Star Wars: Disney CEO Says Reaction to The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Exceeded Expectations

The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger says the scale of reaction surrounding Baby Yoda, the colloquial name given to the breakout character of live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, exceeded his expectations by a “wide margin.” So far only formally referred to as “The Child” — or “the kid,” as he’s sometimes called by his armored protector, the titular bounty hunter portrayed by Pedro Pascal — Baby Yoda is named for his resemblance to Jedi Master Yoda, whose species name has never been revealed. Since his reveal in the final moments of the premiere episode of The Mandalorian on Disney+, Baby Yoda became a viral sensation, inspiring memes and Internet fawning alike — something Iger credits, in part, with the character’s cuteness.

“Well, look, the scale of the reaction is probably beyond my expectations by a wide margin,” Iger told The Hollywood Reporter during the Los Angeles premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. “That said, the moment I laid eyes on the character, I had a strong feeling the character was going to connect with audiences. It’s just so cute, so interesting, so compelling, in many respects so familiar and yet so new.”

Noticeably, Iger doesn’t refer to the character as “Baby Yoda,” and Iger doesn’t regret holding off on merchandise to keep its reveal a secret.

“We talked about it, and we wanted the reveal of that character — notice I’m not referring to it as ‘Baby Yoda’ — to be really special,” he said. “And it was worth it.”

Disney held off on producing merchandise at the behest of Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau, a decision that reportedly cost Disney upwards of at least $3 million in sales. A slew of official merchandise, including collectible vinyl figures, plush dolls, and other Baby Yoda-branded goods, are now being readied for release in spring 2020.

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“I have to thank Disney and Lucasfilm, because the way the cat usually gets out of the bag with that stuff is merchandising and toy catalogs and things like that,” Favreau said in a recent interview. “So they really back us up. We really wanted to have it be that you had to watch it yourself, so that every time you watch 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 they’re gonna 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 merchandise and holding back on some of the characters.”

The Mandalorian premieres its season finale Dec. 27 on Disney+. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.

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