How Hasbro Bet Big on The Phantom Menace and Almost Lost

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Published on 30 Sep 2021, 15:00
Toys have always been a huge part of Star Wars fandom, and back in 1999, a brand new era of Star Wars arrived in theaters. The Phantom Menace marked the beginning of the prequel trilogy, but it had been 16 years since The Return of the Jedi. Few in the industry, including toy juggernaut Hasbro, quite knew what to expect. With three trilogies come and gone and more Disney+ series on the way, it's hard to imagine a time when a trip to a galaxy far, far away wasn't a sure bet, but this is the story of how Hasbro made a half billion dollar bet on The Phantom Menace and almost lost.

George Lucas famously hung onto the merchandising rights for the franchise as part of his deal to direct A New Hope. It was a decision that made him billions. But in 1999, Hasbro had to make a bet on how much of the toy aisle to fill. We talked to Paul Palmer, Hasbro's brand manager for Star Wars, about just how much uncertainty there was around Phantom Menace Toys.

Written by Tara Bennett and edited by Owen Carter.

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