Disney Can No Longer Deny That ‘Star Wars’ is a Damaged Franchise

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A billion dollar Star Wars theme park expansion being ridiculed as a “flop” by the media.

A steep decline in Star Wars merchandise sales that even toy manufacturer Hasbro seemingly blames Disney for.

The last theatrical Star Wars film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, bombing at the box office.

And a vocal fanbase that feels betrayed by Star Wars’ current custodians, and is constantly at odds with the people behind the franchise on social media.

It’s clear we’re no longer living in 1979. Or even 1999.

Welcome to 2019, where it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Star Wars is a damaged franchise under Disney’s stewardship. And after months of denial on Disney’s part, CEO Bob Iger seems to finally, finally be admitting it.

Kind of.

Star Wars merchandise sales are in decline. Again.

According to Disney’s third-quarter earnings report, Star Wars merchandise sales are down. Again.

Yes, they were also down last year, too.

It’s pretty common to see sequel era Star Wars toys on clearance. Sometimes they collect dust on shelves for many months. (Photo: Reddit)

The increase at our consumer products business was due to growth at our merchandise licensing and retail businesses. Growth at merchandise licensing was primarily due to higher revenue from merchandise based on Toy Story, partially offset by a decrease from Star Wars merchandise. The increase at our retail business was due to higher comparable store sales and online revenue.

Go to any Walmart or bargain outlet and take a look at the glut of sequel era Star Wars merchandise they can’t even unload at rock bottom prices.

Or just ask a Toys ‘R Us employee about it. Oh, wait

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is being called a “flop.” Disneyland’s attendance plummets over the summer.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge effectively turned Disneyland into a “ghost town” — the opposite of what Disney had hoped for. (Photo: Marketwatch)

Despite Disney defenders trying to put as positive of a spin on the disaster that is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the mainstream media has seen right through it and continues to throw shade at the billion dollar expansion’s failure to draw crowds.

In fact, the Star Wars themed land seems to be chasing people away instead of drawing them to Disneyland.

And when there was some pushback from Disney fandom about the validity of people’s claims about the park being empty, USA Today had to step in and provide aerial photos as proof to shut that debate down hard.

But hey, it’s just the jealous naysayers throwing shade at Disney, right?

According to that same third-quarter earnings report, Disney Parks attendance was down overall.

So, no, it’s not our imaginations.

And Disney CEO Bob Iger had to put his own positive spin on the situation. Saying that Galaxy’s Edge will be profitable… someday.

“And so all of those factors [prince increase, fear of crowds] contributed to attendance that was below what we would have hoped it would be. That said, guest satisfaction, interest in the attraction in the land is extremely high, it’s the most popular thing at the park. And so, long term, we build these things for the long term, we have no concerns whatsoever about them. We’re opening Galaxy’s Edge in August in Orlando, the second attraction there will open in December, and, as I said, the second attraction in Anaheim will open in January, so we feel great about the product we’ve created, it just takes some time to, basically for us, to work themselves out in terms of how the marketplace is reacting.”

Meanwhile, Universal had 10 hour waits for a new Harry Potter coaster, and announced a third theme park that will likely feature Nintendo.

Kids today love Nintendo. They don’t care much about Star Wars.

Speaking of which…

Kids today don’t care about Star Wars. So why keep insulting their parents?

According to Bloomberg, kids today just aren’t into Star Wars.

Well, not like their parents were.

It’s just another sci-fi fantasy franchise to them, and one that doesn’t seem to hold the same level of interest as Fortnite, Harry Potter or Disney’s other big franchise, Marvel.

While Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge has seen sparse crowds, Universal Orlando’s new Harry Potter roller coaster had wait times of up to 10 hours. However, crowds for Galaxy’s Edge may be heavier in Orlando than Anaheim. (Photo: Orlando Sentinel)

Star Wars toy sales popped with 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” the start of a trilogy that united Han, Luke and Leia with a new band of heroes, but have slumped since. “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” last year’s spinoff featuring the backstory of beloved characters, utterly bombed. “The Last Jedi,” the second in the new trilogy, was profitable but fell shy of its predecessor’s performance. The next installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” will have the very future of the franchise riding on it when it debuts in December.

Attempts to make Star Wars more relatable to today’s youth with all new protagonists and villains has seemingly been met with apathy, judging by the unsold toys clogging clearance aisle shelves.

