Here’s something kind of interesting: For about a week, Urban Outfitters has been quietly selling The POP! Super Shiny Mini-Series of balloon animal toys produced exclusively for them by Kidrobot. The toys are sold blind-box style for $8 each and are being misidentified as the work of artist, Jeff Koons, whom Wikipedia introduces as:
Jeffrey “Jeff” Koons (born January 21, 1955) is an American artist known for his reproductions of banal objects—such as balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror finish surfaces.
Koons’ balloon animals are so iconic within the context of contemporary art that they merit a mention in the first sentence of his Wiki page. However, in the grand scheme of things, making balloon animals has been going on since the late 1930s, and Koons name is in absentia on the balloon modeling Wiki. Nonetheless, Koons’ website opens with his name splashed across a billion dollar Balloon Dog. You go Jeff; show ’em who’s boss!
In this post-etsy world of tiresome yetis and redundant owls, the balloon dog holds special relevance. At the tail end of last year, Koons attempted to block Park Life, a San Francisco retailer/art gallery, from selling $55 balloon dog bookends. It was a big deal at the time. Everyone from The NY Times to BoingBoing weighed in, and Artinfo posted Park Life’s (awesome) response to Koons’ cease and desist. By February, Koons’ attorneys had dropped the (absurd) claim, and Park Life sold out of its suddenly very in-demand bookends.
Enter Urban Outfitters. If you could take all of what some people loathe as Jeff Koons’ appropriation antics and put it into a retail business model, you might have Urban Outfitters. Countless people claim that UO has infringed upon their work. It’s gotten to be such a “thing,” that when an Etsy seller claimed that Urban Outfitters stole her jewelry designs, the Internets got all Salem Witch Trialsy. Then one of my blogging heroes, Regretsy, brought us back to earth with the sobering revelation that basically, there are some things you can’t copyright. And these things include balloon animals.
Enter Kidrobot. The Pop! Super Shiny Mini-series contains 21 different injection-molded balloon animal toys. Beyond the dog, there’s a horse, giraffe, swan, bear and cat. I bought ten boxes off the shelf at Urban Outfitters and got the selection shown above, with only one duplicate. Nineteen of the 21 figures are distributed 1:20 and 2 are distributed 1:40. There are no chase figures (of which I’m aware).
Here’s my green cat again, non-spinning.
Once you get over the semantic similarity of “balloon dog,” you’ll notice that Kidrobot’s balloon animals don’t look that much like Koons’ piece; rather, they simply look like balloon animal toys. Click through for a full breakdown.
The proportions and overall aesthetic of Kidrobot’s balloon dog are different than Koons’ Balloon Dog. As one would expect, the $8 dogs are crude and cheaper looking. If you are the type of collector who cares a great deal about quality control, you will likely have trouble with this series.
Every one of my ten figures had prominent scratches (and seams). A couple even had what appear to be fingerprints or spots where the paint is clearly warped. But I don’t collect < $10 objects based on QC. I collect them if they spark something in me and if I think they will look good en masse. In the case of Pop!, I can answer yes and yes.
The balloon animal toys look sharp lined up in their colorful ranks, and they cause me to ponder important topics like copyright and fair use. Would I have rather paid $5.95 given the problematic production and uninspired packaging? Yes. Would I have been bummed out if these had cost me $12 a piece? For sure. But at $8, you can get a fistful of them for less than the cost of the Balloon Dog Book End and significantly less than one of Koons’ “more affordable” (e.g. still much more than you can afford) 10-inch balloon dog multiples.
The Pop! mini-series is NOT by Jeff Koons and NOT for sale through Kidrobot. You can only get it at Urban Outfitters in store or online. I found the figures located at the very bottom of the display because for UO’s demographic, the Dunny is more iconic than the Balloon Dog. How about that? So who’s got a green balloon dog they want to trade for a blue one?
[Thanks to a tip from @eccentrina (Israel) through J.ME (Taiwan) and product information from Kidrobot’s creative director, Brian Krezel.