In light of recent articles, not just on JTA, but also on sites such as Bloomberg, I would like to talk about one more time about Star Wars and kids. According to Bloomberg Star Wars has problems reaching kids. I believe everyone agrees that Star Wars, like any other franchise, needs young fans, not just adults. Lucasfilm has tried various things in recent times to reach kids. Hasbro too, tried several things to get kids to buy or want the toys. Forces of Destiny failed. Resistance has disappointing ratings and will end with season 2, the toyline was cancelled already. And most famously Force Link figures, which were always meant to be played with by kids, were discontinued in favor of an all new 5 inch super articulated Galaxy of Adventures toyline. It remains to be seen if this new line will meet more success. So maybe it’s time to look at how the source material has been doing on YouTube. Is Galaxy of Adventures a success? How does it compare to Forces of Destiny? And how is the latest web series, Star Wars Roll Out doing? Click through for a look at Lucasfilm’s kid oriented entertainment.
There is a very short summary at the end if you hate reading.
First of all I want to give you an overlook of the YouTube shows. How many views did Forces of Destiny and the more recent Galaxy of Adventures and Roll Out get?
The red line is Forces of Destiny, blue is Galaxy of Adventures and you have to squint a little bit to see the green line that is Roll Out. Roll Out is in serious trouble already and you have to wonder if it’s worth spending money on.
Galaxy of Adventures had a slow beginning, whereas Forces Of Destiny had its best time right out of the gate, but then it declined. Galaxy of Adventures had several more popular episodes a bit later on, then it declined again, but the next to last episode was another very popular episode. Even so, none of the Galaxy of Adventures episodes reach the numbers for the two most popular Forces of Destiny episodes.
Roll Out is barely visible here, the show is still very new, but we can already say that Roll Out will always be niche, a very small niche. The first episode has about 17,500 views, the second one, which was released one day ago is at 5,500 at the moment.
Let’s look at the distribution of views for the two main series, Forces of Destiny and Galaxy of Adventures, to see how they compare:
Both shows have a very similar distribution of views, with one noted difference. Galaxy of Adventures has more episodes and many more episodes that have less than 200,000 views on YouTube. A full one third of all the GoA episodes more or less fly under the radar.
Now, Forces of Destiny aired on the Disney YouTube channel. The Disney YouTube channel has about 3.9 million subscribers, the new Star Wars Kids channel has almost 140,000 subscribers, much less. So it’s not too bad that Galaxy of Adventures can still almost reach the same numbers as Forces of Destiny.
In terms of most popular characters, a clear picture emerges.
On Forces of Destiny Ahsoka always performed above average, her episodes are always among the most popular. The most watched video is an episode with Sabine and Leia. Anything with Jyn always underperformed. But the least watched episode features Rey, Rey also has the second most watched episode, however, that was the pilot.
Galaxy of Adventures also has a clear pattern, the most popular videos all feature either Luke or Jedi/Sith, and one Stormtrooper episode also reached almost 1 million views. The least watched episode features Ewoks, which should, in theory, appeal to kids the most. Apparently they don’t appeal all that much to people who watch the GoA shorts.
When you look at the clicks for all the videos on the Star Wars Kids channel you find that Galaxy of Adventures outperforms everything else on the channel. Most videos on the channel have something between 4k-50k views, which can’t be considered a success. The question is if Lucasfilm/Disney can be happy about the overall performance of their Star Wars Kids channel.
Before I talk a bit more about the performance of the shows let’s take a look at average views.
Forces of Destiny: 437,097 views on average
Galaxy of Adventures: 374,684 views on average
But we can also look at the median, the median is a bit more robust and outliers, such as the two FoD and two GoA episodes that have more than a million views, will not impact the numbers so much, it’s a more realistic way of gauging how the shows perform on average. With the median you have 50% of all episodes below the median, and 50% above it.
Forces of Destiny median views: 377,024
Galaxy of Adventures median views: 306,000
What does it mean for the Galaxy of Adventures toyline when the more popular show had a failed toyline? Now, the dolls sold in the Forces of Destiny line are a different product, they were meant for girls, the Galaxy of Adventures toys are traditional action figures. But the question remains how large the potential consumer base for the toyline is with numbers like that for the show.
To put the numbers for the Star Wars shows in perspective let’s look at something that is actually popular with kids, and especially girls. L.O.L. Surprise.
The L.O.L. Surprise YouTube channel has about the same number of videos as the Star Wars Kids YouTube channel, 135 videos for L.O.L., 133 for Star Wars Kids. But the L.O.L. Surprise channel has 1.1 million subscribers, almost ten times the number Star Wars Kids has. The channel was created two years ago, however, so had a bit more time to win subscribers.
