I think I was first alerted to the problem when the Marvel Collector Corps subscription box wasn’t specifically Black Panther themed. As an avid Funko Pop collector, I was very much looking forward to what they had in store as the movie approached. Before every other MCU major movie offering they had an awesome themed box with great exclusive pops. Another great perk was often there was a shirt or other wearable mechandise that you would have in time for opening night of the movie. However, we were met with the theme of ANIMAL INSTINCT, most folks were not pleased.
The chatter on the boards, channels and chats I follow were filled with people who were wondering why this was not a Black Panther box? There has been a box for Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and other movies. This is when my suspicions started to rises, we were one week away from the movie coming out: Where were the Black Panther Toys?
You would think after the success of Wonder Woman and the clamor for the toys from the diverse characters of the newest Star Wars the toy manufacturers would have been hip to the game. The market was telling them all they need to know about how to prepare for this event. The pre-sales out did previous superhero movies and broke other records unheard of for February movies. It went on to be Fandango’s 4th ranking pre-sale of all time. These are numbers that can not be ignored, yet some how the toy makers did not think this would translate into toy sales.
Now the counterargument here has been that the toy market has been in a slump. People will point to the fact that Toy’s R Us just went out of business and the market was just hedging its bets, playing it safe and only putting out the logical amount to see how the market would react. However, as I stated they had the numbers to know that the market was there as well as the interests. Also the reason for Toys R Us demise is not a lack of interest in toys.
The interest in subscription boxes for comic themed items alone should show this. The problem with Toys R Us was more was them not getting with the times. They needed a stronger marketing force, better online presence and better SEO. A lack a of social media outreach especially and also a need to better reach those of us who were buying toys and video games. Surprise, it was not just those with children. Mostly it’s 21-50 yr olds, who incidentally need to be marketed to differently and we are not all at home watching TV on traditional mediums.
There is an underestimation at the heart of this that has an undercurrent of racism, mixed with fear and stupidity in my opinion. Sure, no one knew that this film would become the 3rd highest grossing domestic film of all time. However since this movie was announced the hype for it in the black community was palatable and anyone who was paying attention to that market could feel it. Also many who cater to that market did indeed profit from that very enthusiasm. Yet it remains a silo that the mainstream teeters on taking a chance on even though the African-American buying power continues to be a cash cow at 1.5 Trillion (not to be confused with wealth, which is another story). I mean this movie is even getting the blessing of Saudi Arabia where they are going to show a movie for the first time in 35 years! The hype is real, where are the toys?
Also, not just the toys, where are the pajamas and the bed sheets? Where are the party making materials? If you live in a major city these are very hard to find. I have heard varying reports of shelves where there are little to no Black Panther items of any kind. Now I know different markets obviously cater to what they think will sell but this was still a Disney/Marvel film. What gives? The companies told on themselves already, they didn’t expect demands to be high. Why?
It seems that these businesses still have not learned that there is a market for toys marketed to POC and Girls/Women. Why are we a market that they still do not believe are interested in sci-fi and super heroes? This is something we battle for agency for continually and bring up in so many forums from video games, books, comics, movies and now the it seems the toy aisle. Some people have taken matters into their own hands and kudos to them! Where is my Shuri doll?