Baby Yoda From a Toy Industry Perspective

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To paraphrase an old saying: Time waits for no man, and it doesn't wait for the Walt Disney Company either.

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Whether you call him Baby Yoda , or "The Child" as the Walt Disney Company would prefer, he is the best thing to come along for the toy industry this Christmas season……except that he didn't. At least not as a toy. That will come later, much later.

It is crucial that we study Disney's decision to postpone licensing until after it introduced Baby Yoda. It teaches us in the toy industry some valuable lessons: We don't count as much as the entertainment side of the business, and Disney may have just launched a whole new paradigm in how studios introduce new characters.

The Walt Disney Company chose to delay the introduction of Baby Yoda because it a) wanted to create a sensation with its new Mandalorian franchise and b) more importantly, it wanted to generate a frenzy of interest so that consumers would subscribe to the new Disney+. In doing so, the company was willing to forgo the resulting revenues from consumer product sales. They saw the loss of consumer product dollars as an investment in what was a larger target, launching their Disney+.

The Walt Disney Company's decision certainly made sense to its senior management team, but it was an unmitigated disaster for the toy industry. Think of not only the missed Baby Yoda toy sales but the loss of incremental revenue that any hot toy brings as people invade the toy department in desperate search of the latest hot toy.

Yes, Disney will capture some sales later but the demand will be satisfied far more quickly. To paraphrase an old saying: Time waits for no man, and it doesn't wait for the Walt Disney Company either.

But what comes next? Has the Walt Disney Company created an alternative paradigm for launching new characters? Will content producers in television and movies feel that keeping a secret about a new character or plotline outweighs the incremental value of toy sales? We will have to wait a few months to get that answer.

 

2 thoughts

  1. The obvious answer is that Disney realized there was no way to produce toys without images of THE CHILD leaking With social media as it is now Ben Franklin’s maxim of “A secret can be kept by 3 people if 2 of them are dead” is truer than ever.

  2. It’s important to note, Richard, that over the past two years Star Wars has been a distressed license with a precipitous drop in toy sales. What started as a minor backlash to the storyline of The Last Jedi was exacerbated by poor communication between Disney and the fans, generating a level of animosity that has negatively impacted all things Star Wars.
    The producers of The Mandalorian understood this and strongly desired to launch the sub-property without any hint of corporate cynicism and Disney wisely agreed. I think the gambit has paid off, generating fantastic good will from fans, and for the first time in years, high demand for Star Wars toys.
    The lesson here is not that entertainment companies might shortchange toymakers by withholding important licensed products — it’s that those companies need to concentrate on creating truly compelling characters and designs that attract fans, and the good will to stop fighting with fans and let their stories do the talking. Baby Yoda has indeed brought peace to the galaxy.

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