THE TOYNEWS BLOG: The force is strong with Disney - ToyNews

THE TOYNEWS BLOG: The force is strong with Disney

What we can learn from the LucasFilm acquisition and the opportunity for fresh Star Wars toys.
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Disney rocked the world this week by announcing it will acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion – AND release Star Wars Episode 7 in 2015.

The entertainment giant has come a very long way since its 1928 black and white Mickey Mouse film Steamboat Willie, and the Lucasfilm deal is the latest in a series of moves which demonstrate that.

Episodes 8 and 9 will follow, with a long term plan “to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years” – the perfect opportunity for Disney to plan and launch fresh toy lines for a new generation of Skywalkers.

Eyebrows were raised even further when Disney picked up Marvel in 2009, but look how lucrative that acquisition turned out to be. 

Avengers Assemble generated over $1.5 billion since airing in spring, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year, with licensed toys and product sales booming. Proof alone that there’s much more to Disney than kids’ cartoons, stores, TV channels and fairytale theme parks (although these too will certainly aid Star Wars in the years to come).

Avengers’ performance surprised even Disney itself, and that’s considering the company’s success with its animated Pixar film property Cars. The latter movies have broken records for retail sales of licensed merchandise, which consists of toys, clothing and much more, putting Disney in good stead for the inevitably colossal Star Wars Episode 7, 8 and 9 licensing programmes. 

The Pixar and Marvel deals prove that Disney is in an excellent position to harness the Star Wars franchise, just as its CEO and chairman Robert Iger hinted at earlier this week.


Disney chairman CEO Robert Iger (left) strikes the deal with Lucasfilm chairman and founder George Lucas (right).

Obviously, Star Wars is not unfamiliar with the toy business. The classic sci-fi epic was arguably the first movie to truly transform the movie merchandising market, and Star Wars is still one of the hottest licensed properties today. Combine that with a string of upcoming movies and it’s difficult to see how this new partnership could go wrong.

Those who watched the original movies as children and young adults will now have kids of their own. These youngsters – that Disney already reaches with its Pixar and Marvel movies – present the company with a whole new generation of Star Wars consumers to entertain. And you can be certain of a Star Wars toy boom in 2015 when the next episode lands. 

A NEW HOPE

Once the news was first laid bare this week, the internet exploded, and rightly so. Twitter became a frenzied forum for Star Wars fans and skeptics alike, and soon transformed into a playground full of Princess Leia jokes and crazy ideas for Disney, Indiana Jones and Star Wars crossover movies.

Of course, it also caught the attention of the toy and entertainment industries. In particular, Mind Candy’s CEO Michael Acton ‘Mr Moshi’ Smith made the following comment:

Smith makes a fair point. While it’s great news for Disney, Lucasfilm, cinemas, retailers, distributors and Star Wars fans across the globe, the announcement only confirms Disney’s status as a global behemoth, and one that has an increasingly tight stranglehold on the entertainment business.

Mind Candy has already told ToyNews of its desire to become an “entertainment company”, not just a digital online gaming firm, and in turn Disney says “it is learning” from companies like Mind Candy, which inspire it to be a “bit more nimble and fast-paced”. It will certainly have to, if it continues to grow and attain giant properties at its current pace. 

And so it comes down to firms like Mind Candy to innovate and introduce new IP if they want to make it tough for Disney to capitalise on the global kids’ market. Let’s not forget, Star Wars was once an unknown new property, just like Moshi Monsters and Angry Birds were a mere couple of years ago. 

But let’s not take anything away from Disney here. The force is certainly strong with this one – something that will no doubt be proven yet again in three years’ time.

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