Last week, I bought Funko POP! figure — Teddy, one of the Washington Nationals’ racing presidents.
This was only the second Funko POP! figure I’ve ever bought. The first time I would have written about these stylized figures would have been in August 2010, specifically for figures of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Joker, when the line debuted. I had to write some solicitation copy for the PREVIEWS catalog, and I’ve stuck pretty much with that wording ever since. Add a couple of relevant details here, change the figure names there, swap around some words, done. That, my friends, is the secret to copywriting.
I figured this figure platform would last at most three or four years, and then they’d fade away. When I bought a POP! figure of The Rocketeer back in 2013, I figured we were pretty close to the end. (I bought it because, seriously, how much Rocketeer merchandise is there? None. Exactly.) They haven’t faded away. They’re still going strong. Every week, more figures are announced, some for mass consumption, some retailer or convention exclusives. At some point, yes, the bubble will pop, pardon the pun. Until then, the low price point and the ever-faster churn of pop culture (and thus, new properties to exploit) probably keeps them going. (This essay on the blind consumerism of Funko POP!s is worth reading.)
When Funko announced there was to be a line of Major League Baseball mascots and there would be a Teddy figure, I hesitated for about two days before ordering it through work. I have a plush Teddy at home and gave another to my niece about seven or eight years ago. (For a time, she believed that the plush Teddy was the uncle of a plush Tom Brady I’d also given her.) I like Theodore Roosevelt, the president, a lot — I’ve read some of his books, and I’ve read part of Edmund Morris’ three volume biography of Roosevelt. Teddy, the Racing President, is easy to root for; he used to be the perpetual hard-luck loser of the races, but now he occasionally wins.
This was only the second POP! figure I’d bought. I have a few more — figures that people have given me over the years — and my car key is on a POP!-styled keychain. (It’s a figure of the eleventh Doctor.) Sometimes Funko will announce a licence that excites me, I’ll look at the pictures (usually just concept art) and think, “I need that!” But before fifteen minutes passes I’ve reconsidered entirely, and I never buy them. Examples of this include figures of The Beatles, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Sesame Street. Even the figure of Benjamin Franklin I wrote about a few weeks ago — I was sorely tempted to find a way to work Franklin’s advice to “fart proudly” into the product description — went from “Oh, that’s cool” to “Nope” in about five minutes.
It irritates me a little that the box says “Theodore Roosevelt.” Does any Washington Nationals fan actually refer to Teddy the Racing President as anything other than Teddy? No. The Racing Presidents are George, Tom, Abe, Teddy, Bill, Cal, and Herbie. (Including the three retired Racing Presidents. Attention to detail. It’s important.
Also, marketing a Teddy figure as part of a line of “MLB Mascots” figures is incorrect. Teddy and the Racing Presidents, though very visible, are not the Nationals’ mascots. That honor belongs to Screech, an anonymous and frankly forgettable bald eagle in a Nationals uniform. If you asked a fan on the street who the Nationals’ mascot is, chances are your answer would be the Presidents. Heck, my own parents think the Presidents are the Nationals’ mascots. It’s a marketing failure when your own mascot is overshadowed by a bit of novelty between-innings entertainment, enjoyable though it is.
I’ll leave my thoughts on what I would do with the Nationals’ mascot if given the opportunity for another time.
As for the Teddy figure, it’s nice enough, though it does feel pointless and a bit of a waste. I’ve not taken it out of the box, even after a week. It’s sitting on top of my bookshelf in the office. I might remember to dust it in about two years, if I’m lucky.
It’s not sparking joy.