Friday, August 1, 2014

Merch Ado About Nothing

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

I think I’ve pinpointed one reason why Disney’s handling of the Star Wars property has left a bad taste in my mouth, and why I can’t help but feel worried about the fate of Episodes I-III.

Merchandising. Where the real money from the movie is made.

 While much of the licensed property has historically leaned more IV-VI, I-III has always been well-represented. Just as many I-III action figures; A I-III character being thrown in a series of cute knickknacks; books dealing with all eras. I always felt that there was something to spend my money on, even if I didn’t necessarily have the money to spend.

After the sale? Forget it. Everywhere I’ve looked, it seems the merchandisers only want to believe that Star Wars is just Star Wars – as in A New Hope circa 1977. Once in a while Yoda, Boba Fett, or even Jabba the Hutt will show up. But as a whole, it’s Luke, Han, and Leia in their Hope outfits, with Vader looking menacing, and the Millennium Falcon EVERYWHERE.

Have I mentioned I’m one of the few Star Wars fans who are neutral at best about the Falcon?

I got discouraged easily. Finally, I have somewhat of a disposable income, and yet I can’t find a Star Wars shirt I feel comfortable wearing. If I want geeky accessories, I either have to make it or scour the web for vintage 1999-2005 items. I couldn’t get excited about new Star Wars stuff, because it was only half of Star Wars at best and one sixth at worst.

The change happened slowly.

It started when I heard there was an iPhone game being released for kids that started with Phantom Menace. Then Hasbro, who I had heard was “avoiding the prequels” by mandate, releases a new Mace Windu figure long after the backlog from the cancelled 3D releases of Clones and Sith had run their course. Then I find two wonderful little books – one a book of science experiments for children and the other a First Grade Math workbook – that feature the entire Saga equally.

It was then I realized: While the general audience and adult-oriented merchandise is appealing to the section of geekdom that only watches the original releases of Hope and Empire, anything targeted primarily at children is still equally, fully Saga.

Aside from enforcing the untrue stereotype that only children can like I-III, this is great news! It means that I-III are safe from being erased by mainstream. It means that those in charge know that someone at least loves all the movies. And as the generation for whom Phantom, Clones, and Sith were their first Star Wars begins to grow up, we will certainly see much more adult-oriented merchandise featuring Anakin, Padmé, Mace, and even Jar Jar.

And me, with my greying, thinning hair, my own kids in tow, will be right at the front of the line.

(Okay, maybe I’m hoping it happens a little sooner than that, but either way it’ll be worth the wait.)


  1. I think the big reason we don't see as much prequel merch in comparison to OT is a matter of time more than anything else.

    See, there's a difference in how a company (particularly toy companies) will merchandise products for a current film and an older film- it's easy to see in something like LEGO, where current licenses will get a wave or two showcasing the major points of the film (usually an action scene or vehicle or something), whereas older films get a lot more varied stuff because the intention is to market to something that is well-known and beloved rather than something new and unsure. It's why LEGO keeps the X-Wing in circulation all the time while a Naboo Starfighter comes and goes based on waves. Part of it has to do with demographics (there's no one who'll be able to convince me the recent Sandcrawler set is marketed towards anyone other than adults), but mostly it's marketing towards perception and knowledge of the films in general.

    I mean, by this point the OT is over 30 years past us- the PT is less than a third of that, and perception-wise even less because of the Clone Wars show. So it's still in the phase of being marketed as if they're current films, and the big thrusts of merchandise comes when they're relevant (it's why if you noticed there's been a big push on prequel toys the past couple years to coincide with the now-cancelled 3D rereleases).

    As time goes on, though (and especially when the new films come out, cementing the PT as part of the past along with the OT), they'll fall into that same bout of nostalgia as the OT and be marketed accordingly. And I wouldn't worry about the danger of perception hurting them here- companies know nostalgia still exists for the franchise and are unlikely to not make more PT toys because they think some people might not buy them. In the end they know there's a profit to be made here, which is ultimately what will trump public/fan perception.

    1. You're absolutely right, but it's difficult not to be paranoid with the climate being the way it is.

      And then it becomes a catch-22 where you say "if I do nothing, they'll walk all over us, but if I make a big stink I'm being no better than them taking things way out of proportion."

      It's tough to simply LIKE something nowadays, and that strikes me as frankly insane.

    2. "It's tough to simply LIKE something nowadays, and that strikes me as frankly insane."-

      I have to say that this is perhaps the best quote I have heard in a long time. Their is too much of an "everything sucks" mentality these days.

      Anyway, I agree that their is reason for concern with the future of Star Wars- partly because their is too much uncertainty about what is going on behind the scenes, and too much paranoia from fandom.

      Once Rebels get's released perhaps that may calm the fans to some extent

  2. Wild Horse FantasyAugust 5, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    Well, I'm not confident. There were discrepancies between the original trilogy and prequels that the expanded universe explained. Now there is no explanation. My impression is that for those who like prequel era books for kids AND adults, we are in trouble.
    On the other hand I could beg them to fix the action figure stuff: hard to find the Clone Wars characters when they were out but PLEASE no more Phantom Menace. It was on overload. Yet there were Attack of the Clones versions of characters I never set eyes on.
    Cancelling the Clone Wars didn't help the impression of Disney as there was no reason for it that didn't smack of 'we don't want this show competing with ours, having ever been associated with another network.'
    There should be room for all of us: both eras both kid and adult. I'm not so sure Disney understands that, or recognizes that taking away or cancelling anything other than the movies 'pre Disney era' in preparation for the new stuff smacks of bullying. That is the reason for resentment, it's all in how they have handled it.

    1. I saw no discrepancies.

      All I'm saying is that, right now, there's hope.

  3. Secretly hoping Hot Topic would make some prequel based fashion or at least a Padime or Jar Jar inspired bow...... IDK how likely that will be. However, considering the new movie, there's definitely gonna be a boom in SW merch, only new trilogy focus. Who knows, maybe there will be a higher demand for all movie merch.