In the very first episode of The Freddy Funko Show released in mid-September the titular co-host gushes over his love for his guests, Batman and Robin, prompting Robin to blush with delight. Before the Dark Knight and his trusty sidekick manage to get out two sentences, Freddy enthusiastically pitches himself as a superhero named Captain Funko, complete with spandex, utility belt and crown insignia emblazoned across his chest.
In the second episode, a Halloween special, Freddy bumps into Freddy Krueger in an otherwise-deserted boiler room and completely freaks out, but not for the reason you’re expecting. “Oooo, boy! Freddy Krueger! I’m your biggest fan!” Freddy (the non-serial killer) exclaims before inviting Freddy (the serial killer) to be a guest on his show.
And in the third episode, The Freddy Funko Show Dating Special, Freddy stops in the middle of a fight to yell, “This…is…awesome! We’re like totally in a game right now!”
According to the team that writes, directs and animates the show, Freddy Funko’s enthusiasm for pop culture is essentially the cornerstone of The Freddy Funko Show. “Everyone’s a fan of something and Freddy is a fan of everything! I think the main reason the idea came about was the thought of Freddy as a super fan getting to meet all his heroes, that he would be super hyped for all his guests, however famous or infamous,” explained Funko Animation Studios Creative Director Seth Watkins. “Freddy’s personality was always at the center of the show; his energy and unpredictability as a host means we can take the show in all sorts of crazy directions because it’s basically like being inside the brain of a super excited eight-year-old.”
But when Watkins and the Funko Animation Studios team first began developing the idea, juggling Freddy’s enthusiasm and the near-infinite supply of characters and plot lines supplied by the world of pop culture was a definite challenge. The team initially explored using CG but the turnaround time for this approach was too slow, making it difficult to create a show that would feel topical. They considered featuring characters as toy versions of themselves, a conceit that could have significantly altered the show’s trajectory.
“A Batman Pop! might actually have a very different personality from the Dark Knight,” Watkins explained. “Maybe he has a whiny, nasal voice and gripes about being stuck in a box or having to be on his feet all day. But this felt too derivative of Toy Story.”
A lot of the team’s motivation to create the show came from the fact that they were doing animation promoting subscription boxes in conjunction with Marvel and Lucasfilm and although Funko Animation Studios is immensely proud of that work, they wanted to do something that would belong to them. They pored through Funko’s catalogue of intellectual properties searching for inspiration. Freddy Funko, Funko’s longtime mascot, seemed like the obvious choice. But what to do with him?
Eventually, Watkins proposed a classic American talk show format inspired by The Tonight Show. Freddy would be the host, interviewing his favorite characters. Unfortunately, this idea would come with the same licensing challenges and processes Funko Animation Studios worked with every day, but they decided it was worth it to produce the best show possible. Funko CEO Brian Mariotti suggested that the team add a co-host—Brian’s favorite Hanna-Barbera character Huckleberry Hound. With his slow drawl and generally calm demeanor, Huckleberry Hound balances Freddy’s more excitable personality.
Having finally locked down the general format and co-hosts, the Funko Animation Studios team set about gathering inspiration for their respective roles. For Art Director Paris Taylor-Jones that meant diving into the delightful world of Saturday morning cartoons.
“Aesthetically, the show is really inspired by Saturday morning cartoons both semi-recent and retro,” Taylor-Jones explained. “I love the looks of series like The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and Top Cat; there’s a simplicity and mastery to their designs and stylings that make them timeless. It’s been interesting referencing other contemporary shows such as Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Lab and seeing how they draw upon these references too and reinvent it for their era of morning cartoons.”
Sound designer James Keeble looked to many of the same cartoons for inspiration in sound design, specifically citing The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo for audio inspiration.
Art Director Paris Taylor-Jones draws inspiration from a classic late-night talk show. “I’m a big fan of the Conan O’Brien show so whenever I’m drawing Freddy in his studio space, I’ll put an episode on in the background to try to catch the cool feeling of Conan’s studio,” said Taylor-Jones.
But for writer and director Charlie Miller it’s all about the personalities of the guests. “We want their identities to be seen throughout their episodes but we also want it to be Freddy’s show so we researched a lot of American talk shows and got to the core of Freddy Funko as a brand and character and tried to instill this into the format of the show,” he said. “When writing, I like to listen to soundtracks and ambient music. When writing the Halloween episode, I listed to a lot of John Carpenter’s music. It really got me in the Halloween mood.”
On average, each episode takes about two months to produce including securing the necessary licenses which can sometimes be the most challenging part of the process. There’s plenty of pressure on the animation team knowing that they’re working with some of the most iconic characters in pop culture and fans tend to have strong opinions about their favorite characters. For Keeble, character authenticity doesn’t stop at the writing. He cites his biggest challenge in each new episode as “capturing the aural tone and authenticity of the franchise that Freddy is interviewing.” For the first episode featuring Batman and Robin, Keeble included the spinning bat symbol trumpet sting from TV series. For the Halloween episode he used the ki ki ki ma ma ma sound effect from Friday the 13th.
While Keeble obsesses over every detail of the sound, Taylor-Jones agonizes over the color palette of the show’s backgrounds. “The inspiration I look towards just has an effortlessness with colours which I find is key to really selling the look, almost more so than the design,” the artist said. “I’ve been taking up gouache painting in my spare time to really learn how those artists would’ve mixed their paints and got those brilliant colours. Although it’s what I find most challenging, tweaking the colour palette ad infinitum is also my absolute favourite thing to do. There’s something really satisfying taking my first pass of a background—a great drawing with meh colours to a great drawing with great colours!”
The Freddy Funko Show has come a long way in the three months since Batman and Robin first wowed Freddy but that doesn’t stop the team from imagining how far the show might go. Miller would love to see the episodes become longer so Freddy and Huck can get out of the studio and go on more adventures. Production Coordinator Michelle Haywood wants to see themed Pop!s inspired by the show.
When it comes to choosing guests the entire team pitches ideas but at the end of the day, Mariotti makes the call. That doesn’t stop the Funko Animation Studios team from dreaming though, as indicated by the list of dream guests below.
Stay tuned for the holiday edition of The Freddy Funko Show airing December 21.
The team’s dream Freddy Funko Show guests
Charlie Miller (Director and Writer)
“Dr. Ian Malcolm.”
Harry Slinger-Thompson (Head of 2D Animation)
“Being a fan myself, I would very much enjoy one where Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith appear through a portal on the show.”
Paris Taylor-Jones (Art Director)
“I can’t lie; I’d love Freddy to interview some of the queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think it’d be so fun to recreate some of the key moments from the show and it’s an awesome excuse for me to draw a load of glitter, sequins and pink! I’m a big musical nerd too. I listen to them almost constantly whilst working. I’d love Freddy to do a harmony or take part in one of the ensemble songs from Hamilton; drawing that would be a blast.
Seth Watkins (Creative Director)
“Wow, that’s a tricky one! There are so many characters we could have fun with … I’d love to have Vader on the show. I can imagine Freddy confusing the hell out of him!”
Michelle Haywood (Production Coordinator)
“Owen Grady and Blue from Jurassic World. I think Freddy and Huck would find meeting a dinosaur very cool as long as Owen can keep control of Blue so she doesn’t destroy half the studio first.”