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.