Disney are not doing too well when it comes to merchandising.
Following the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron last year, the company was inundated with complaints over choices in the film’s marketing, which seemed to purposefully remove Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow character. Most unforgivable was a set in which her motorbike – indeed, a vehicle she is seen driving in the movie – was now manned by a Shield-bearing Captain America, an occurrence that did not even happen during the film. One of the movie’s stars, Mark Ruffalo, even took to Twitter to question the marketing choices that had seen his co-star’s likeness conspicuously absent from the toy shelves full of items designed to cash in on one of the biggest movie releases of the year. And now, we are back there again. This time, however, with Disney’s latest money-spinner.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – while on a Millennium Falcon-like course straight for the top the all-time highest-grossing film listings – was released in the midst of a mammoth merchandising operation from Disney, with everything you can think of brandishing the name, images and characters. But it is the apparent underuse of one of those characters – heck, probably the main character – that is causing uproar.
Star Wars Monopoly was recently released, with the publicity blurb saying the game contained “2 Rebel, 2 Empire” character tokens, and draws from the Star Wars “legacy”, along with the latest in the franchise. Those character tokens; Finn, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Now, while Finn and Kylo Ren do play major parts in the new movie, it does seem strange that Hasbro and Disney would not include a character that has certainly captured the hearts and attention of today’s Star Wars fans. Hasbro did release a statement, defending their reasoning for the character choice;
“The Star Wars: Monopoly game was released in September, months before the movie’s release. Rey was not included to avoid revealing a key plot line that she takes on Kylo Ren and joins the Rebel Alliance.”
It doesn’t end there, however. A playset featuring the iconic Millennium Falcon and three action figures sees Finn, Chewbacca and BB-8. Of course, there is no argument for Chewie’s inclusion, however given Rey’s increasing attachment to the Falcon airship as the movie goes on (no spoilers, the movie isn’t out in China yet, remember), it is hard to comprehend why a Rey figure is not included here.
Want more perplexing? Okay, how about a six-figure The Force Awakens set, designed to give imaginative children the chance to relive the famous battles in their own bedroom and, more importantly, in their mind? We have Finn, Chewbacca, Poe Damarot, Kylo Ren, a Stormtrooper…all good choices. And then there’s a TIE Fighter pilot. Not a named TIE Fighter pilot, integral to the movie’s plot. Just a regular TIE Fighter pilot. Getting hard to argue with those questioning why female characters appear to get slighted when it comes to merchandising, isn’t it?
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Paul Southern, Disney’s senior vice president and head of licensing for Lucasfilm, vows that the company will make good with new ranges of merch this month.
“Rey and Phasma feature prominently across hundreds of products, and are selling exceptionally well. In many stores and e-commerce destinations, products featuring Rey are selling as quickly as retailers can restock shelves. Fans will also be seeing a lot more of Rey with a new wave of product coming in January.”
Safe to say, all eyes on are going to be on the shop shelves later this month.