We regularly cover Funko releases on Daily Dead and it's for good reason. Not only is their Pop! Vinyl line still running strong, but I've really enjoyed their mystery mini figures and their recently launched line of Kenner-inspired ReAction figures. With Christmas nearly upon us, I thought it would be the perfect time to catch up with Reis O'Brien, who works at the Funko art department, and is one of the main people responsible for figures that will be requested by kids of all ages around the world. Not only does he share his experience working at Funko, but he gave us an exclusive first look at The Walking Dead Mystery Minis Series 3:

We first spoke with you nearly two years ago, when you had just recently joined Funko. Since then how has your job and responsibilities changed?

Reis O'Brien: They’ve changed quite a bit. I’m still designing full time on a variety of lines, but over the past year or so I’ve been given more responsibility and allowed to direct some new projects, including heading up the ReAction line. It’s been fun working with the other designers and sculptors as a team from the earliest pencil sketches to seeing the final plastic. It’s like the geeky version of being on a football team and winning the playoffs. It’s a killer feeling.

With Funko's continued growth and popularity, has the development process changed over the years? Can you walk our readers through the process of your designs being turned into a vinyl figure?

Reis O'Brien: The steps have pretty much stayed the same, but the complexity of each step has ramped up considerably.

For every figure, we start with a concept, which is sometimes penciled out (especially if we want the final toy to have an illustrative feel), or sometimes taken straight to the computer and worked out in vectors. Lately, thanks to our stellar digital sculpting team, who are all solid designers in their own right, we’ve been having them concept directly in the sculpt stage. Having sculpted concepts not only helps the licensor see our vision for the final product more clearly, but it also saves us a lot of time by skipping the penciling stages, which frees up the rest of the designers to move on to the next project.

Once the concept is approved by the licensor, we then move on to the other stages; color callouts, paint approvals, packaging design, product photography and cleanup, which, if all goes smoothly, will end up with a bright, shiny new toy for us to send out to retail.

You talked with us when you were working on the designs for The Walking Dead blind box figures, which have been really successful. How does it feel to have your work seen or purchased by people around the world?

Reis O'Brien: It’s all pretty surreal to all of us who work on these toys. Like, we know that the toys are out there and people are buying them, but to me that’s sort of an abstract thought. It really hits home for me, however, when I see something we’ve designed in a picture with the actor that plays that character, or when someone tattoos that toy on their body. I saw a pic of someone’s wedding cake that had two of the toys I worked on used as the toppers. I was completely floored. I mean, that’s a day they’ll look back on for the rest of their lives and there are our toys on their cake! It’s humbling, honestly.

It seems like Funko figures are everywhere. I've noticed them on TV shows and actors like Norman Reedus are frequently signing them at conventions. Who or where have you seen your Funko figures that really surprised or amazed you?

Reis O'Brien: I love seeing them signed by the actors! But every time I see that, I always think, Oh god, I hope they like how their toy turned out.

It was really nerve-wracking when I met a few at SDCC. I was so worried that some celebrity was gonna punch me in the kidney because they didn’t like how their figure that I designed turned out. Luckily, I walked away unharmed.

I always like when I’m watching a TV show or something and there are some of our toys in the background. Whenever I watch Comic Book Men, I scan the shelves behind them to see if anything I’ve worked on gets shown. I’m such a nerd.

The other day, Norman Reedus kept taking a bunch of funny pics with the Daryl Dixon Mystery Mini figure from series 2 and posting them on Instagram, and I almost lost my mind. I mean, he’s literally sitting in his house playing with a toy I designed of him. Blows my mind.

Is there a character or property that Funko hasn’t created yet that you would love to design?

Reis O'Brien: Oh jeeze, yes. There are a few licenses that we just can’t get, usually because the rights are all tangled up. Which is a damn shame.

And then there’s some that even though I love it dearly with every fiber of my nerdy little heart, no one else does, or at least not enough to sell well, so no point in paying all the upfront production costs.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in that I’ve gotten to design toys for some licenses that I’ve loved since I was a kid, like E.T. and Ghostbusters. But at the end of the day, I still want to design a line of Conan the Barbarian Pops!

