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The Reason The Mandalorian Has Reportedly Lost Disney Millions

Baby Yoda giveth (joy to millions), and Baby Yoda taketh away (cash from Mickey Mouse).

CNBC is reporting that Disney's failure to have toys based on The Mandalorian's Baby Yoda available for the 2019 holiday season has resulted in a loss of up to $2.7 million dollars, despite the fact that action figures and plushies are available for pre-order.

The loss was a calculated one. The Disney+ series' creator, Jon Favreau, has recently revealed that he was moved to implore the House of Mouse to keep Baby Yoda a secret up until his reveal at the end of The Mandalorian's first episode. He was inspired by a conversation he had on the set of Disney's live-action The Lion King remake (which he directed) with star Donald Glover, who pointed out that these days, audiences are used to knowing pretty much everything about every hot new property before it's even available to the public. Since the element of surprise has become so scarce, Glover reasoned, it's become a commodity. 

As an example, the actor pointed to the recent works of pop superstar Beyoncé, who has been known to drop albums online with absolutely no prior notice. Not only have fans eaten them up, but the surprise nature of these releases has sparked as much or more discussion than any expensive marketing push could have; in addition, the surprise drops have the added advantage of being, you know, free.

Favreau, rightfully sensing that he had a breakout character on his hands with "The Child," decided to apply this strategy in advance of The Mandalorian's release. It's safe to say that it worked; sure, Disney could have easily included Baby Yoda in the show's marketing, and the cute little bugger may very well have taken the world by storm in similar fashion if it had. But The Mandalorian, the first ever live-action TV series set in the Star Wars universe, had already built a strong buzz just for being the first of its kind, and by virtue of being the most high-profile original offering available at the launch of Disney+. Favreau and the Mouse House basically gambled that all eyes were going to be on the series in any event, and that gamble paid off; little BY's reveal at the end of that first episode melted hearts, sure, but it was also a stunning twist.

For one thing, it was only the second time in Star Wars history (the first being in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) that another member of Yoda's mysterious species had been introduced. For another, it was an insane plot wrinkle, instantly altering the trajectory of the titular bounty hunter. For yet another, fans were just blindsided by all of that cuteness; if they had known it was coming, it still would have been cool, but the fact that it was a complete surprise made it the kind of "holy crap" moment that generates buzz on the level that no mere marketing can accomplish.

Will the late arrival of Baby Yoda toys hurt Disney in the long run?

Look, $2.7 million dollars is a lot of money by any stretch, and the question has to be asked: did Disney make the right decision, or should the studio have cashed in using a more conventional marketing campaign to introduce Baby Yoda? Now that we've posed the query, let us answer with a hearty laugh and the assertion that yes, the Mouse House absolutely made the right choice.

First of all, it stands to reason that including Baby Yoda in the marketing push for The Mandalorian may have set Disney back a comparable amount of cash. The show's shooting schedule may have had to be shuffled around to make sure that certain shots would be available for marketing materials, different one-sheets from the ones we got would have to have been produced, and additional funds would have to have been shelled out to advertising types to develop a marketing strategy for the little tyke, just off the top of our heads.

Second, the fact that toys weren't available for the holiday season doesn't mean that those who want them won't purchase them when they are available. Heck, when Baby Yoda plushies showed up for pre-order on Disney's online store, the allotted number initially made available sold out in a matter of hours. Disney was prepared for the character's popularity; by the time Baby Yoda action figures and toys are widely available between March and May of 2020, everybody who wants one will be able to get one, and that basically means literally everybody.

Finally: $2.7 million dollars may be a lot of money, but to Disney, it's freaking pocket change. This is the studio that released Avengers: Endgame last spring, and that flick made $2.7 billion dollars. The movie was one of six Mouse House releases to make more than a billion bucks in 2019. Its theme parks and merchandise generate billions in revenue every year; Disney+ picked up 10 million subscribers on its first day. Disney is doing just fine.

No, we're thinking that the approach to Baby Yoda's marketing was absolute genius, and it's all down to a pleasant conversation that Favreau and Glover had, discussing Beyoncé on their coffee break. Now, if Queen Bey's next surprise video would feature a dancing Baby Yoda, we'd really have something. We're pretty sure we're the first to have that idea; we'll take a nice fruit basket as a thank you, or $2.7 million dollars. Whichever is easiest.