With ‘Forces of Destiny,’ Hasbro Makes Its Biggest Push Yet Towards Female-Skewing Star Wars Toys – Forbes
Though the trend nowadays is to advocate for non-gendering toy categories, there are still some overall generalities that can be made about character-based figures from the major toy companies. If its detail is all sculpted and fires a spring-loaded missile, it’s an action figure aimed at boys. If it has rooted hair and cloth clothes, it’s a doll aimed at girls. (Yes, there are other gender identifications, but no major toy company is marketing directly to them as yet.)
But recently, those lines have begun to deliberately blur. Spurred by consumer data that shows 60% of online sales of superhero merchandise can be attributed to women, Mattel launched DC Super Hero Girls in 2015, which was a female-skewing line that featured both “dolls” and “action figures.” It proved successful enough to merit mentioning on their earnings call, and to expand beyond being exclusive to Target stores.
Hasbro, stung by recent criticisms that they didn’t make enough toys of new Star Wars heroine Rey, were paying attention. No doubt they also noticed Disney making their own doll-like figures in a 10-inch scale for the Disney Store (though that line also includes male characters like Darth Vader and Director Krennic). So at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, they unveiled “Forces of Destiny,” essentially Super Hero Girls for the Star Wars universe, the centerpiece of which is a line of 11-inch figures that include elements of both dolls and action figures, and spotlight the female protagonists of the saga and its spin-offs. Princess Leia, Rogue One‘s Jyn Erso, Rey and Rebels‘ Sabine Wren will be the first, and we have to imagine Ahsoka Tano will be next, as Ashley Eckstein will join original actresses Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones, Tiya Sircar, and Lupita Nypong’o for some tie-in YouTube cartoons. (Prequel heroine Padme hasn’t been mentioned yet, nor has actress Natalie Portman.)
For those wanting to comb an animated Adam Driver’s hair, you’ll get your wish, too: Kylo Ren will appear in later assortments, along with a fuzzy Chewbacca and Wicket, and not-so-fuzzy but still-huggable Artoo and BB-8. Best of all for business, because these feature stylized, cartoony faces, no actor likeness rights need to be secured.
Before being absorbed into Hasbro, Kenner tried to develop female-skewing sub-lines of Star Wars, with less-than-stellar results. 1997′s “The Princess Leia Collection” featured standard-size Leia action figures with cloth elements, and hedged the company’s bets by pairing each one with a male character for a series of two-packs. 1999′s Queen Amidala Collection saw some elaborate 12-inch dolls reproducing some of the Queen’s fancier outfits from The Phantom Menace…that went rather quickly to the clearance aisle. Dolls tend to do twice the business of action figures, so there has always been plenty of incentive to try.
But that was a different time and a different market. Since then, the convention scene and a whole generation of gender-inclusive “nerd culture” has sprung up, and been calling out toy companies for the past few years on the relative dearth of figures of and for strong women. And millennial adults in some cases are buying more action figures for themselves than their kids.
If this pays off for Hasbro, and it should, Marvel will probably be next. And then you’ll never have to worry about finding a Black Widow toy again.
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