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A site called “Sweatpants and Coffee” has just posted an anonymous insider whistleblower report on the Where’s Rey? controversy that has seen the main character of the world’s most popular movie left out of the toys for that movie:

in January 2015, a number of toy and merchandise vendors descended on Lucasfilm’s Letterman Center in San Francisco. In a series of confidential meetings, the vendors presented their product ideas to tie in with the highly-anticipated new Star Wars film. Representatives presented, pitched, discussed, and agreed upon prototype products. The seeds of the controversies Lucasfilm is facing regarding the marketing and merchandising of The Force Awakens were sown in those meetings, according to the industry insider.

The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

“We know what sells,” the industry insider was told. “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”

Lucasfilm did not respond to requests for comment by press time.


This account does not entirely pass my sniff test 100%, as it leaves out a lot of information, including the role that Disney played. That could also be ass covering since it is a deep throat whistleblower. Normally I don’t like reporting on things that are as “Someone on the internet said something!” as this. However the account has certainly caused a lot of buzz on the internets. There are two possibilities here.

#1: This is a made up or axe grinding account but it sounds real enough and plausible enough given the ongoing lack of female character toys, the Gamora Doctrine, and the obvious reactionary nature of the toy business. It’s about time that toymakers, Lucasfilms and Disney were grilled over this, and being openly questioned at last is the only way to finally end the innately sexist nature of toy industry marketing.

#2: It is true, in which case, it’s about time that toymakers, Lucasfilms and Disney were grilled over this, and being openly questioned at last is the only way to finally end the innately sexist nature of toy industry marketing.

While a report on a website I never heard of (even though its title accurately describes my state right now) raises issues, the author, Michael Boehm, talks to many others, including John Marcotte of Heroic Girls, who has his own insider dirt:

“I’ve spoken with Disney people, and they were completely blindsided by the reaction to the new Star Wars characters,” Marcotte went on to say. “They put a huge investment into marketing and merchandizing the Kylo Ren character. They presumed he would be the big breakout role from the film. They were completely surprised when it was Rey everyone identified with and wanted to see more of. Now they’re stuck with vast amounts of Kylo Ren product that is not moving, and a tidal wave of complaints about a lack of Rey items.”


I guess this guy has never heard of tumblr but that may not be a toy buying segment either. I should point out that some of the rest of the anonymous insider’s info goes a little more into truther territory:

The industry insider confirmed that the Black Widow character is widely considered “unusable” within the toy industry. “She has a tight black outfit. Our main customer is concerned with ‘family values,’” said the insider.

At the same time, however, it’s increasingly apparent that marketers’ perceptions are seriously out of touch with consumers’ tastes.

“Princess toy sales are in freefall. Disney can’t give away princess toys anymore,” according to the insider. And yet, the insider said, the directive is there: Maintain the sharp boy/girl product division. Marginalize girl characters in items not specifically marketed as girl-oriented.


While female action figures may not be plentiful, those that there re are always wearing skin tight costumes, so I don’t know where this “Black Widow vs family values” idea comes from, although it could certainly be true. Disney Princesses remains a huge brand, but it moved from Mattel to Hasbro a few years ago so that couldn’t have been because things were hunky dory, and Mattel’s Barbie franchise has been struggling in a more progressive culture.


While I have no idea what’s true in all of this I can tell you one thing: I Sure can’t wait until Toy Fair next month!!! If any industry insider whistleblowers want to set up a meeting in a parking garage or anywhere else, email us at comicsbeat at gmail.com

18 COMMENTS

  1. When I was a kid I would never of bought a Rey doll, its like a barbie, stop being a femnazi men relate to male characters, end of.

  2. Yes, Rey is hard/impossible to find in stores, possibly indicating that they didn’t produce enough of her toys, but if you look at what’s been made, though out of stock, you’ll see that Rey is fairly well represented. Given that, I can’t take a claim that vendors were specifically told to exclude her seriously. (That said, I really need them to get the Black Series figure back in stock.)

  3. I know another “anonymous insider” doesn’t help the case, but it is absolutely true that this was an intentional decision on Disney & Lucasfilm’s part. You won’t find anyone willing to go on the record to corroborate this because the companies that rely on those lucrative licenses are legally (and professionally) bound to keep their client’s decisions private.

    Hasbro has taken so much heat for this when their hands were tied. The same is true for all of the Avengers merch; Disney bought Marvel & Star Wars specifically to be their “boy brands”, and the people making decisions are determined to keep their brands gender specific, regardless of the wide appeal these properties and characters demand.

  4. “They put a huge investment into marketing and merchandizing the Kylo Ren character. They presumed he would be the big breakout role from the film. They were completely surprised when it was Rey everyone identified with and wanted to see more of. ”

    This is the first believable “anonymous insider” line I’ve read so far. And not just because every store I go to has boxes and boxes of Kylo Ren stuff on the shelves, a few Stormtroopers, and almost nothing else. It fits with the mentality – who’s going to be the breakout character? The one that looks the coolest. Who has the coolest look? Why the guy with the facemask and lightsaber, duh!