And old school Star Wars fans were dismayed at how their childhood heroes were sidelined, the victims of character assassination, or killed off entirely.

In the case of the original trilogy’s series protagonist Luke Skywalker, it’s all of the above.

‘The Last Jedi’ irreparably damaged the brand. But Disney will not acknowledge it.

To say that The Last Jedi split the fandom is an understatement. In fact, it could be argued the movie’s terrible treatment of classic characters (and its poor handling of the Star Wars fandom in the aftermath) directly lead to the current state of the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars Green Milk The Last Jedi
Many fans feel that the character of Luke Skywalker was irreparably damaged by The Last Jedi. Even Mark Hamill himself seems unhappy with how his character was handled in Episode VIII. Here, Luke is seen swigging some green milk, freshly squeezed from the alien teet. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Many fans threatened to boycott Star Wars after The Last Jedi. Yet the internet media pundits laughed it off as just a “vocal minority” of disgruntled, basement-dwelling fanboys.

Months later, Solo bombed at the box office. Toy sales plummeted. The theme park is a ghost town. And there’s a deafening lack of chatter about The Rise of Skywalker from the general public, compared to the previous two sequel trilogy films.

If Star Wars is not resonating with children, then Disney must do what it can to keep the adult fans happy if they want the franchise to survive.

It’s mostly adults who are buying the toys, and certainly adults who are paying the exorbitant theme park ticket prices for their families. And I can almost guarantee you that only an adult would purchase a $200 designer lightsaber.

Having the director of the most polarizing Star Wars film of all times call the fans names on social media is not a good look. Nor is letting freelancers associated with the Star Wars brand attack people based on their politics.

And blaming Russian bots for the backlash is just really, really stupid.

Beyond splitting the fandom, The Last Jedi weirdly became a litmus test of sorts for a fan’s political affiliation. The fans who loved the film, generally speaking, seemed to be more progressive and those who despised it seemed to be more conservative.

And you can thank the (predominantly progressive) pop culture media outlets for that, as they stoked the fires for months by trying to incite the old school fans with endless article after article calling them misogynists, trolls and worse.

But hey, director Rian Johnson said he loved to make polarizing films. So if he intended to troll old school Star Wars fans all along, he succeeded on an unprecedented level.

Unfortunately, the franchise has suffered tremendously for it.

Star Wars has been relegated to direct-to-TV status. How embarrassing.

The future of Star Wars seems to be direct-to-Disney-Plus. With Solo bombing at the box office, Disney halted their plans for more spinoff movies.

The Mandalorian is coming to Disney Plus from showrunner John Favreau. It’s mega expensive, so we’ll see how long it actually lasts. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

However, they seem to be moving ahead with the trilogy from Game of Thrones directors Benioff and Weiss, despite their recently inking a $200 million deal with competitor Netflix.

Oh, and did we mention that those guys are now despised by the Game of Thrones fandom for dropping the ball on Season 8?

Yeah, this might not be the way to win back the Star Wars fandom, Disney. Just saying.

You had ONE job, Lucasfilm.

Han, Luke and Leia all together in one scene. That’s all many Star Wars fans hoped for, and what was expected when it was announced the trio would return for the sequel trilogy.

Star Wars fans expected to see Han, Luke and Leia reunited for one last adventure together in The Force Awakens. After Han was killed onscreen and Carrie Fisher passed in real life, it was clear that this would NEVER happen.

And when Mark Hamill posted an innocuous image about what he wished would have happened in the trilogy — a sentiment echoed by many fans — Twitter attacked him for it.

(I might need a swig of that green milk myself. Alcoholic, please.)

The Force is no longer with this franchise.

The proof is in the pudding. Or lack of it. Star Wars is not making the money it should be making, and Disney needs to take a good, hard look at why and stop burying its head in the sand and blaming the fandom.

Bob Iger’s acknowledgement that the franchise is in decline is a good first step, but it might be too little, too late.

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. I am actually fairly progressive, but agree with most of what you wrote here. There are too many pretentious writers and journalists who want to be doing something more with their lives and careers and so they convince themselves that they are actually fighting important sociological battles when they are writing or reporting on entertainment.

  2. Great article. Marvel Phase 4 is how Disney loses it’s most valuable franchise. Avatar will be next after James Cameron’s new Avatar trilogy. Disney will inject SJW, diversity, and other PC politics into the mix.

