Star Wars toys are special. The original twelve Kenner action figures featured main characters from what we now know as Episode IV: A New Hope. The demand was unprecedented and the company was unable to get enough stock in stores in time for Christmas. However, if you were not able to bring the battle to your own star system, you did end up with something pretty cool (not to mention coveted by today’s collectors).
Out of necessity, the “Early Bird Certificate Package” was born. This first fan-driven response to sell Star Wars toys didn’t just include an IOU from Kenner redeemable for four action figures, but a diorama to display, and possibly stare at daily, until the real ones showed up. It also landed you a Star Wars fan club membership card. You could argue that this is where the force of movie merchandising awakens. Today, Star Wars licensed products have brought retailers more than $32 billion in merchandising sales alone, continuing to increase by at least $1.5 billion per year.
The way in which Lucasfilm (now in part with Disney) have rolled out new toys has changed since that empty “Early Bird” box. Today, the children and grand-children of the original saga’s Kenner collectors likely took part in the global 2015 live toy unboxing event called “Force Friday”. The event, featuring YouTube stars unboxing first-looks at toy boxes for Episode VII – The Force Awakens, was just one in a series of marketing moves that drove major excitement to the Return of the Jedi sequel. This year, the event returns to celebrate the launch of new products inspired by Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.
September 1st will be known as “Star Wars Force Friday II”, and features toys, collectibles, books, and apparel going on sale beginning at 12:01am. Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media says specific plans are “top secret, but expect something befitting the excitement around the next episode of the Star Wars saga.” As with the first Force Friday, these new products will be kept under wraps until the event. At least that’s what the studio, and their licensing parters, hope.
In the meantime, the official Star Wars website has offered a first sneak peak at planned packaging for toys in the new film’s line. The package features images of a lightsaber-wielding Rey, Poe Dameron, and Finn. As previously reported, Rey looks to be sporting a new hairdo. Her very presence in the packaging and initial toy line should please fans who felt the lack of Rey disturbing back in 2015.
The Licensing Industry Merchandisers Assn. has not broken out any specific contribution from Disney’s first Star Wars movie, but Marty Brochstein, senior VP of industry relations and information for LIMA, said that the tentpole movie played a crucial role in boosting the overall numbers in 2015 and 2016. He told Variety that the second “Force Friday” should be highly popular.
Force Friday II proves the franchise rules the licensing galaxy. According to a report from Variety, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association expects the event to be very popular, despite its absence from Toy Fair. “Disney is very good at this,” stated a LIMA representative.
Sources: Disney/Lucasfilm [via Variety]