Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Wacky Wobbler – Rat Fink

Company: Funko
Year: 2000/2005

These days, Funko are far and away best-known for their distinctive POP! range of vinyl toys, which they’ve been pumping out to great success since around 2010. But before that particular cash-cow made its way into the paddock, Funko was founded as primarily a bobblehead company – one that was intentionally retro in its outlook. The company’s first ever toy was a bobblehead of the Big Boy restaurant mascot (who’s probably best known to Australian readers via his Simpsons parody, Lard Lad).

The next few years saw Funko enjoy a reasonable level of success, though they weren’t making waves in the same way as some of their designer toy contemporaries like kidrobot. The emphasis was primarily on retro mascots released under the Wacky Wobbler banner*, like Big Boy, Count Chocula, Tony the Tiger…and the subject of today’s review, Rat Fink!

Now Rat Fink is one of those characters that virtually everyone recognises, but unless they’re of a particular age, they rarely know his name. Drawn by the now sadly departed Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Rat Fink emerged out of the Kustom Kulture hot rod scene during the 1960s, an ugly (but endearing) anti-Mickey Mouse. He’s adorned countless t-shirts since, and spawned his fair share of associated merchandise – not to mention the considerable influence that Roth’s art has had on various underground art scenes.
Rat Fink is typically depicted in a sketchy-looking hot rod, one hand clutching at an impossibly-angled gearstick – but here he’s travelling on foot. At a guess, the figure is based on this art, though if there’s someone out there who knows better, please mention it in the comments below. The sculpt is solid, rendering Roth’s art nicely in slightly simplified 3D. He’s technically a bobblegut rather than a bobblehead, but we won’t bandy semantics here.

There were a huge amount of Rat Fink Wacky Wobblers produced. The one reviewed here is the most common colour and mould, but there were a few different moulds and dozens of different colours produced as well. Many of them were limited edition or convention exclusives; for a more comprehensive list, check out Pop Price Guide. Personally I’d be quite keen to get my hands on a glow version of any of them, but a quick look at eBay seems to suggest that virtually all of the figures go for pretty silly money these days. This version has a copyright date of 2005, but it seems that it was originally released around 2000 -- as you can see in the pic, Ed Roth contributed some notes to the back of the box, and he passed away in 2001.

And on that note, how’s the paint? Pretty ordinary. It’s never been one of Funko’s strong points, and the additional detail in the sculpt certainly highlights its inadequacies. But considering they’d only been a company for a few years at this point, it’s acceptable, if not ideal.

Overall? Rat Fink is a cool piece of Funko history, and quite fun in his own right. I found him at a shop in Surry Hills and paid a little more than he probably cost at retail back in the day, but certainly not an outrageous price – if you want one, I’d suggest you do the same. My wife described him as “disgusting” and didn’t really want to look directly at him, which means that Funko pretty much got it right. He’s accompanying all of my horror POPs at the moment, which is probably the best place for him. Now I just hope we get an update of him in POP form – maybe as a POP ride? C’mon Funko! 

*Funko’s Wacky Wobblers line still exists, though in a greatly reduced capacity. It’s nowhere near as comprehensive as their POP! range, and now tends to focus more on comics and movies. But for aficionados, NECA also produces some bobbleheads in a very similar style. 

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