The Child, AKA Baby Yoda, is the breakout star of the fall television season, but fans won’t be able to get their hands on licensed merchandise of the “The Mandalorian” mascot until April 2020.
The official Baby Yoda plush from Mattel is slated for an April release, while a Funko Pop! figure won’t be available until May. A larger version of the latter item won’t be out until June, according to Disney’s website. Unless you are content with the few T-shirts currently available, you won’t be getting any official Baby Yoda merchandise until the final episode of “The Mandalorian” Season 1 is already a few months old.
The lack of ways to cash in on official Baby Yoda swag is mystifying, given Disney’s unmatched experience creating merchandise for all manner of film and television projects. Was Disney caught off-guard by the Baby Yoda craze, or did they want to hold off to avoid spoiling the series’ shocking Baby Yoda reveal? Disney representatives did not return a request for comment.
If Disney wasn’t expecting the widespread demand for Baby Yoda merchandise, that would explain why the plushies and figures won’t be out until 2020, according to Emily Ting, a filmmaker whose family owns Cuddle Barn, a plush producer with a factory in China. Cuddle Barn has worked with entertainment companies to create licensed products for projects such as the recent “Addams Family” film, and she noted that mass producing such items can be a lengthy process.
“If a show just dropped and Disney realized there is demand, April is quite an aggressive timetable to get things on shelves,” Ting said. “If they had planned this out ahead of time, they would have licensed this product around a year ago and orders should’ve been placed to hit shelves by Christmas. Orders would’ve had to be placed in January to March of this year.”
Cuddle Barn began working on the “Addams Family” license in October 2018, a year before that film released. Ting, whose “Go Back to China” is based on her 12-year experience working at her family’s factory, added that Disney would likely go through multiple rounds of product revisions to ensure that high-profile merchandise such as Baby Yoda figures would be well-received before entering mass production, and that would extend the production timeline.
“The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau said the initial lack of merchandise was a creative decision and personal request during a November interview. Favreau claimed he made the request to ensure that fans wouldn’t be spoiled by Baby Yoda’s reveal in the series’ first episode and noted that toy catalogues often ended up spoiling large surprises for other projects.
Regardless, Ting argued that those kinds of accidental leaks rarely stopped companies from working out licensing deals well in advance of a project’s release. “You would never wait until a show or movie drops to work out a licensing deal,” Ting said. “The licensee has to pitch to customers like Walmart that would carry this product, but those customers could’ve kept it from consumers. The customers could sign an NDA.”
Although Disney certainly has the money to rush order or otherwise incentivize manufacturers to mass produce products in a short timeframe, production of Baby Yoda merchandise could be further complicated by the Chinese New Year, which is January 25. Ting noted that Chinese factories typically close for up to a month in recognition of the holiday, which would presumably put more strain on Disney to meet deadlines for the aforementioned products.
Outside production, there’s also shipping to contend with, as Ting noted it typically takes two weeks to get products from China to California, and the products then need to be trucked to various distribution centers. Though air freighting is especially expensive, Disney could do that to cut down on travel time, according to Ting.
In other words, Disney might have the Force on its side, but not even the grandest of Jedi Masters have the power to mass produce merchandise on a moment’s notice.