Superplastic — a cult designer toy brand — recently announced it raised $10 million in funding and launched an innovative animated entertainment division focused on bringing its popular characters to life. And the company’s first two synthetic celebrities (Janky and Guggimon) also dropped on Instagram recently.
The $10 million funding round was led by Craft Ventures — which is a venture capital firm founded by David O. Sacks (Yammer founder and former CEO) and Bill Lee (a serial entrepreneur who was the co-founder of two companies that sold for more than a combined $1 billion). Founders Fund’s Cyan Banister, Global Village, Betaworks, Index Ventures, Canaan, Scooter Braun, Kevin Weil, Scott Belsky, Shrug Capital, and many others had also joined the round.
Superplastic already has an obsessed fanbase and the designer toys based on Janky and Guggimon routinely sell out in minutes on the Superplastic online store.
“The old studio model for animated entertainment is dead,” said Superplastic CEO Paul Budnitz — who is also known for creating the cult toy brand Kidrobot and the social network Ello. “Big studios kill innovation, and nothing gets made. We decided to skip the studios and go directly to our fans, by giving our characters lives on social media.”
Budnitz worked with art director Huck Gee on Janky and Guggimon for over a year using celebrities like Kanye West and David Bowie as models.
“Guggimon is an artist that’s obsessed with fashion, handbags, and horror movies,” added Gee. “Janky’s just a screw up that wants to be famous.”
Both of the animated characters interact with fans, human celebrities, and each other on social media. By giving Janky and Guggimon lives on social media, it also opened up new avenues for revenue far beyond traditional character licensing. And they earn fees like real life influencers and Superplastic is in talks with global fashion brands about partnerships. Plus the company is collaborating with well-known artists a Janky art show in NYC in late 2019. And Guggimon is the first synthetic artist invited to participate in the Montreal Mural Festival in 2020.
Since appropriating social media as an entertainment platform required completely rethinking the traditionally slow animation process, the team hired top animators from Hollywood, then retooled the technology, and created innovative workflows that allow characters to respond quickly to fans and whatever’s trending online.
“Superplastic is disrupting the way we think about celebrity and media,” explained Lee. “It’s a totally unique integrated vision, from toys to entertainment to what’s happening right now on Instagram.”
Banister agreed with Lee:
“Superplastic is the next Marvel, reinvented for the new millennium.”
This content was originally published here.