As one of the most exciting Star Wars projects to hit the pop culture zeitgeist in years, Disney+'s The Mandalorian came out of the gate with blasters drawn and helmet adorned. Fans knew that the franchise's first live-action TV series would expand the galaxy-spanning universe in big ways, but I don't know that many people out there could have predicted the introduction of the adorable little Force-wielder affectionately dubbed Baby Yoda. As it turns out, those predictions were thwarted thanks to Disney's agreement to tone down the merchandising.
For years now, Disney merchandising has been the source of a surprisingly large number of spoilery details surrounding films within the Star Wars universe and the world of the MCU superheroes. Most notable to blame are the various toy lines that get released to coincide with a project's release, with early visuals tipping astute fans off to costumes, weaponry, hairstyles, vehicles and more. With The Mandalorian and its Baby Yoda plotline, though, creator Jon Favreau wanted to completely avoid any toy-related reveals and speculation, and Disney was actually okay with it. According to Favreau:
I have to thank Disney and Lucasfilm, because the way the cat usually gets out of the bag with that stuff is merchandising and toy catalogs and things like that. So they really back us up. We really wanted to have it be that you had to watch it yourself, so that every time you watch the show, there are new twists and secrets that come out. That requires a lot of restraint from the people who are footing the bill, saying they’re gonna hold back on certain things so that the public doesn’t know ahead of time. Part of that was holding back on some of the merchandise and holding back on some of the characters.
The latter-day Star Wars trilogy has been far more secretive about plot details than those of years past, given the abundance of websites and social media accounts dedicated to spoiler proliferation. To the point where The Rise of Skywalker is still cloaked in mysteries less than a month ahead of its theatrical release, and we still aren't sure about some of The Mandalorian's cast members. The Mandalorian's distinction as an ongoing TV show, however, makes it an even more complicated project for Disney's marketing team to work with, since there are nine weeks of spoilers to avoid, as opposed to a film's two-hour runtime.
While some more cynical-minded fans out there might never have expected for a success-geared corporation like Disney to agree to pull back on Star Wars toy sales for the sake of storytelling, Jon Favreau and his team pulled it off magnificently, as explained in his interview with Collider. One can only hope that a ton of sweet merch is coming in the future.
Though Disney+ hasn't been up front with its viewership totals for The Mandalorian and other shows (and likely won't be), one only needs to glance at social media after episodes drop to witness how surprised the fandom has been by reveals made in the first two episodes. I can't imagine that kinetic energy will dissipate as the weeks go by, either, especially as the Baby Yoda storyline keeps building.
Beyond just keeping fans free from spoilers, Disney putting The Mandalorian's merchandising on a temporary back burner sets up quite an interesting precedent, should the company decide to be more frugal and critical about its upcoming toy-line releases. Will we see something similar happening once the MCU TV shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki are closer to their respective debuts, or will Disney go back to business as usual for non-Mandalorian projects?
While waiting to learn when you get your hands on a Baby Yoda Funko Pop! or stuffed animal, don't forget to check out The Mandalorian streaming on Disney+, with new episodes (mostly) debuting on Fridays at 3:01 a.m. ET.