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Baby Yoda fever has taken over the Internet — and now it's moving on to the stock market.
OK, so maybe it's not affecting the whole stock market. But the Baby Yoda pop culture phenomenon sure seems to be having a big impact on one company's stock price.
In mid-January the toy company Build-A-Bear Workshop announced that this spring it would introduce a toy based on the Star Wars character "Baby Yoda," more officially known simply as "The Child" in The Mandalorian, the hit show streamimg exclusively on Disney+. Build-A-Bear is the rare toy retailer that has been thriving while traditional stores like Toys "R" Us have struggled or simply gone out of business, in part because Build-A-Bear offers unique in-store “experiences” such as creating custom one-of-a-kind stuffed animals. Investors seem to think that the arrival of Baby Yoda could push Build-A-Bear to the next level of success: According to MarketWatch, the St. Louis company has seen its stock prices soar “nearly 63% over the past month.”
Why are people so excited about Baby Yoda, when there are basically a billion other Star Wars characters out there? It mainly comes down to pent-up market demand, combined with an undeniably adorable character.
When pop culture historians look back on 2019, there’s no doubt that the year will be remembered for two things in particular: fast food chicken sandwich wars and Baby Yoda. The cute critter debuted in the Disney+ sensation The Mandalorian this past fall, and quickly proceeded to steal America’s heart. It seemed reasonable to assume that Baby Yoda would top Christmas lists for children and Star Wars fans, but the problem was there was no official merchandise ready for sale.
The first genuine Baby Yoda toys became best-sellers in mid-December, even though they were only available for pre-order on sales that wouldn't be delivered until spring 2020. Disney has since begun accepting pre-orders for Baby Yoda plush dolls as well, and they too won't be in customers' hands until April 2020 at the earliest.
Director Jon Favreau, who created The Mandalorian for Disney+, wanted Baby Yoda to be a surprise for the audience, so the character wasn't featured in trailers or commercials. All the pre-release publicity for The Mandalorian centered around Pedro Pascal’s titular character, and Baby Yoda (or “The Child” as he is officially referred to in the show) wasn’t even introduced until the end of the show's first episode. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Favreau explained why he pushed Disney to hold off on including Baby Yoda in the initial wave of marketing or toys:
While a television or film crew can hold a few secrets back from the audience, it’s much more difficult to do that in the toy industry, which is usually decentralized to the point where one company will have multiple factories around the world, and leaks are common. This is why it is has become very common for leaks about, say, upcoming Marvel films to come through toy designs. Favreau wanted to avoid this, which meant that Disney wasn’t able to have any Baby Yoda merchandise ready in time for the holidays. And that in turn meant the inevitable arrival of a black-market of homemade figures on Etsy and other sites, though Disney’s copyright lawyers have been trying to put a stop to all of that.
When news broke official Baby Yoda dolls were going on sale at Build-A-Bear stores, fans were predictably out of their minds excited, if also a little impatient that they have to wait just a little longer.
Based on how Build-A-Bear's stock price has skyrocketed since the announced arrival of Baby Yoda, investors may be just as excited as Mandalorian fans.