Star Wars

May the force be with you: How Disney is cashing in on the Star Wars franchise


By Dom Burch, managing director

December 15, 2015 | 5 min read

Unlike Han Solo's Millennium Falcon, Star Wars the franchise is a staggeringly well oiled money making machine.

In a world where most hype these days is huff and puff, the intergalactic empire

hasn't lost its Midas touch.

According to Wikipedia, it still holds the Guinness World Records title for the most successful film merchandising franchise of all time.

In 2012, the total value of the franchise was estimated at $30.7bn, including box-office receipts as well as profits from their video games and DVD sales.

The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05bn in the same year and quickly announced three new Star Wars films, with the first, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, planned for release on Friday.

Last night in LA it had its world premiere. The BBC reported security was tight, with a giant tent shrouding the red carpet.

The plot of the film remains a closely guarded secret and a media embargo on reviews is in place until tomorrow.

If you have kids you'll have struggled to miss all the Star Wars themed merchandise in every shop you visit.

Most of it is pretty decent as you'd expect. However the odd howler has inevitably sneaked in like a Jedi mind trick.

The Telegraph took great glee highlighting a few of the worst including a Death Star Waffle Maker which personally I quite like, but Star Wars Multivitamin Gummies? Really? Star Wars branded Coffee Mate? Hmm.

According to the BBC, George Lucas was offered $500,000 in 1977 by the film studios to hand over the rights to sell toys based on the characters and space ships in the movie.

He declined, and has since made his billions, and created the industry which we now know as merchandising.

Reportedly 80 per cent of a film's revenue comes from merchandise. With some commentators bemoaning the artistic standards slipping in order to sneak an extra character into the script as it would make a good toy or drinking utensil.

Lucas was no mug.

Having conquered Star Wars he then created ET in 1982 and gave the world even more branded toys, duvet covers and lunch boxes.

You won't be surprised to learn Asda, along with other major stores, has gone to town on Star Wars stuff this Christmas.

We also filmed a fun commercial that has gone down a storm (trooper) on our Facebook page reaching 8m over the weekend.

The range of clothing, toys, and homeware is mind boggling.

My particular favourite is the Millennium Falcon.

It reminds me of the one I bought on holiday in Canada in the summer of 1982. Yes I am that old.

Back then the choice was limited and toys were in high demand.

Film releases were staggered in different territories around the globe. As a result my toy was unique for a while, and I was the coolest kid on Hartsbourne Road.

If only I knew where it was now, it could be worth a small fortune.

Alas a bit like my childhood, it is long gone.

Reviews of the film come out tomorrow, but regardless of what critics say, Disney is already thanking its lucky stars, cashing in on its strategic $4bn investment.

As Obi-Wan Kenobi once famously said: “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.”

I couldn't agree more.

Follow Dom on Twitter @domburch

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