Those expecting to buy a Mandalorian Baby Yoda plush toy at Target for kids this Christmas will have to wait until 4th quarter of 2020. Despite the title of this piece, there is no significant Baby Yoda merch available this year, other than cheapo items as at least a start toward whetting the appetite of next holiday season.
Disney would have been all over the plush toys months ago had it not have been a plea from Mandalorian director/writer Jon Favreau. The only way to keep the secret of Baby Yoda (now deemed “The Child” by some) was to have Disney refrain from doing any pre-merchandising, an obvious financial risk.
Well, now it’s starting to pay back with some overly basic Baby Yoda merch. Will this backfire, though, if interest isn’t sustained into next year?
While Disney has noted they won’t be able to put out the sophisticated Baby Yoda toys and “action figures” until next year, they aren’t hesitating to make up for the sudden explosion in interest. Baby Yoda is the biggest thing to happen to Star Wars since the Porgs, and BY is arguably bigger.
The Mandalorian more or less reignited pop culture interest in Star Wars not seen since the original trilogy or the prequels. That sense of mystery and buzz is what makes all the interest, something Favreau obviously knew mattered.
To make up for the lack of merch earlier, Disney is putting out basic (though official) t-shirts with Baby Yoda’s image on the front. If looking for anything beyond just an image of The Child, most fans will be disappointed, even if additional smartphone cases, tote bags, coffee mugs, and tumblers can make good stocking stuffers.
What’s curious about these official Bay Yoda merch items is they look rushed into production. Coming from Disney, that’s a very unusual situation, if not unexpected due to the intense, 11th-hour production.
Are fans really happy with the cheap, basic items?
Anyone familiar with the Disney model knows these cheap merch items are a big disappointment. Some of the items look like they were produced on Etsy by individual t-shirt artists. In fact, a few independent shirts have been sold there, if likely soon receiving a cease & desist notice from the Mouse House.
Outside of the stumbled rush to make fast money off Baby Yoda this holiday season, waiting to get the more sophisticated items was all for the better, especially in the realm of pop culture response.
Think about what the response would have been compared to the element of surprise Favreau and Disney cooked up. Having Baby Yoda maintained as a secret was the best possible thing to happen psychologically since it brought a sense of mystery to Star Wars no one sees much of anymore.
Keep in mind the original trilogy had the same sense of mystery and wonder initially because it was long before media leaks or merchandise dominating stores six months before the film came out. Back then, fans didn’t see original Yoda on toy shelves until the holiday season of 1980, more than six months after The Empire Strikes Back released.
But can interest keep going through 2020?
Because the public interest in pop culture can be more fleeting in a busier news cycle nowadays, the mania for Baby Yoda may not sustain a whole year. Then again, if Disney+ can speed up filming for the second season, there might be reignited interest by holiday season 2020.
It all depends on what’s uncovered about Baby Yoda/The Child in coming episodes and whether he/she still captures the public’s imagination. With that alone, it’s another Disney risk, if a chance to create a toy everyone will remember.
Coming from Disney Imagineers, there may be something innovative in the action figures, as in levitation ability…presumably not for animals and humans.