Nearly four months after the release of Disney’s “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus, the entertainment behemoth finally unveiled official merchandise for the show’s unnamed, breakout star, colloquially known as Baby Yoda.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 20, 2020
“It’s just like hanging out with ‘The Child’ in ‘The Mandalorian’ and he’s doing something special for us actually,” said host Michael Strahan, revealing an animatronic Baby Yoda doll demonstrating his use of The Force.
Until now, the only official Baby Yoda products available were a few T-shirts and a plush doll made available for pre-order but not delivered until the spring.
I feel bad for the parents who will have to fight someone in a back alley for a Baby Yoda doll pic.twitter.com/ChF5apaEBs
— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) February 20, 2020
Disney’s uncharacteristic delay in merchandise availability not only left parents scrambling and children Baby Yoda-less on Christmas morning, but also left the market wide open for entrepreneurial artists of the internet to offer their own Baby Yoda creations.
But a scan of the Etsy marketplace finds that the best Baby Yoda products available are technically not Baby Yodas at all. Product descriptions label the delicate creatures with variations of “Baby Alien,” “Bby Alien,” or “Baby Yod.” Predictably, it wasn’t long before Disney and Lucas films became Baby Yoda bounty hunters themselves, forcing Etsy to flag and remove “Baby Yoda” products for infringing on their intellectual property.
Joshua B, an Etsy shop owner who creates 3D printed Baby Yodas, told The Federalist he received a “Notice of Intellectual Property Infringement,” informing him his listing was deactivated.
Joshua said he believes his art falls in a grey area because his model is not identical to the show’s character, with differences in dimensions and color. “Whenever I list it as Baby Yoda, Disney takes the listing down, but as ‘baby alien’ they don’t flag it,” he said.
“The child,” the character’s moniker in the show, is also non-permissible by Disney according to Joshua, despite its generic meaning.
Other Etsy stores selling knit wool Baby Yoda plushies and other Baby Yoda inspired crafts were also flagged and issued removals, according to The Verge.
“The original listings for these stores were extremely popular: one Yoda doll had ‘over 2,000 views and 300 favorites,’ while another seller said that she used to see at least 100 to 200 views a day,” wrote Chaim Gartenberg.
“The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau has said Disney didn’t want to create Baby Yoda merchandise ahead of time as a way of keeping the character a surprise until the show aired. CNBC reported manufacturers were given promotional materials ahead of the launch of Disney Plus, but none of it featuring “The Child.”
“The way the cat usually gets out of the bag with that stuff is merchandising and toy catalogues and things like that,” Favreau said.
While it’s understandable that Disney would want to protect their intellectual property, and Favreau would want to keep the best thing to happen to the Star Wars franchise in a long time a surprise, it remains gobsmacking that Disney wouldn’t have anything available to fans for months after The Child’s debut.
Christine Rousselle, a reporter for Catholic News Agency and crafter, said she never even cared about Star Wars until she saw a Baby Yoda GIF, and began crocheting and embroidering Baby Yodas. “The Baby Yoda situation was unique because here was this extremely in-demand character that basically no official merchandise existed for,” she said, noting how “most people aren’t going to turn to Etsy and similar sites for merch if they can get it on Amazon or in a Disney store.”
Whether Disney predicted the sweeping popularity and memeification of Baby Yoda or not, the missed opportunity seems glaring. And yet despite the delay, that it’s the popularity that sustains the desire for toys like the new animatronic Baby Yoda–possibly the next Tickle Me Elmo, selling out just in time for the second season of “The Mandalorian” this fall.
As actor Werner Herzog said himself upon seeing The Child on set, “It’s heartbreakingly beautiful.”