Superplastic, the designer toy brand launched by Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz, has raised a $10 million Series A round of funding to turn two of its characters into animated digital media stars: Starting Tuesday, the company’s Janky and Guggimon characters will come to life on Instagram, where they will publish animated videos, interact with their fans and more.
“Our characters live their lives on social media,” Budnitz told Variety during a recent interview. “It’s like making a movie that never ends.”
Superplastic’s character’s Janky and Guggimon recently teased their animation debut on Instagram.
Budnitz’s focus on social media comes after attempts to work with Hollywood failed at his previous venture, Kidrobot. Founded in 2002, Kidrobot quickly became one of the most recognizable brands in the designer and urban toy space, which also attracted the attention of the entertainment industry.
“Different studios in Hollywood kept optioning our characters,” Budnitz recalled. This included plans for a series of feature films at Paramount, and a Kidrobot movie at MGM. “The issue was that nothing would get made,” complained Budnitz.
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Superplastic’s Guggimon character.
That’s why he decided to take matters into his own hands at Superplastic, which he founded in 2017. Instead of partnering with a traditional studio, Budnitz went out and hired 10 animators. The team is being headed by Jared Johnson, who previously worked as a character animator on “Jurassic Park,” and includes illustrator Mark Gmehling. Superplastic’s art director is well-known toy designer Huck Gee.
Together, the team has been focused on developing adventures for Janky and Guggimon, two of the company’s most popular characters. The duo will use Instagram to unveil their story, react to each other, and even interact with fans.
Superplastic’s Janky character.
Superplastic wants to continue to make money with toy sales, but Butnitz said that the expansion into digital media was also opening up additional revenue opportunities. This includes licensing its characters, and also brand endorsement deals similar to those of Instagram influencers.
However, Budnitz said that he’s not interested in turning Janky and Guggimon into synthetic digital influencers like Lil Miquela. “They’re not humans,” he said. Instead, the duo was clearly living the lives of toys, with a plot, and some twists to boot. “One of the characters has an alter ego,” Budnitz teased.
Superplastic’s Series A was headed by Craft Ventures, with participation from Founders Fund’s Cyan Banister, Village Global, Betaworks, Index Ventures, Canaan, Scooter Braun, Kevin Weil, Scott Belsky, Shrug Capital, and many others.