#WheresRey Was a Comms and Messaging Issue

The internet has rightfully been outraged in the last several weeks over the lack of Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys featuring Rey. It’s not a spoiler to say she is the star of the movie and the main character who drives much of the action forward. So the fact that she wasn’t part of of many toy sets upset many people, particularly – but not limited to – the parents of young daughters who suddenly had a butt-kicking female protagonist they could emulate.

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In the wake of the most recent frenzy, this time centered around a new edition of Star Wars Monopoly, Hasbro said her exclusion from that set was because adding her would have been a spoiler for the movie but that later editions would add her as well. And now a new wave of toys has been unveiled, many of which are either all Rey or at least include her as a prominent figure.

While I don’t want to cast doubt on Hasbro’s motivations, I have to ask if creating Rey figures would really have spoiled anything about the movie before its release.

Rey got just about as much screen-time in the first teaser as Finn, Poe or Kylo Ren. So right off the bat, the marketing acknowledges the character is in the movie. And in the first full-length trailer she alone is seen for the first 30 seconds and is presented as a central part of the story through the rest. It would not be a spoiler to include her, along with Finn and other characters, in a way that displayed her name and in one of the outfits that were shown in the trailer since that was all out there.

I’m confused, then, why toys with Rey weren’t included? If anything, this could have been such a huge benefit to the marketing since it was *not* spoiling anything that wasn’t already public knowledge and would have provided an even better lift to the girls in the audience who were intrigued and wondering, along with the rest of us, who she would turn out to be.

Again, I don’t want to throw shade on Hasbro and will take them at their word that this was a conscious decision. But what I will say is the company fell down on the communications front. If this is really the mindset powering their decision there were plentiful opportunities for the company to be proactive with a “Don’t worry, Rey toys are coming soon!” message that could have been part of press outreach, social media engagement and more comms touchpoints. And that message would not have done anything else to spoil the movie, if that was truly their concern.

Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt that there was no “Girls are icky and don’t buy toys.” thinking going on here, the most egregious problem here is communications-related. It’s an unforced error that has caused some damage to the brand that it has had to work harder to counter than it would have otherwise done.

Who you gonna build?

There’s nothing that’s not awesome about these LEGO Ghostbusters. Nothing.

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I wonder if kids today know what it was like to grow up in the days before LEGO licensed all kinds of awesome properties? Can you imagine sets based on Dukes of Hazzard, Goonies and everything else we loved in the 80’s? Wow.

Legos get more formal

Max Kalehoff has a point here:

Today, mass-marketed Lego sets seem less about invention. They have become sophisticated model and hobby sets (often co-opting blockbuster entertainment franchises). Lego blocks are less raw building blocks, and more intricate puzzles with definitive outcomes.  The highly specialized pieces are perfect for planned models, though I believe their lack of interchangeability across sets discourages invention. My kids seek to stay within the lines and preserve their models indefinitely, and these delicate things, while impressive, clutter our modest home.

via Lego’s Evolution From Invention To Prefabrication | AttentionMax.

That being said, I don’t think that’s a 100% truism all the time. Lego kits in my house have been built, admired on a shelf, taken off and played with like they were more sturdy toys, taken apart and had their parts used to build custom vehicles, buildings and more. So while yes, the intent seems to be more structured – I’ve even seen recent commercials where they’re played with in action – there’s still an awful lot of potential for kids to do whatever they want with the component bricks.

’80’s LEGO playsets that might have been…

 

If you’re a parent who’s anything like me you see all the cool licensed LEGO sets that your kids play with and think, “Wow, I would have given my left arm for a He-Man or G.I. Joe LEGO set when I was a kid.”

Rediscover the 80s: LEGO Playsets We Wanted In The 80s.

 

In defense of the hood

JC Hutchins asked yesterday which people preferred, Cobra Commander’s silver mask or his hood. I replied that the hooded look was far superior and then he decided to drag mothers and ethnicity in to it so I’m going to get up in his grill about it.

(Note: I may be making some of that up, but am leaving it there for dramatic effect. This is what’s needed when debating a novelist.)

(2nd Note: For the purposes of this piece I’m using the Marvel Comics’ series as a reference point since it’s much more well-rounded than the cartoon and features more frequent appearances of the hood.)

(3rd Note: Psyche!!)

When Cobra Commander was portrayed with his hood on as opposed to his silver mask it meant, basically, that shit was about to get real. The silver mask indicated he was about to run into battle against the G.I. Joe team alongside Major Bludd and probably get captured again so that Zartan could once again infiltrate The Pit but somehow still not know where it is clearly enough to bring the Cobra thunder in full in order to rescue him.

But the hood being broken out meant Cobra Commander was getting serious. It was more regal, more majestic, more befitting of his world domination plans. It meant he was planning something big in his Springfield headquarters.

Let’s put it this way – wearing the mask into a meeting with potential HISS tank parts vendors is more likely to result in muffled laughter and people asking to check to see if they had anything in their teeth before Destro came in with his real decision making powers. Wear the hood and the cushions on the seats around the table will need to be changed because of the loss of bladder control.

Indeed the silver mask is actually the add-on look for Cobra Commander since before he built Cobra and was simply engaging in rally-building activities across the country and stirring up dissent against the status quo. So really the mask is an add-on that serves one purpose (battle) and even that had to be replaced in favor of the more fully-featured battle armor.

I hear where defenders of the silver mask may be coming from, especially since it’s almost uniformly used in the cartoon series and is the hallmark look of the toy line. But the fact is that the hood is much more in line with someone who’s looking to be called “Commander” and strikes a much more imposing note with allies and enemies alike.

You know, for kids

Quick game: Take a look at this leaked image of the toy version for The Fallen, the main villian in the Transformers sequel and see if you can guess which component is going to come under fire from concerned parents organizations across the country.

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Some quick thoughts about this:

  • Did anyone at any point in the toy’s development use the phrase “Big f***ing robot schwanz?”
  • What does that transform *from*.
  • Is he naturally bow-legged or is that just a side effect from his…condition?
  • Am I the only one who looks at this and thinks “He’s going to very popular” in the same voice Marty Feldman uses in Young Frankenstein?

If there’s a guard with a face that comes off I’m in

The best part about these Silence of the Lambs minimates is that the Jodie Foster/Clarice figure can easily be re-purposed by the manufacturer or collector as a Gillian Anderson/Dana Scully figure.