When you look at the content you see that “Unboxing” videos on the channel can get 10 million views. Almost all of the episodes have several million views. A stop motion dance party video with the dolls even has 11 million views. The popularity of L.O.L. Surprise has somewhat declined in recent times (the fad might be fading), but still, L.O.L. shows you how much views you can get when kids (and here almost exclusively girls) actually love something and when something is a hot topic.
So, can Lucasfilm be happy with YouTube shows that, on average, reach less than 400k people? And it is unknown how many of these views were by actual kids, the intended target demographic.
And when we look at Roll Out the question is if it is actually Lucasfilm’s ambition to reach just a couple of thousand people? And how many of them are the intended target demographic? Star Wars Resistance, and to a lesser degree Rebels, also suffered from really low ratings. So something is not working here.
The movies have always been four-quadrant entertainment, something for the whole family, kids could enjoy it, parents could enjoy it and even grandparents can enjoy the movies.
The question is if it’s really such a good idea to try to single out a target demographic, be it girls, kids in general or maybe even just the adults, when Star Wars, historically speaking, always appealed to everyone to begin with.
Does Star Wars need a show for toddlers? Does Star Wars need a show targeted at little girls? Does Star Wars need a show that is just targeting kids? It this approach by Lucasfilm the right way of gaining new fans?
When we look back then both the Droids cartoon and the Ewok TV movies are mostly forgotten about, it’s not as if Lucasfilm hadn’t tried before to do more kid orientied entertainment. But true success only ever came with the movies which spoke to everyone.
So maybe the best way of getting kids into Star Wars is by making movies that recapture the same spirit and magic the previous movies had? Of course, times have changed a bit, we live in the age of superheroes. But then again, Jedi/Sith have always been superheroes and super villains to begin with. Use this to the full advantage. The question needs to be asked if characters such as Holdo, Rose, Poe or Finn appeal to kids? Does Kylo appeal to boys? Would boys want to be someone who throws temper tantrums frequently and is close to tears more than one time, who gets humiliated by his boss and who also kills his own father in cold blood? Darth Vader was, in this respect, the more appealing villain perhaps, he radiated strength and he was also somewhat of a mystery (in the OT). Do girls want to be Rey? I can see that much more so, Rey is a much more positive role model, she’s strong, she’s still feminine, she’s also very attractive, she’s a good person, an archetypical hero. But will boys want to be Rey or want to play with her toys? I would say no. The ultimate question is who buys the toys and who plays with the toys.
So maybe a lack of appealing characters that boys can and want to identify with is one reason why modern Star Wars is not as appealing to kids than it once used to be? This is just a thought, a theory. Maybe it’s wrong.
But the numbers don’t lie: all the kid oriented Star Wars content is not really all that successful. Forces of Destiny can be considered a failed experiment, Resistance ends with season 2, Rebels’ ratings were not all that great either in later seasons, many Galaxy of Adventures videos reach less than 200k people on YouTube, only a handful of episodes has more than 500k views. Roll Out is barely registering. Is that it? Is that Lucasfilm’s ambition? They can’t be happy with these numbers, in my opinion.
So the question is: what can be done to make Star Wars appealing to kids again? And the toys? Just make movies with characters that speak to children as well? As Luke, Han, Leia and Darth Vader certainly did? Can the same be said for Kylo, Poe, Finn, Rose, Holdo, Snoke and all the others? What kid wants to play as someone who swept floors and cleaned toilets across the galaxy? Or as someone who gets slapped in the face and is proven to be wrong? Or as someone who kills his father and has trouble controlling his temper? Or do you want to be someone who dies in the end and murders an innocent informant in cold blood? The only exception here is Rey, in my opinion, who is certainly someone girls would love to be. But what about boys? Do they have someone in Disney Star Wars they would like to play as or have a toy of? So maybe all the issues Star Wars has with kids lie rooted in the characters we have.
One more thought: with Ahsoka’s apparent popularity, not just with girls/women, but also with men, she is a well written character, maybe Lucasfilm should think about doing more with her? An Ahsoka live action show perhaps? More animated adventures with her? This might get more girls to want toys perhaps, or at least bring in more girls who want to watch Star Wars and it will still appeal to adults and males as well. The Mandalorian will certainly appeal to boys, or it has the potential if the show is any good, and chances are high for that. So maybe Lucasfilm has realized what needs to be done. But it’s the movies that reach the most people, and they must get things right.
What do you think? What do you think is the reason for all the issues Star Wars apparently has with kids? The characters themselves? Story maybe? Or is Star Wars as a whole simply not as appealing to kids anymore with all the competition we have? Do you think Kylo, Cassian or Poe are characters boys can admire like the parent generation did back in the day with Luke or Han? Or are they, as characters, too unappealing to kids (especially boys)?
This is certainly nothing that has an easy answer, the topic is complex. So leave your thoughtful and constructive response in the comments! What do you think Disney should do to win the hearts of kids? And why is Disney apparently not succeeding with that at the moment?
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