Retail

No 'Star Wars' film is slated for 2020, but there will still be plenty of toys

Key Points
  • While Disney's "Star Wars" toys get a boost when a films hits theaters, sales aren't solely reliant on theatrical releases.
  • From the casual connoisseur of "Star Wars" merchandise to the avid collector, Disney and Hasbro have a wide breadth of demand to fill.
  • "'Star Wars' is the best selling toy of all time from any entertainment brand," analyst Jim Silver says.
Sarah Whitten

The Skywalker saga may be coming to a close this year with the December release of "Star Wars: Episode IX," but that doesn't spell the end for the franchise's massive toy business.

While Hasbro, which holds the master toy license, will see a dip in sales without a tent pole feature in 2020, there's no doubt that "Star Wars" merchandise will remain a major part of the toy industry.

"'Star Wars' is the best selling toy of all time from any entertainment brand," said Jim Silver, toy analyst and CEO of TTPM

When "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the first of Lucasfilm's latest "Star Wars" trilogy, hit theaters in 2015, Hasbro saw sales of "Star Wars" products reach nearly $500 million.

Since then, Disney has released one "Star Wars" film each year during December. Until 2018, that is. Last year, Disney decided to release "Solo: A Star Wars Story" in May, leaving Hasbro with a very difficult fourth-quarter comparison.

"Disney knows that content affects the sales of toys," Silver said.

Which is why the company already has a slate of content ready for "Star Wars" fans both theatrically and through other media. Disney has hired writers to create two separate trilogies. One is being written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners of HBO's blockbuster fantasy series "Game of Thrones;" the other by Rian Johnson, director of "The Last Jedi."

Additionally, Disney's streaming service will be home to a live-action television show called "The Mandalorian" as well as a new season of the beloved "Star Wars Clone Wars" animated show. Not to mention, Disney will open two "Star Wars" lands at theme parks in California and Florida this year.

Also this year, Hasbro will release a line of "Star Wars: Episode IX" toys that will accompany the film's December release. Some of those figures and role-play items will likely be revealed during Triple Force Friday on Oct. 4. Also on that day, Disney will reveal the "Star Wars" video game "Jedi: Fallen Order" and "The Mandalorian."

Hasbro's Black Series Luke Skywalker figure from the trash compactor scene in "Star Wars: A New Hope."
Sarah Whitten

Although the franchise gets a boost when its films hit theaters, it doesn't rely solely on these theatrical releases. A combination of solid story-telling, compelling characters and a passionate fan base has afforded "Star Wars" a position as an evergreen brand.

Fans get emotionally attached to characters and are often driven to purchase those characters when they appear as toys and other pieces of merchandise. From the casual connoisseur to the avid collector, Disney and Hasbro have a wide breadth of demand to fill.

The upside of the Dark Side

While fans have embraced new characters like Kylo Ren, Rey and BB-8 from the latest trilogy, characters like Darth Vader, R2-D2 and Chewbacca remain staples for the brand.

Darth Vader, in particular, remains a fan favorite. While the black caped villain had a supporting role in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" in 2016 and at the end of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" in 2005, Darth hasn't been a lead character in a big screen "Star Wars" movie since 1983's "Return of the Jedi." Still, he is one of the top selling "Star Wars" toys on the market and new iterations of his iconic figure have been created and sold by Hasbro.

At Toy Fair this year, Hasbro revealed a Hyperreal Darth Vader action figure that has an internal articulated skeleton. It was made for collectors who want to pose and display the figure but don't want obvious joints or seams in the sculpture of the figure's limbs or clothing. The single figure is currently available for preorder for $80.

Also for the avid "Star Wars" collector, Hasbro revealed a line of retro style Kenner figures last week. These are replicas of the original classic figures first made by Kenner in the '70s. In addition to having key characters from the original line like Luke, Han and Leia, the company has also reimagined characters that weren't part of that collection, like Grand Moff Tarkin.

A vast galaxy of toys and collectibles

Of course, not all of the nonmovie toys are just for collectors. Each year, Hasbro sells lightsabers, action figures, plush toys and accessories and apparel featuring characters from the "Star Wars" universe.

This year, Hasbro has also rereleased a number of characters from the prequel trilogy, including a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul and General Grievous. Because of the vast amounts of characters in Lucasfilm's lexicon, Hasbro can work with Disney to do releases like this without the need for a movie link.

Additionally, while Hasbro holds the master license for "Star Wars" toys, Disney also grants certain aspects of its intellectual property to companies such as Funko and Lego to create collectibles and play sets.

Sarah Whitten

Funko and Lego are using Disney's "Star Wars" intellectual property to not only create product for the upcoming film and television series, but also to resurrect characters and moments from past films.

Funko has a series of pop figures from "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" including Emperor Palpatine and Lando Calrissian and an Ewok named Warrick.

Similarly, Lego also has several sets that celebrate important moments from the original "Star Wars" trilogy, like Luke and Leia's swing to freedom on the Death Star and the Battle of Endor.

"'Star Wars' has massive appeal," said Silver, the toy biz analyst. "So the saga will continue."

Correction: This story was revised to correct the release year for "Return of the Jedi."