Whether or not you managed to make it to the end of the first episode of The Mandalorian without knowing the reveal or were already spoiled ahead of time, there’s no denying that Baby Yoda has taken the world by storm. At a time when both politics and Star Wars inevitably spark heated debates at a Thanksgiving Day family dinner, in less than a week Baby Yoda has done what not even a Skywalker has accomplished and seemingly brought balance to the fandom.
can not bELIEVE that it took one green 50 year old baby to unite the entire star wars fandom for one cause pic.twitter.com/gY445S08Ir
— ¡caro! (@classickylo) November 17, 2019
Articles abound about the adorable green cutie debating his origin (particularly if Yoda and Yaddle got busy). I’m willing to wage by the time you read this article a few dozen more have popped up online. As soon as I saw Baby Yoda my mind instantly went to the limitless merchandising potential which, as Mel Brooks taught us, is where the real money from the movie is made.
Clearly Disney and Lucasfilm execs were on the same page because just ahead of the onslaught of Black Friday shopping, Baby Yoda merchandise has already been unveiled, arriving in time for the holiday shopping season.
Unfortunately, the supposed Baby Yoda merchandise advertised last week is rather lackluster at best. Besides a few t-shirts and mugs, don’t expect anything as elaborate as a plush. In fact, Hasbro reported to CNN that it won’t have any Baby Yoda toys until 2020.
The desire of Jon Favreau and producers to keep Baby Yoda under wraps until The Mandalorian premiered on Disney+ is quite a feat, but it appears that in doing so they ended up sacrificing potential toy sales during the lucrative 2019 holiday shopping season. It’s very reminiscent of what director James Gunn told Vulture regarding the lack of Baby Groot merchandise in the summer of 2014 when the first Guardians of the Galaxy film was released.
“While we were still shooting the movie, I brought up putting Dancing Baby Groot out as a toy,” he said. “The reason it didn’t happen is because you have some control in the film industry over secrets getting out there, but the people you don’t have much control over are the toy people, unfortunately. Those toy designs get out, always! And people definitely would have gotten ahold of the Baby Groot if we had started manufacturing it in time for it to come out after the movie, so that was the biggest reason we didn’t push on that particular element.”
GotG had the benefit of a summer release meaning toy manufacturers were able to get a Dancing Baby Groot doll available for retail as the perfect boutique Christmas gift item. I’m guessing something akin to Kenner’s infamous Early Bird Certificate Package empty box Christmas back in 1977 won’t fly with modern day consumers. Disney better hope that it can maintain the Baby Yoda fever considering the current disturbance in Star Wars toy sales.
Let’s face it, Star Wars toys in recent years haven’t been as successful compared to 2015’s $700 million in toy sales with the release of The Force Awakens. A certain vocal contingent dissatisfied with the direction of Star Wars franchise since the Disney acquisition in 2012 aren’t shy about expressing their ideas as to the cause. Those opinions notwithstanding, the rollout of too many Star Wars films too fast not only affected the box office (Solo anyone?) but the toy sales as well.
Yet another major factor cited by Forbes that envelopes not just Star Wars but pretty much every big studio tentpole film is our spoiler sensitive culture. Nowadays there are entire blogs dedicated to dissecting and analyzing to the smallest detail any merch that is unveiled to the general public in the hopes of gleaning some plot plot. While keeping stories close to the chest may curb leaks via toy images, withholding key information can backfire. The aforementioned Forbes points to Hasbro betting big with the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke, but after meeting a somewhat lackluster demise in The Last Jedi, Snoke toys were destined for the clearance bin. Reiterating once more, it also means no Baby Yoda toys for the holiday season.
As to why Baby Yoda has taken off when in the past Star Wars fans have had a love-hate relationship with anything cute pervading the franchise (Ewoks, Porgs), I’m sure would make an enlightening dissertation. Audiences are much more savvy when it comes to characters and creatures created primarily for their toyetic appeal. Though they still have their diehard fans, actor John Boyega hit the nail on the head when he described them as cockroaches.
If I were to hazard a guess, Baby Yoda is the embodiment of the idea of legacy that’s vital for any fandom to thrive, a theme prevalent in the current trilogy. This Toys’R’Us commercial deftly illustrates:
Already online we’re seeing artists capitalize on the Baby Yoda phenomenon and selling a host of original products through Etsy. I’m predicting not only art commissions, but a ubiquity of Mandalorian/Baby Yoda cosplayers at conventions, especially among parents with young children.
*Baby Yoda appears*
artist alley vendors: pic.twitter.com/NYTjpMFLpb
— Pablo Leon @ CALA 26A (@ArtsyPabster) November 19, 2019
Back at Toy Fair 2018, Hasbro unveiled a furReal interactive plush Chewie. I can’t imagine it would be incredibly difficult to retool the Chewie toy into a Baby Yoda version. With a retail price as high as $130, I can’t justify that purchase considering I’m still paying off student loans. For a Baby Yoda however, I’m willing to stay in debt just a little longer.
Here’s hoping Hasbro does indeed have some Baby Yoda toys on display at Toy Fair 2019 this February in NYC. You can bet The Beat will once again be covering it so be on the lookout right here for any Baby Yoda chatter.