STAR WARS & THE TOY BIZ – THE FORCE AWAKENS VERDICT
In this 2nd article looking at Star Wars & the toy business we deliver our verdict on The Force Awakens, and what it means for the toy business.
At the time of writing, The Force Awakens is smashing box office records left, right and centre. Which isn’t particularly surprising when you think of how much this film has been anticipated/hyped.
The first point for us to make is – WOW The Force Awakens really delivers as a movie. It delivers in terms of a one off movie experience, it delivers in terms of authenticity versus the original trilogy and it delivers in terms of setting the scene for the raft of Star Wars movies to come (both sequels to The Force Awakens and spin offs).
As a childhood super fan of Star Wars I can say from a personal perspective that I am very deeply satisfied with The Force Awakens, and as I have told everyone who has had the misfortune to speak to me since viewing it, I believe again! I’m not the only person of my generation who found the second trilogy (in terms of release date) to be hugely disappointing. Well that’s all ancient history now, because now I believe again!
Such personal ramblings aside, from the perspective of the toy industry which has so much to gain from a successful reintroduction of Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens bodes well for the toy industry. In fact I would go so far as to say that the toy industry is going to be reaping the rewards of JJ Abrams fantastic film for some years to come!
I’m not entirely convinced by the plan for spin offs, as that kind of thing can look better on paper than reality, my suspicion is that spin offs like the feted Boba Fett spin off and for that matter Harry Potter spin off movies are risky. Nevertheless though, we’re heading into what looks like at least 5 years of ongoing Star Wars mania, which is huge news for the toy business.
I’m expecting Hasbro to do fantastically well out of both this movie and subsequent ones as the master toy licensee for the franchise, but there are numerous other companies set for a bonanza based on the massive media footprint/impressions created by The Force Awakens. And obviously the ultimate beneficiary is the Disney corporation, because this massively compelling iteration of THE toyetic movie brand must have increased the intellectual property value of the Star Wars franchise way beyond what they paid for it, and when they tot up all the royalty payments heading their way in the near future I imagine the bean counters at ‘Mouse’ headquarters will be mightily happy!
In terms of how The Force Awakens works for toys, aside from the old classic toyetic features like space ships, X-wings, hand held weapons and all the rest, we also have a few new heroes to add into the mix. BB8, the small droid that looks kind of like a rolling football/soccer ball stole the show in terms of being cutesy, funny and plucky. While I’m sure it has challenged some toy designers as it can’t be easy turning that into a working toy, in the end it represents a fantastic new icon for the franchise, while C3PO & R2D2 still had their part to play.
The new ‘baddy’ character – Kylo Ren – has a face mask as did predecessor Darth Vader, as well as a visually striking cross shaped light sabre. Ren looks set to star in future movies, so expect the crucifix shaped light saber to be back/on toy shelves for some years to come!
Aesthetically, because The Force Awakens relies less on CGI than many sci-fi movies seem to do nowadays, there is more of a real/grainy feel to the backgrounds and sets featured, and more detail to be replicated within the toy world.
The bottom line is that Star Wars as the original toyetic movie is now set to wow another generation…when kids are seeing a Star Wars movie for the first time, you know it’s hooked them when they start saying ‘May the force be with you’ instead of goodbye!
by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com, a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world