Disney Debuts New ‘Star Wars’ Toys With Fan-Created Online Films
‘Rogue One’ may have difficulty sustaining industry growth
Products by Hasbro, Mattel, Jakks, others go on sale Sept. 30
Walt Disney Co. is unveiling toys tied to its December release “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” with an assortment of fan-made films to stoke enthusiasm for action figures and collectibles that have become a major part of the toy industry’s sales.
The world’s largest entertainment company asked “super fans” to create videos featuring the new playthings. The clips begin appearing Wednesday on the Star Wars YouTube channel. The toys, from manufacturers such as Hasbro Inc., Mattel Inc. and Jakks Pacific Inc., go on sale Sept. 30.
Star Wars products were the largest contributor to the U.S. toy industry’s 7 percent rise in sales in the first half of this year, according to researcher NPD Group. The pent-up demand for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first new film in the series in a decade, contributed to the surge, but the momentum may be difficult to sustain. Hasbro, the main licensee for Star Wars toys, said in July that it expects 2016 sales related to the franchise to be flat compared with a year earlier at around $500 million.
Sales at Disney’s consumer products and interactive media unit, which includes its toy licensing business, have fallen for two straight quarters because it’s been tough to top the still-booming revenue last year of products tied to the 2013 hit film “Frozen.”
The current “Rogue One” campaign is reminiscent of the one for last year’s “Force Awakens,” where Disney asked talent associated with its Maker Studios online video arm to create “unboxing videos” for the new toys in a global rollout. As part of the current promotion, fans are being encouraged to create their own online Star Wars stories and skits, with a winner invited to a San Francisco screening.
Disney and Hasbro also got a lift earlier this year from a viral video of a woman laughing uncontrollably while wearing the toymaker’s Chewbacca mask.
“Rogue One,” which focuses on events between the first and second Star Wars trilogies, is the eighth film overall in the franchise and the second since Disney acquired producer Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. In the movie, a group of new characters conspires to steal the plans for the Death Star, the evil Empire’s ultimate weapon. It hits U.S. theaters on Dec. 16.
The new products debuting in September include the $50 Death Star Micro Machines playset from Hasbro, the $30 Imperial Hovercraft from Lego A/S and the $27 Elite Series Captain Cassian Andor action figure from Disney stores.