After playing a major role in evolving the modern licensing industry, Lucas Licensing’s greatest challenge remains keeping its 33-year-old Star Wars IP fresh and relevant in the minds of young audiences, not just the fanboys who grew up with the saga.
By all accounts, the division of privately held Lucasfilm is still a top entertainment licensor, with resulting Star Wars products generating an estimated US$8 billion in retail sales worldwide to date, including more than US$1 billion in recession-hampered 2009. Lucas’s latest franchise, Star Wars: The Clone Wars spawned a TV series entering its third year on Cartoon Network US and it’s now the lynchpin of the company’s kid-targeted strategy.
‘In 2010 we are pulling new action figures from Clone Wars and from our extended universe from publishing,’ says Paul Southern, senior director of domestic licensing and marketing at Lucas Licensing. ‘The grand-daddy of all role-playing toys is the lightsaber, and we’ll be innovating that with a new Grievous Lightsaber from [master toy licensee] Hasbro.’ The new saber slices into retail in August.
Additionally, rumors have been circulating about the possible entry of the Star Wars universe into the older-preschool demo, complete with a new TV series codenamed ‘The Squishies,’ and a preschool-centric toy line. (Lucas says one of its animation projects in development is intended for a younger audience, but wouldn’t divulge further details on the basis that the concept was in very early stages.)
However, in terms of making further inroads with a core kid audience, the brand is finding a home in some untapped areas. For example, there’s a new line of science-based products stemming from a partnership with educational toyco Uncle Milton.
‘It’s a fresh way to offer something to kids and their parents,’ says Southern, referring to the line that includes Clone Wars-branded ant farms and Holographic Animation Lab, which enables kids to use pre-printed or original drawings to generate an animation effect and will be available this fall. As for other categories on Lucas’s radar, Southern would only say it’s always looking to broaden its appeal.
And to make Star Wars a multi-generational affair, Lucas is holding a fan event August 12 to 15 in family-friendly Orlando, Florida. Star Wars Celebration V, produced by Reed Exhibition’s PopGroup, intends to feature a slew of entertainment, including meet and greets, music, screenings, celebrity guests and exhibitors including kid-centric Lego. ‘We have hosted it in other cities before, but this is a family-oriented moment for Star Wars so that’s why we chose Orlando,’ says Southern.