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Want a Princess Leia Action Figure? Sorry, Disney Doesn't Sell Them

by Inkoo Kang
May 23, 2014 3:08 PM
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Tina Fey as Princess Leia

One of the implicit promises of the sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney was that its universe would become more inclusive. Big Mouse is a genius at merchandising, after all, and movies have to appeal to everyone in order to sell as much as possible. 

Judging by the cast for the upcoming Stars Wars sequel, though, Disney has apparently inherited George Lucas' unfortunate tendency to populate his creations with men and a token female. (I've asked this before, but I'll ask it again: With so few women around, is the Star Wars universe simply going to die off in a mass extinction via infertility, a la Children of Men, within two generations?) Like their predecessors, Disney's Imagineers are content to imagine the future as a boys' land -- for men, by men, about men. 

This isn't just the case with the upcoming sequel, but with merchandising as well. 

Film scholar Natalie Wreyford took to Twitter last week to ask Disney why its online store doesn't sell any action figures of Princess Leia, one of the three co-leads in the original trilogy: 

Disney Star Wars tweet

Keep in mind that Big Mouse's e-shop does sell figurines of random Stormtroopers and plushies of Jawa and Bantha -- needless to say, those of much more minor characters than Leia. [Edit: Yes, of course they sell Han Solo and Luke Skywalker dolls as well.]

Moreover, Disney's wording is telling: there are no plans for Leia products. They haven't simply sold out; their intention is to simply ignore girls and women, or indeed, any viewers who like kick-ass heroines. It's a mistake that effectively cuts off Princess Leia fans, many of them presumably female, from feeling like they belong to the fandom. 

Little Leias

Last year, Emily Asher-Perrin wrote a wonderful tribute to Leia that outlines what the princess-turned-politician-turned-Jedi Knight means to her: 

"It's not about that fantastic hair or the fact that she can fire a blaster. It's not about how spunky she is or her lack of concern at being covered in Imperial garbage. It's not even about how bright she was to hand over the Death Star plans to a cute little droid before things got out of hand. It's about creative thinking, keeping it together when it counts, and outclassing every pretentious pencil pusher the Empire can throw her way. It's about being a leader. The leader."

The strange thing is, Disney evidently understands Leia's appeal. How else to explain the fact that everyone's favorite bunhead is one of only three characters, along with other fan favorites Han Solo and R2-D2, that serve as the Star Wars store's front-page images?

Princess Leia in Disney Store

Leia has always been an afterthought in the merchandising game; it's traditionally been difficult to find her action figures. Check out that suspiciously simian version of the princess below, for which the only explanation is that someone clearly did not give a shit. 

Princess Leia old toy

But you'd think that Disney, the ur-Princess Factory, would do better at selling female royalty in plastic form to little girls. What is Disney afraid of? That having more viewers and customers would derail the franchise? That appealing to four quadrants instead of two would dilute the brand? That giving customers what they want will make them question their loyalty? 

As of press time, there are, in fact, no Star Wars merchandise for girls: 

Star Wars girls

The only Leia-themed product is a t-shirt in XXL

Good job, boys. Your money is flying out to a galaxy far, far away. 

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  • Exiled In Geeksville | August 11, 2014 7:35 PMReply

    Lucasfilm (and now Disney) still own the Princess Leia likeness rights.

    The above figure is horrible, yes. It was the first Leia figure when the began making figures again in the 90's. If you look at the first Luke and Han figures in that line you will see they didn't look good either. Overmusclarized, like the above Leia, but maybe not quite as hideous.

    That said Hasbro got better as time went on, with the likeness

    As far as Disney's lack of Leia, I am surprised, you would think they would have been excited at the prospect of adding a Disney Princess of her quality

  • ANON | May 27, 2014 4:42 PMReply

    I think Carrie Fisher was pretty upset with how rights to her likeness were handled in the 80s. Its possible she simply didn't grant Disney the right to make Leia products this time around, or, the rights to her likeness are still in negotiation. Obviously, that's pure speculation, but it explains the tweet.

  • Ed Williams | May 27, 2014 2:33 PMReply

    1) Do Disney stores sell Luke or Han figures? You don't mention. If they don't, seems to undercut your argument.

    2) If Disney is so sexist and against selling female toys, why are Disney stores almost completely filled with toys of female characters?

    3) Couldn't lack Leia simply be they haven't got around to selling her toys yet, not some malicious plan?

    4) There is real sexism in the world, focus on that, not this sideshow conspiracy stuff.

  • fil | June 1, 2014 6:33 PM

    Yes, the writer DID mention it. Read it again,

  • CURT | May 25, 2014 11:02 AMReply

    OK, it doesn't look like Carrie Fisher, but I was taken aback by the suggestion that a person with broad nose and prominent lips looks "simian".

    The left: fighting sexism with racism (or vice versa) since ... well, since always.

  • Jeff again | June 1, 2014 10:04 AM

    Holy CRAP! I just Googled "Inkoo Kang" and guess what? Dude's a CHICK. Asian chick, no less, so you KNOW what she meant by "simian".

    What kind of name is "Inkoo Kang", anyway? It sounds..... (wait for it)...... suspiciously simian.

    O, the humanity!

  • Jeff | June 1, 2014 9:56 AM

    Just saw this! Haw haw! Dude, you got busted. Inkoo's a racist. I'm totally screenshotting this page.

    Don't worry, Inkoo. Some folks admired Don Sterling for speaking his mind.

  • Star | May 26, 2014 11:00 PM

    Uh, there's nothing "suspiciously simian" about that posture at all. Nice try, though.

  • Inkoo Kang | May 25, 2014 2:03 PM

    I was referring to the Leia figurine's bizarre posture.

  • Matthew | May 24, 2014 7:39 PMReply

    The last time I bought a Star Wars toy was in the mid-eighties, so I'm a little out of the loop. But can you currently buy any toys representing characters that only exist in the original trilogy?

  • Wild Horse Fantasy | May 28, 2014 12:49 PM

    Definitely. I've seen Han, R2 and C3Po and even Greedo and my local Wal-Mart in the middle of nowhere. I think I've seen slave Leia.
    It is kind of odd for Disney of all companies to ignore A PRINCESS. All the other princess characters get a gazillion toys, in fact, they go over board for girls and short change boys!

    In fact it doesn't help that Hasbro - that makes these toys, has horrible distribution and short changes female characters anyways. Witness Ahsoka, a main character in the Clone Wars. She had maybe 3 figures made, with only a few packed per case. Meanwhile pegs overflowed with Obi-Wan and Anakin.

  • Rosemary Peppercorn | May 24, 2014 4:13 PMReply

    If they thought they would sell by the kabillions, they would make them.

  • Arkadin | May 24, 2014 4:08 PMReply

    In reluctant defense for the horrible 1995 Kenner Leia figure, most of the characters looked terrible in their first few runs.

  • iamhanuman | May 24, 2014 3:44 AMReply

    It is bizarre and ignoring of a gigantic fan base. The are of course many toys for girls in the star wars merchandise #lettoysbetoys but the fact that Leia isn't represented is just passive odd and annoying

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