      • Is it though? The eternals? Even hardcore Marvel fans dont remember them. Black widow? Well, based on Rey, Jyn, and captain marvel, Disney doesnt know how to handle a female character, so she will be all powerful and never struggle to do anything ever. Same with captian marvel 2 and the all female spider verse spinoff.

        OH! How about Ms marvel? Her selling point is “She is muslim, and a woman, and is thus better then white males”. The current gen Ms Marvel is an abysmal seller compared to previous editions, and captain marvel comic sales are flat-lining much like star wars merchandise.

        Much like how TLJ was carried by TFA, allowing it high sales despite low quality, Marvel is currently on an insane high thanks to Infinity war 1 and 2. Give it a few years, and marvel movie sales will begin to decline, likely very rapidly with some of the tumblr attitudes seeping into them from outside.

        • Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (Alex Chaudhari)!
          He’s a Disney shill. There’s no reasoning with someone in thrall to a mouse.
          Marvel’s shown its big cards. From here on out, unless the writing is fantastic and they luck onto something like they did with Guardians, it’s pretty much a crapshoot. I don’t seriously think the remaining superheroes that could be adaptable will make much impact and if they come onto screen it will be a miracle if they’re anything like the original comics beyond the superficial — which has been the case well over half the time.

          They’ve done X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Avengers. Those were their ace cards. The initial films were done reasonably well and laid foundations for later films which are now starting to — well, they’re not so good and haven’t been for a few years if people are really honest.

          I don’t have faith in the writing, TBH. It’s pretty bad in the comics right now and the writing for superhero films is generally much worse than the average comics before these last 14 years. The comics have only FALLEN to the level of current screenwriting.

  3. Star Wars isn’t “just another” sci-fi franchise. It’s THE swashbuckling adventure, epic sci-fi franchise. There isn’t another one. Nobody out there is trying to make a franchise like it. It’s not the “sciencey” sci-fi niche that Star Trek occupies. It’s not the man vs. monster franchise that Alien is. It’s really a fantasy or fairy tale. It’s King Arthur in SPACE. There’s not even any video game franchises that really occupy that space.

  4. The political leaning in TLJ is just sickening. Not because it is left leaning, but rather because of how it is used. The lessons “taught” in TLJ are extremely childish and many would agree are completely inappropriate to go over in a star wars movie. The political content, as presented, is about as blunt as a brick, and is completely tasteless (especially the anti-capitalism theme, coming from disney whom bought star wars for billions of dollars and is selling it for billions to people all around the world while investing heavily on merchandising and monetization, this is like hitler writing a book about how horrible mass murder is).

    This political content is very annoying to the majority of us, regardless of political leaning, because it is so ridiculously thrown at your face. There were political themes in the OG star wars, but they were quite subtle, and didnt shove real world references into the act. But, this is the result of people feeling EVERYTHING should be political, and that their choice of politics is on the “right side” of history, Star wars is far from the only victim, and it is a blight on writing quality in modern media.

    People are using the political leaning of the movie to cudgel others with it, throwing slander and insults at people and disregarding their opinions because they are “alt right”, “nazis”, “mysoginests”, “racists”, or whatever buzzword they are on now, labeling everyone they do not like. People take a movie like this, craft their identity around it, then see anyone whom doesnt like it as a troll or deplorable.

    The fact is – star wars TLJ is an OBJECTIVELY horrible movie. It is hemorrhaging with plot holes, conveniences, story gaps, abysmal character development, illogical character choices, and non existent world building. For this new generation of writers disney is employing, world building and consistency are horrifying ideas. They want the ability to write their characters however they want, without putting the work in to explain how things are happening, then expect everyone to agree with what they are doing. Disney chased the fools gold of putting old characters in the movies, and is now reaping the rewards of slap dashing their way into a franchise. They slashed and burned through anything that stood in the way of their story, obliterated our suspension of disbelief, vaporized our favorite characters and instead threw some cardboard cutouts with character traits written on them in crayon and expects us to clap.

    Now, Disney is taking the “get woke” method of labeling all criticism as “trolling by the alt right mysoggyknees racist nazi 4chan basement dwellers”, and it will break the franchise permanently. Much of the damage is already done, even if they started making good flicks many of the old fans are never coming back, and the young generation couldnt care less about snore bores now. Rian johnson’s need to relentlessly run the franchise characters into the ground , disney giving the green light to kennedy killing of the franchises aliens (making the heroes even harder to root for, as they now appear to be completely worthless), attacking the fans, ece will destroy star wars.

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