I’ve reported before about the flood of unofficial fan-made Baby Yodas on handmade sites like Etsy in the vacuum left by the lack of any official merchandise, and rapid response by fans. Crafters of all types rushed to fill the void to give people the cutest creature in the galaxy. Although Disney seemed to turn a blind eye for a time, now that official merch is available for pre-order, The Mouse’s lawyers are sending out cease and desist orders with the speed of a postal carrier on a pod speeder.
The reason for the lack of official merchandise was to avoid spoiling the big Baby Yoda reveal. Jon Favreau, the creator/head writer/showrunner for The Mandalorian, revealed how it went down in a November 2019 interview with Entertainment Tonight.
I have to thank Disney and LucasFilm because the way the cat usually gets out of the bag for that stuff is merchandising and toy catalogs and things like that. So they really backed us up because we really wanted it to be that you had to watch it yourself, so that every time you watched the show, there are new twists and secrets that come out. That requires a lot of restraint from the people who are footing the bill, saying that they’re going to hold back on certain things so that the public doesn’t know ahead of time. Part of that was holding back on some of the merchandising and holding back on some of the characters.
In the meantime, Etsy sellers were getting huge traffic numbers and sales thanks to the Baby Yoda listings in their stores. One seller told The Verge that she had sold 200 Baby Yoda plushies. Another seller mentioned in the same article said she used to get 100-to-200 visitors to her store a day. Disney’s takedown request only affects the use of trademarked terms, like “Star Wars,” “Mandalorian,” “Yoda,” and “Baby Yoda.” Some sellers have changed the listing titles to things like “Baby Alien,” but these don’t get nearly as many views.
So what does the House of Mouse have planned for the upcoming official merch release? A plush doll, a Funko Pop! Vinyl, and Build-a-Bear will be adding to their Star Wars line-up with a Baby Yoda doll. These items are planned to be released in spring 2020, but the doll and Funko Pop! are available for pre-order on the Disney Shop right now.
The take away here: don’t mess with Disney on copyright law. They literally re-wrote the public domain laws for the United States so that they could keep control of Steam Boat Willy for a little longer. They do not mess around.