Wakanda may have a lot of Vibranium, but their toys are another story. Hasbro has announced that it will not have any new Black Panther toys and merchandise to accompany the film’s home release next month. Since the film recently became the third highest-grossing film ever at the domestic box office, parents will likely be shocked at the lack of new toys available for their kids.
Though it’s typical for toy companies to release new merchandise ahead of a film’s home release – as was the case with last year’s Wonder Woman – toy companies severely underestimated the demand that would exist for Wakanda-inspired toys. It’s a particularly glaring oversight, given that toys associated with Black Panther have already made Hasbro millions of dollars.
“Kid asked for a Black Panther-themed birthday party,” complained one mother in a New York Post article. “We are having a hard time finding party decor. #1 movie in the world and the stores don’t have any party merchandise. #Annoyed #BlackPanther.”
It’s clear that toy companies underestimated the success of Marvel’s latest hit: consider that Hasbro only released 11 toys associated with the movie. According to the same New York Post piece, that’s half of what retailers had available for Justice League, a film that was comparatively a box-office failure. It’s also about 25% of what stores had for the most recent Power Rangers outing, which was a failure by all accounts.
A Disney spokeswoman noted that the Black Panther product line is “the largest ever for a Marvel origin film, including expanded categories, such as performance wear and high-fashion collaborations,” and yet it hasn’t been enough to keep up with the demand.
The most heartbreaking part of this particular toy shortage is the way that it will affect kids who aren’t used to seeing themselves represented so prominently and positively. Toys are a powerful means of shaping how kids see themselves in the world; when black kids don’t see themselves represented on toy aisles, it can subconsciously reinforce the notion that they aren’t as deserving or valued as their white counterparts. Of course, the fact that Black Panther was such a milestone moment in film representation likely contributed to the shortage; everyone wants to play with T’Challa.
That’s not to excuse Hasbro or other companies; they should have been prepared, given how much money is raked in by every installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s ridiculous that parents can still buy toys pegged to Captain America: Civil War – a film that came out two years ago – but they can’t find party decor for Black Panther two months after it was released.
Fortunately, some toy companies are working hard to address the shortage; however, Hasbro is the film’s primary toy retailer and won’t be restocking with new merch until fall of this year.