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Star Wars Toy Designers Trying Hard To Avoid Huge Spoiler Snags

Avoiding spoilers for a major event film like Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a touch more difficult for some of us than the rest.

For those involved with the production of Star Wars toys, going into the theater cold can be next to impossible — but that doesn't mean they don't try, sometimes going to rather extreme lengths to remain as spoiler-free as possible.

The good folks at CinemaBlend recently spoke to a couple individuals in the business of Star Wars merchandising, and they were quick to confirm that, yes, from the assembly line to the board room, ducking those spoilers can be a real hassle. 

As massive pop culture fanatics tasked with bringing you the latest news on... well, everything, we here at Looper can relate. There are times when we simply can't avoid spoiling the latest episode of a hot series or the plot machinations of a conversation-dominating film for ourselves — but we have to admit that the folks who work to bring toys to market for a property like Star Wars have it so, so much worse.

Designing toys, you see, is a very lengthy process. The long lead times mean that designers will be introduced to new characters long before the general public, sometimes years before. Particularly for Star Wars, which gives us new characters with new abilities that fit into the plot in unexpected ways with every film, this can often mean that it's necessary for plot points to be given away simply in order for a toy's manufacturer to understand why it must be designed in a certain way.

Of course, it goes without saying that at the end of the day, one can't simply shirk their duties just so they can go into Rise of Skywalker on opening weekend not knowing what that cool-looking new droid does. We all want to avoid having such hotly-anticipated flicks spoiled for us, but those whose professions dictate that they be given super-sneak previews of new character designs and such still have to do their jobs... right?

How do Star Wars toy designers avoid spoilers?

Well, yes and no, according to Lucasfilm Senior VP for Licensing Paul Southern. CinemaBlend caught up with him at a recent event revealing a portion of Rise of Skywalker's toy line, and he indicated that there's a surprising amount of leeway given to those who are extra-determined to avoid spoilers.

"You need to have a basic understanding of the architecture [of each toy], but there are elements that are 'No, I don't really want to know about that.' There are actually people who are working on the film products that want to know nothing and they actually will not go to meetings."

They will... just not go to meetings? It seems like that would make it kind of impossible for one to do one's job, but according to Southern, it does not. It makes it very difficult, but not impossible.

"We have some briefings, we get some information that allows us to make the right decisions, and also allows us to see the role of the character [so] that we can reflect that in the toys and the rest of the merchandise," he said. "But there are people on my team that [say], 'I don't want to be there. I'll work on it, and I'll develop it but I just don't want to know the context because I don't want it to be spoiled when I go and see the film.' It's a fine balance."

Yes, we imagine that that's putting it mildly. Just imagine how tough it must be for a head honcho like Southern himself, who must absorb the full brunt of every spoiler so that his team can... wait, even he ducks out of meetings?

"There are elements that I don't want to know about, because ultimately I want to have a great experience when I go to the cinema," he said. "But I know enough about the architecture of the film, so that we know what to be focusing on."

Wow. If we ever buy an action figure that has, say, a weapon that looks right but does something completely different from what it does in the movie, we'll know why. 

Of course, it's not like Lucasfilm wants to dole out spoilers left and right; the fewer of them get out there, the smaller the chance that they'll make their way to the general public. With that in mind, it's interesting to know that the development process for Star Wars merchandise can take a little longer than it does for non-tentpole-related toys, because the studio will often be intentionally vague when meeting with the designers.

Take it from Mike Ballog, Senior Director of Global Marketing for Hasbro, which is handling the Rise of Skywalker toy line. He says that design elements of certain toys will often have to be changed midway through the development process for that very reason, a dynamic that — at this point — has just kind of been factored in.

"Sometimes, we'll go down the direction that we think is going to be the best expression, and then we'll put a model in front of the [studio] guys and we'll have a conversation, they'll be like 'well, now he's going to do this,'" Ballog explained. "We're like 'oh,' and we'll go back and fix it. It's an iterative process."

If by "iterative" he means "protracted and frustrating," then yes, we can see how that would be so. But hey, it's all about getting those toys on the shelves by the time the movie hits theaters — so let's pause for a moment to appreciate those brave men and women who go to work every day, faced with slapping down spoiler after spoiler, just so collectors like us can make sure our sweet, Star Wars-themed dens are sufficiently up to date by opening weekend.

Oh, and kids play with these things too, right? Yes, that's fine work these folks are doing for the kids.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hits the big screen on December 20.