EVERETT — Picture this: Deadpool selling chimichangas from a food truck on a freeway overpass while battling supervillain Venom.
Now imagine it in Funko’s unique art style.
The short animated video racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube since it was released in December. The video was a collaboration among Everett-based Funko, Marvel Entertainment and a studio in England with the ever-so-clever name of A Large Evil Corporation.
“That was a great opportunity to work with Marvel’s most popular characters,” said Mark Robben, Funko’s marketing director. “It was a great script, Evil Corp did a great job with it and Marvel helped us getting it in front of their fan base.”
The one-minute, 40-second video, another one featuring “Guardians of the Galaxy” superheroes Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot and a third with Spider-Man, Iron Man and a mesmerized Loki clucking like a chicken were a chance to tell stories using Funko’s art style.
The videos exceeded Marvel’s expectations, said Cort Lane, Marvel’s senior vice president of Animation &Family Entertainment, in an email.
“We knew that we loved the shorts, but the fan reception was totally beyond our expectations. And the views on social media were incredible! The fans keep demanding more, which is always a good sign. I’m still as giddy as Deadpool with his Chimichanga,” Lane wrote.
Funko made its name making vinyl figurines and has expanded into apparel, stuffed toys and housewares with licensing deals on some of the hottest characters in pop culture.
The company is now expanding its digital reach with animated shorts, promotional videos and plans for much more.
Funko, which earned more than $400 million in revenues last year and is relocating its headquarters to downtown Everett, started offering animated shorts in 2015. The company has developed a unique cartoony, anime-inspired style of characters.
Initially, the videos were tied to new releases of new figures. The company would put out a box with collectibles and other gear and promote the new box with an animated short.
The company contracted with Evil Corp, which is based in Bath, England, to do the videos.
Last year, Funko made longer videos that weren’t tied to any releases: “We realized we could make something a little more entertaining if we added a narrative bend,” Robben said.
The videos are part-marketing, part-cementing the Funko brand. On the three longer videos, Funko worked closely with Marvel.
“Marvel approves anything that is created,” Robben said. “They have the final say, but the ideas sometime originate at Marvel, they sometimes originate at Funko and they sometimes originate with Evil Corp.”
Funko isn’t alone in using animation for its marketing efforts. Starbucks created a series of animated videos called “1st and Main” last fall. Crayola created animated characters of its crayons during its holiday sales push last winter.
The company that blazed the trail is Lego, which has television shows, movies and video games featuring characters in the Lego art style.
“I think Lego is the gold standard,” Robben said. “They have the Lego movie, ‘Lego Batman.’ They have made video games animated with Lego characters. That’s the company that’s pushed it the hardest and they’ve been the most successful at it.
“Anyone would wish for that kind of success.”
A Funko movie would be fun, but there are no plans to do anything like that at the moment, Robben said. A video game could be on the horizon, Robben said.
“It’s something that we’ve explored in a limited basis in 2016, but we’re going much harder after that market in 2017,” Robben said.
Funko also is exploring another novel entry into the digital world. The company is working with a Brooklyn, New York, startup called Quidd to sell digital collectibles of Funko figures that can be stored and traded. Quidd offers an app available on iPhone operating systems.
Last month, Funko released a new online feature called Pop! Yourself. The feature allows you to create a digital avatar for your online profile on Funko’s website, apps and features still on the way.
Funko plans to produce even more videos in the near future, including one starring Wonder Woman and another celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars.
Whether the videos are promotional or just telling a story, fans can usually buy the vinyl figurines of everything seen in the video.
So, yes, fans of the Deadpool video can buy a Funko Deadpool figure complete with a chimichanga truck. Venom is sold separately.