Funko Prepared for “Moana” Pre-Release Merchandise Craze

Disney’s next Princess movie, Moana, isn’t out for another month, but retailers are already gearing up for a sequel to Frozen frenzy. Halloween costumes are out everywhere from the Disney store to your local Walmart. You can buy Moana dolls, stuffed animals, blankets, sheets, towels, books, and backpacks. Some characters we haven’t even seen in the trailers have toys.

Moana Mug Disney Store
A Moana and Maui mug from the Disney Store

It’s not surprising, then, that Funko is in on this ‘wave’. According to an official press release, the company will release five different Moana collections along with the film. Their classic Pop! line includes exclusives for Hot Topic, Target, Walmart, and BAM–so collecting them all may take a little exploring of your own.

Moana Pua Slippers
Slippers from the Disney Store

However, the fact that all this merch is available before the movie releases reveals some serious confidence on the part of Disney. It continues a trend Disney’s been ramping up for a while. Most recently, BB-8 was everywhere well before The Force Awakens, and made for one of the most sought after gifts for 2015 holidays. Now Disney has repeated this pattern with great success, but there is one franchise that continues to prove its worth.


Cashing in on Frozen Frenzy

Frozen was released in theatres three years ago. Let that sink it. We’ve ironically been hearing “Let It Go” for three years. The film followed a tried and true Disney template: singing princesses, arguably cute sidekick, romantic storyline etc. But something about the duel leads, the twist ending, and the Broadway soundtrack made it a smash and here we are three years later unable to follow Elsa’s advice.

snowgies_The Frozen craze may have cooled a bit (if you’ll excuse the pun) if it weren’t for a Disney short that accompanied the live-action CinderellaFrozen Fever repeated what worked about Frozen, and condensed it into a seven-minute short. Once it premiered, kids wanted to complete their Elsa or Anna collections with the new outfits, and new singing dolls. That’s not even covering the new obsession with Snowgies (and a well-earned one. Snowgies are everything I wanted from Olaf. Feel free to ignore my unpopular opinion). Now Elsa’s blue dress is soooo last season, and soon we’ll have the movie’s sequel as well as a Broadway show to give the merch pool another boost.  

Moana Merch Marches On

Of course, Disney has been pulling this trick for years. Specifically Brave, for some strange reason, invaded sections of their parks before the film released. You could meet Merida before you even knew who she was. So the flood of Moana toys and home accessories presents no surprise. It is surprising, though, that Funko has planned such a wide variety of collectibles for what boils down to two characters. Maybe the options are limited to avoid the Brave folly of revealing plot points that should have been kept secret.

young moana compare
General Release “Young Moana” on the left, Hot Topic Exclusive “Young Moana” on the right.

Disney and Funko zoomed in on the collectible nature of the Pop! figures, to the point that retailer exclusives are almost indistinguishable from their general release counterparts. But that won’t stop adult fans from going crazy trying to 100% their collections.

Maui Pop
The general release “Maui” on the left, BAM exclusive “Maui” on the right

The only difference between the two “Mauifigures above? The angle of their arm. Maui is a demi-god that can shift forms. He’s a hawk in part of the movie. He surfs, and helps Moana drive a boat. But instead of any of those interesting forms, his figures hold their hooks slightly different from one another.

Unoriginal design is the same complaint I made about the newDisney Princess” line from Funko. The company has released more duplicate figures with small changes, instead of seizing opportunities to create something unique.

The Miranda Factor

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Rock MoanaNot every Disney movie is treated to this pre-release hype, but the reasons Moana has been is no secret. For the first time, one of the most important factors of a Disney film derives from the composer of the soundtrack. Close on the heels of his Hamilton success, actor, playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda signed on with Disney for both writing music for Moana and acting in the upcoming remake of Mary Poppins. Miranda slipped into the spotlight a few years ago, winning his first Tony award for In The Heights, in which, like Hamilton, he both wrote and starred. However, Hamilton transformed Miranda into a musical King Midas.

Moana Rock CandyDisney is likely banking on Hamilton fans adding to their typical family demographic. The studio may also be hoping everyone who rallied for a POC (Princess of Color) will support Moana. If so, it probably inspired their development of a non-white cast both on screen and off.

Moana marks a huge step forward for the company in regards to racial representation. Disney made an early misstep in marketing, but eventually removed the offending costume. Is other Moana merch meant to flood the market and make fans forget?

Moana stars newcomer Auli’i Cravalho as the voice of Moana and Dwayne Johnson as Maui. Other voices include Alan Tudyk (Hei Hei), Jemaine Clement (Tamatoa), Nicole Scherzinger (Sina) and Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui). Hamilton stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo lent their voices to the soundtrack as well. The film was directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams.

Moana is set to release on November 23rd, 2016 in the US and Canada. The film will roll out world-wide in early December.

Jen Schiller
Jen Schiller
Jen is a writer with a penchant for nerdy subject matter, and a nerd with a penchant for writing. She is into theatre, Disney, Harry Potter, books and her cats Sif and Dinah. She can be found all over the internet, or in your backyard catching Pokemon. Jen's favorite Batman is Adam West, and she can't be convinced otherwise.