And I will not rest until we get an Elvira figure of some sort! I’ve been madly in love with her since I was 13.

Are there plans for additional series of The Walking Dead and horror blind box figures planned? Also, are there plans for any more large versions of these figures, like the Daryl / Prison Guard?

Reis O'Brien: Oh yes! We have a lot of Walking Dead stuff coming up, including new Pops designed by Rob Schwartz, and the 3rd series of Walking Dead Mystery Minis that, thanks to working with a new sculptor on these, I promise you will be the best series seen to date!

Unfortunately, the larger versions didn’t exactly blow the doors off sales-wise, so we don’t have any plans to make any more. Such is life in the toy world.

We’ve seen a lot of new characters recently introduced in The Walking Dead TV show. Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, what new characters could we see as Funko collectibles?

Reis O'Brien: Well, everyone is fair game, technically. But we try to keep our ear to the ground as far as fan favorites are concerned.

In the upcoming Mystery Minis, you’ll get to see a lot of new faces, including a certain trio that’s hell-bent on getting to Washington DC. (wink wink)

Can you tell our readers what projects you're currently working on?

Reis O'Brien: Yikes, I’ve got about 8 different projects going simultaneously. I’m mostly working on the next wave of ReAction figures, which is going to make last year’s releases look tiny in comparison. I’ve got several other Pops and blind box series coming up, but being this close to Toy Fair, I can’t really talk about a lot of it.

I guess the Garbage Pail Kids have been announced, which I’m especially jazzed about, being a dyed-in-the-wool 80s kid.

Oh, and I’m sure your readers are looking forward to more Horror Mystery Minis, which I’m about to start concepting next week!

Out of all the figures you've designed for Funko do you have a personal favorite? 

Reis O'Brien: Oh boy. That’s a hard one. I’m pretty in love with the E.T. Pop, because he’s crazy adorable, and I was super pleased with how the Slimer Pop turned out with the way that he was sort of floating on that goopy translucent green slime. Also, I love the detail that we got with the Arkham Asylum Pops, even though we may have pushed that envelope pretty far for a style of figure that is usually more simplified.

And I know I keep mentioning this, but seriously, the next Walking Dead Mystery Minis are amazing! Darcy, the sculptor on them, really knew how to make what was in my head a reality. I couldn’t love them more if I tried.

With so many people getting and receiving Funko figures this holiday season, how does it feel to be helping Santa out in homes around the world?

Reis O'Brien: It’s truly a dream come true. I was thinking the other day about how much I loved the toys I got for Christmas when I was a kid and it made me wonder if the team that designed, say, He-Man, had any idea of how much happiness they brought to me. Did the gang at Kenner know how special my Christmas morning was in 1980 because they designed the hell out of the Dagobah playset? Is there somebody out there right now whose favorite Christmas gift this year will be something that we worked on?

These are the kind of thoughts that keep me up at night.

Aside from the main Funko releases, you offer custom Funko figures and other toys via your BimToy store. Can you tell our readers more about that?

Reis O'Brien: Well, if it wasn’t bad enough that I spend all day designing toys, sometimes I have to keep designing them when I get home. But with my side stuff, they usually tend to be more weird, experimental things that I just have to get out of my brain. And my level of productivity tends to fluctuate, depending on how much spare time I have, or if I’m experiencing a flood of ideas or a drought.

Also, getting these ideas out of my head helps me be more focused on what I have to do at my actual job the next day. If you have to work on a serious project, you don’t want this weird idea for an anthropomorphic booger holding a machine gun getting in the way.

My Bimtoy toys are like little flow-of-consciousness pieces of art (and I use that term loosely), and the only reason I sell them is because in a weird way, getting them into the hands of other people is sort of part of the whole art piece. Also, I sell them to get them out of my workshop, or else I’d have piles of little plastic and clay oddities toppling over all over my garage floor.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Reis O'Brien: Merry Christmas!