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‘Star Wars’ fans clamor for more Rey toys, and Disney begins to oblige

Can Disney fix the gender imbalance in its toys for ‘The Force Awakens’?


Aja Romano

Internet Culture

Disney on Tuesday unveiled a new gallery of toys based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Rey, hoping to quell criticism from fans who say that the film’s lead hero has been notably absent from its merchandise. But will these new offerings be enough to put Rey on par with her male counterparts?

Hasbro and Disney’s other licensees had already announced most of these products. Some of them have already appeared online and in stores, while others will be arriving later in January.

The gallery of toys, provided exclusively to Entertainment Weekly, features a variety of Rey-centric items from Hasbro, including: 

  • New 3.75-inch action figures showing Rey in her Resistance outfit and Finn in stormtrooper gear
  • Previously announced 12-inch Hero Series action figures of both Rey and Finn
  • A Rey Nerf blaster and electronic blue lightsaber
  • A look at the previously announced Black Series figures, including 6-inch versions of Rey, Finn, Han Solo, and Kylo Ren
  • The rather inexplicably named “Galactic Heroes” set from Playskool, featuring Captain Phasma and Rey in a set together

The gallery also includes products from other toymakers, including:

Disney’s new emphasis on Rey echoes Hasbro’s promise to include more Rey figures following a public outcry over her exclusion from the new Star Wars Monopoly set.

Sales of Rey merchandise “have grown three times as fast as [sales of toys] with other characters” at Disney stores, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Public demand for Rey merchandise has grown so intense that some fans have taken a straight-up DIY approach.

Paul Southern, head of licensing at Lucasfilm, noted in November that “a very broad group of consumers” had “[begun] to buy product a lot quicker than we expected.”

This week, Southern told EW that “the excitement around her is a lot more than we were expecting it to be.”

The new toys augment the supremely cool line of existing products featuring Rey that are already on sale but in short supply.

Compared to the film’s male characters, Rey still may be lagging behind. Last week, Huffington Post Australia questioned Southern’s claim that toys featuring Rey and Captain Phasma “feature prominently across hundreds of products.”

[A] cursory look at retailers’ online stores suggests otherwise. We searched “The Force Awakens” in Disney’s online store and only found 27 items involving Rey out of a total of 146. When we performed the same search on Target’s website, which features items available in stores as well as online, we only found 17 products including Rey out of 267 (not including a couple items without a detailed photo). On Toys “R” Us’ website, Rey is even harder to spot, only appearing in 10 out of 254 “The Force Awakens” products. 

The Huffington Post also noted that Rey’s villainous counterpart Kylo Ren shows up more often, is featured more prominently on packaging, and is more likely to appear in group toy sets with other characters, most of whom are also men.

While Hasbro is stepping up its game, Rey’s continued exclusion from many other toy licensees’ sets is noticeable.

Jakks Pacific’s Star Wars line, for example, consists entirely of male characters, with the exception of a single Captain Phasma doll. Many of the male toys are variations of generic stormtroopers and other faceless soldiers. Many fans have pointed out this seemingly odd production decision.

In response to criticism over Rey’s absence from products like the new Monopoly set, Hasbro has said that it was trying to avoid spoiling key plot points, including Rey’s Force sensitivity and lightsaber duel with Kylo. Lucasfilm is said to have placed strict and unusual limitations on the kinds of toys that could hit shelves prior to the film’s release.

But Hasbro and other companies had many options that did not involve spoiling the movie. The action-figure company declined, for instance, to produce figures of Rey flying the Millennium Falcon, an activity shown in numerous trailers.

Photo via MCubed Cosplay/Facebook

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