The Big Business Mistake Hasbro Made With Blockbuster Hit ‘Black Panther’
Wakanda forever! Unless you’re a toy-buyer, in which case, Wakanda when it’s back in stock.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Wakanda forever! No question, "Black Panther" is the blockbuster hit of 2018. The film, which stars Chadwick Boseman as superpowered King T'Challa, ruler of the mysterious fictional land of Wakanda, just passed James Cameron's 1997 historical romance "Titanic" to become the third-highest-grossing U.S. movie ever. It's also the tenth-highest-grossing worldwide release of all time, the biggest-grossing superhero film of all time, and only the fourth film ever to top $100 million in each of its first two weekends.
And although it opened back in mid-February, the film is staying in the spotlight: Boseman hosted "Saturday Night Live" on April 7, and was featured in two "Black Panther"-themed skits. (Turns out King T'Challa is a little too naive to score big on the show's recurring fake game show, "Black Jeopardy!") He and his Wakandan warriors will also reappear in the much-anticipated "Avengers: Infinity War," which opens April 27.
So if you're a toymaker, cranking out "Black Panther"-themed products would seem about as obvious as ordering extra butter on your popcorn. But according to the New York Post, Hasbro's decisions weren't so super-powered.
"The toy industry underestimated 'Black Panther,'" Jim Silver, president of toy review website TTPM, told the Post, which calls the flub "an embarrassing shortage of toys" that is "showing no signs of ending."
According to the Post, which cites market-research firm NPD Group, Hasbro released just 11 "Black Panther" toys for the film's debut, while twice as many options were available for 2017's "Justice League" movie. "Justice League" has five main superheroes to "Black Panther's" one, but never caught on with audiences as "Black Panther" has. (No one's out mimicking The Flash's salute, or asking Cyborg to appear on "Saturday Night Live.")
No one can anticipate every demand, but in hindsight, "Black Panther's" mammoth success seems to have been predictable. With a nearly all-black cast, it was reaching an audience that had long been underserved in the toy aisle. And the character was earning social-media buzz pretty much from the moment Boseman was cast in 2014 (he first played the role in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War").
This isn't the first time toymakers have stumbled with a blockbuster movie. Hasbro even left heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) out of the "Star Wars" Monopoly game released to tie in with 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
And when "Frozen" chilled out the box office in 2013, parents hunting for Elsa and Anna dolls or birthday-party accessories were forced to turn to eBay or Pinterest, buying toys on the secondary market and making their own party decor. Toymakers eventually got in gear. But as for that first wave of wannabe buyers, the industry had to take a tip from Elsa herself and just let it go.