    The idea that Rey might turn out to be the coolest character might not have even entered their thoughts. These are toy executives after all.

  5. “Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.”

    Ben Trigg: “Yes, Rey is hard/impossible to find in stores, possibly indicating that they didn’t produce enough of her toys, but if you look at what’s been made, though out of stock, you’ll see that Rey is fairly well represented.”

    As an uninformed observer, I can only note that the only way these two statements could both be true is if the product vendors specifically ignored direct instructions to produce no Rey merchandise. Failing that, either this anonymous insider is lying or at best grossly exaggerating, or commenter Ben Trigg is lying about the product sent to market. I’m inclined to believe commenter Ben Trigg.

  6. This is what happens when the sales and marketing people make the decisions. They are so caught up in there stats and numbers that they forget they are selling things to people, things based on a story. In this story, Kylo Ren murders one of our favorite heroes of all time, and Rey is the hero who fights him and will surely bring him to justice eventually. Mythology over metrics, people. Of course we identify with her more.

  7. I don’t know what all the fuss is about exactly, it seems like this all came from the fact that she was left out of the Monopoly game, but it’s not like she’s been left out of anything anyone actually cares about (action figures and Lego sets, Pop! figures, etc).

    She was part of the first wave of each type of figure released by Hasbro (3.75″ and 6″), her speeder was one of the first vehicles released, her Funko Pop! and Hot Toys figures were released along with all the other main characters from the movie, her speeder was one of the first sets that Lego put out (her minifigure was available in the Millennium Falcon set as well), and her build-a-figure Lego set is among those released along with the other main characters from TFA.

    I think it’s just a matter of supply not meeting demand; when you have one character everyone wants but comes one or two per case and is mixed in with random aliens and droids that didn’t have a single line in the movie you’re not going to be able to find it anywhere. I’m not saying Disney hasn’t screwed up on this a bit in the past (just ask any fan of Black Widow action figures) and for all I know this could be legit, but I don’t think it’s as big a deal as it’s being made out to be.

    The only figure that I know I can find when I go to the toy aisle is Finn. Nobody buys Finn.
    #blackactionfiguresmatter

  8. Do girl action figures sell less? Is there any proof of the math? They might be jerks, but they wouldn’t be wrong if girl action figures really did sell noticeably less.

    That being said, my facebook has been flooded with geek dads who are loudly pissed off that they can’t buy their daughters certain figures as gifts.

  9. Yeah, this sounds like option #1 that this is made up or has an axe to grind.
    “Eventually, the product vendors were

    There is plenty of Rey merchandise out there, it’s just she is missing from a few places (Monopoly, the box set of figures from Hasbro, etc.). There are Rey figures, Rey t-shirts, Rey pajamas, Rey costumes for kids and more. That said, the other report seems correct that there is a lot more Kylo Ren figures and merchandise and a lot of it is sitting on the shelves.

    However, the fact that Rey merchandise is out there, means the product vendors were not “specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise”.

  10. Well I actually see a lot of toys and versions of Rey in the stores, there is a toy in every size and uniform she wore in the movie; she is in the video games as Infinity, she is in shirts, costumes, cups, promotions and the list keeps on going… How many Reys does the #where’sRey people want?

  11. Kylo Ren a breakout character? Really? Angry young teenager who chops up everything when he doesn’t get his way?

    Ironically the only star wars merchandise I own is a Pop! figurine of him, but that was a secret Santa present.

  12. I think that report is completely faked for two reasons:

    1) January 2015 seems *way* too late in the toy development process to be making decisions like this. This stuff would have been figured out in 2014, pretty much as soon as they had finalized designs and began shooting. In fact, one of the big reasons Hasbro did not have enough quantity on Force Friday was because the development schedule (start of shooting June 2014 to being on the shelf September 2015 ) was already super-compressed; for the past three Star Wars films Hasbro had a whole extra year between the start of shooting and release.

    2) This is clearly not an insider, because they seem to confuse the POV of the licensees and Lucasfilm. They start by saying licensees were ready to make Rey stuff and Lucasfilm talked them out of it by saying “boys don’t buy girl toys”… which makes no sense because that’s a toy maker’s opinion. Lucasfilm wouldn’t have or even care about that data.

  13. ““We know what sells,” the industry insider was told. “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.” ”

    Like PHANTOM MENACE toys in 2012?

    The phrase “epic disaster” doesn’t begin to cover how much damage those toys did to the Hasbro line as they sat on the shelves for years.

    (Though part of that may have come from a Lucasfilm directive- not even a year before Disney bought them)

  14. Unfortunately this sounds legit because about six months ago Disney quietly removed Ike Perlmutter from head of the Marvel toy Merchendising and removed his veto power on female character toys. He used to work for Toy biz back in the 1990s and he was the one notorious for saying “I know what sells and boys don’t want….” Ironically he worked for Toy Biz at a time when they sold twelve inch tall Spider-Man figures with changable clothes along with Mary Jane from the 1990s Spider-man animated series.

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