to take this journey alongside them.”
My first thoughts on this announcement: It’s hard to think of two people more qualified to work on an animated feature as Dindal and Newton, but who really wants to see this film? Maybe it’s the same people who passionately collect Funko toys, but I don’t think that “passionate Funko toy collectors” is a large enough demographic to produce a global box office hit.
Also, WAG knows only too well that audiences have hit a saturation point with toy-based films; their own Lego franchise caved in on itself earlier this year. The only rational answer for why they’d make this film is that Funko is footing the bill for a significant portion of the film’s budget, much in the same way that Rovio itself financed the production of the original Angry Birds film.
In a year when not only Lego Movie 2 underperformed, but a second toy-based movie — STX Entertainment’s Uglydolls — also flopped, the announcement of yet another toy-based movie seems to go against public sentiment. The fact that Funko’s CEO is already on the defensive, having to explain that “this isn’t about selling toys or building a brand,” should be a clue that they know what they’re up against. The fate of the Funko film will perhaps be determined in the next few months after Funko and WB sees the box office results of two other upcoming toy-inspired films: STX’s Playmobil: The Movie and Dreamworks’ Trolls World Tour.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Dindal would direct the film. A Funko representative has clarified that Dindal is involved in the project, but not directing.