Wednesday, 1 March 2017

How Rey Star Wars action figures changed the toy industry

Star Wars fans are no doubt already looking forward to this years' Force Friday, which is essentially a holiday invented by the Walt Disney Company dedicated to getting people to buy new toys. Still, for many action figure collectors out there, it is certainly a fun event. This year, they will surely be looking to get their hands on the latest Luke Skywalker toys, but there are definitely those who are equally excited about getting some of the new Rey, Finn and Poe merchandise. Many who purchase a Rey action figure this year may not think twice about it, but it turns out that toy collectors everywhere owe Daisy Ridley a debt of gratitude because she changed things for the better – and probably for good.

A recent report from CNBC took a look at how Rey action figures have completely changed the toy industry. Prior to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), it was incredibly difficult to find any action figures for female characters, Star Wars or otherwise. But because Daisy Ridley's likeness in the form of Rey action figures and other merchandise have sold like gangbusters, the industry has been forced to adapt. Here is what Jim Silver, CEO of online toy review site TTPM, told CNBC.

"[Disney] took a risk and they made a female the hero of 'Force Awakens.' She sold better than just about anyone, except for Kylo Ren, but the villain always sells better. There's more (female action figures) in the last 18 months than there have been in the last 20 years."

Prior to the recent surge in female action figures – which is largely thanks to the character Rey – it was pretty tough to find them, though a few exceptions have surfaced over the years. The original Princess Leia Star Wars action figures were incredibly successful and the 1970s Wonder Woman dolls also sold well, but figures like that were few and far between. However, as CNBC notes, 2016 saw a massive uptake in female protagonists in blockbuster movies, which has ultimately influenced the toys that people have a desire to buy. Movies like The Hunger Games (2012) and especially superhero movies that feature female characters have helped change action figure trends. Here is what Samantha Lomow, senior vice president of marketing at Hasbro had to say about it.

"Consumer and retailer research shows more and more children – and their parents – are interested in the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, as well as the female characters represented within entertainment. In 2015, for the first time, the National Retail Federation reported that Star Wars was on the top 10 toy lists for both boys and girls. Fans and families are at the center of this conversation, for example, voting for strong female characters in both the Transformers and Marvel franchises to become future figures."

In 2015, Star Wars toy sales for Hasbro totalled almost $500 million and a lot of that was on the strength of Rey merchandise. This year, Felicity Jones' character Jyn Erso from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) will also be a popular figure thanks to the success of that movie, so things are certainly looking up for fans of female action figures. There are also going to be quite a few Wonder Woman toys and DC Expanded Universe figures that had people buzzing at the New York Toy Fair. So action figure collectors and kids who love having more choices should be thanking Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams for finding Daisy Ridley and making Rey a big hit with fans.

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