May The Force Be With Her
Bloomberg Businessweek|December 07 - 13, 2015
May The Force Be With Her
Disney bets big on Star Wars merchandise for women and girls.
Christopher Palmeri and Jeff Green

The franchise is becoming “more inclusive of both genders”

Walt Disney has what could be its most formidable heroine ever in Rey, a main character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She could be a merchandising juggernaut, too.

In trailers, the protagonist played by English actress Daisy Ridley races a landspeeder, wields a stafflike weapon, and helps pick an exhausted male ally up off the ground. Not much is known about Rey, because Disney’s keeping a tight lid on plot details before the movie’s Dec. 18 opening. One sure thing is that Rey is part of a push by the world’s largest entertainment company to attract more girls and women to the Star Wars franchise and get more money from them by expanding the line of movie merchandise.

Disney has signed deals with dozens of partners, from department stores to home goods retailers, clothing companies to toymakers. Among licensed Star Wars products already out or expected soon are $169 stormtrooper necklaces at Kay Jewelers, $20 Princess Leia aprons at Bed Bath & Beyond, and Rey’s Survival Guide from Simon & Schuster. Brooklyn-based Ample Hills Creamery, whose fans include Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, has introduced limited-edition light side and dark side ice cream flavors.

That’s a big change for a line historically dominated by lightsabers and action figures. Most Star Wars products sold before Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 were toys aimed at boys, says Paul Southern, who runs the studio’s Star Wars licensing business. “Star Wars,” he says, “became known as the biggest boys’ brand in history.”

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December 07 - 13, 2015