Toys and Star Wars are almost inextricably linked. From the days of the Early Bird preview set to modern collectibles lining the shelves and desks of ardent fans, the galaxy far, far away’s relationship with merchandise is as old as Star Wars itself. But what’s going to happen when paraphernalia clashes with the franchise letting go of a toxic figure?
One of the first characters revealed for The Mandalorian—Disney+’s debut live-action Star Wars series—before its first season aired in 2019, Carasynthia “Cara” Dune (played by Gina Carano) was a major part of the show’s merchandising push. At a time when manufacturers could not capitalize on what would turn out to be the show’s breakout star—the Force-sensitive Grogu, first known (and still known, really) as Baby Yoda—she, alongside Pedro Pascal’s titular Bounty Hunter, Nick Nolte/Misty Rosas’ Kuiil, and Taika Waititi’s IG-11 were at the forefront of The Mandalorian’s initial marketing.
Dune was inevitably also at the forefront of the inevitable onslaught of Mandalorian toys and other merchandise. Carano’s likeness was splayed across posters and calendars, across t-shirts and mugs. The actress participated in official livestreams to reveal action figures and Lego playsets. And yes, there was a Funko Pop. Multiple, even.
As The Mandalorian’s first season came to an end—and both fans and merchandise makers’ interests turned to a certain green starlet—items featuring Cara Dune continued to roll out; Disney released figurines, Hasbro released smaller-scaled figures of the character for its Vintage Collection line of Star Wars action figures, and re-released the original Cara figure with an updated paint deco as part of its “Credit Collection” variant line. The train seemingly wasn’t going to stop—especially with more of The Mandalorian on the way, and talk of Carano pivoting out of the main series into a potential spinoff (much rumored to be the upcoming Rangers of the New Republic).
But then it did.
Last week, io9 broke the news that Disney/Lucasfilm had officially parted ways with Carano, confirming that she would not reprise her role as ex-Rebel Alliance soldier Cara Dune in either the Disney+ streaming show or other Star Wars projects. Lucasfilm’s statement came in the wake of fresh rounds of social media users calling on Carano to be removed from the series after the actress, in a since-deleted Instagram story, shared a post likening being a Republican in current times to the plight of Jewish people leading up to the Holocaust.
But it wasn’t the first time Carano had faced calls for her departure. In the past year, the actress liked and shared social media posts pushing fraudulent claims about the U.S. presidential election and mocked measures being taken to combat the spread of covid-19 such as lockdowns and mask mandates. Before that, she came under fire after arguing with others online over the practice of sharing personal pronouns in social media bios and briefly changed her own Twitter profile to sarcastically read “boop/bop/beep.” Throughout these multiple controversies, however, The Mandalorian boomed in popularity, as the anticipation for—and release of—its second season dominated the pop culture landscape.
Despite The Mandalorian’s popularity, and Cara Dune’s initial role in that popularity—a brusque, muscular woman and a soldier who cut a sharp contrast to the franchise’s typical female characters like Leia Organa and Rey Skywalker, presenting a body image not really seen Star Wars before, or often in Hollywood at large—Lucasfilm sharply cut ties with Carano in its statement last week. Describing her actions as “abhorrent and unacceptable,” the studio promised that “there are no plans” for the actor to be involved in Star Wars in the future. Further reporting from the Hollywood Reporter suggested that Carano’s exit was a long time coming and that her prior social media messages had stopped Lucasfilm from officially confirming her as part of a spinoff series announced at last December’s Disney Investor Day livestream.
Whether or not the last week’s events were the final straw in a long saga or an immediate response, an awkward problem remained: Star Wars might be done with Gina Carano, but shelves of already-made Star Wars toys weren’t. And there were more on the way.
In recent days, merchandisers have seemingly started to scramble to limit the amount of product with Carano’s likeness as much as possible. Reports from toy retailers this past weekend revealed that Hasbro—which owns the license to manufacture Star Wars action figures—had begun scrapping plans to ship out restocks of its Star Wars: The Black Series and Vintage Collection Cara Dune action figures. “Hasbro planned for another production run and we were accepting preorders from that production run,” a spokesperson for online retailer BigBadToyStore told THR. “Due to recent events, Hasbro was no longer approved to produce any more of this figure.”
Since the announcement, prices for unopened figures of The Mandalorian supporting character have shot up on auction sites like eBay, as fans look to offload merchandise of the character—or make a buck on the impending scarcity. But that’s just a handful of action figures in a sea of Cara Dune merchandise.
Even as Hasbro looked to cancel re-releases, plans for a retro-styled Cara Dune figure to be released later this year are seemingly still on. A perusal of Disney’s own official store website finds oodles of Mandalorian phone cases, figurines, and shirts with Carano’s likeness on them still available to buy. On Amazon, Cara Dune merchandise only seems to be available mostly from third-party retailers, with Amazon-sold listings out of stock or disappeared entirely. As Lucasfilm distances itself from Carano, her character will linger beyond her appearances in The Mandalorian.
Beyond toys, there are questions of what role Cara would’ve played in other merchandise avenues, like in publishing. For example, there’s the upcoming, and currently delayed, Mandalorian tie-in novel from Del Rey. Whether the character is recast or not in live-action remains to be seen, but Cara Dune, and Carano’s likeness depicting her, will stay on store shelves and in retailer warehouses for a while yet.
But what are toymakers doing about the sudden change in merchandising plans, or the now-awkward merchandise still available for audiences to buy—or hoard as “collector’s items”? It’s difficult to say, given the suddenness of Lucasfilm’s move. It’s unknown whether or not individual licensors are handling the fallout of Carano’s exit on a case-by-case basis or through a mandate from Disney and Lucasfilm to no longer make products with her (io9 has reached out to Disney and Lucasfilm to get clarity on this, and has yet to receive a response).
“We’re thrilled to have the privilege of creating products featuring characters and stories from The Mandalorian for our fans,” a statement provided to media from Hasbro SVP Global Communications Julie Duffy said, before echoing Lucasfilm’s statement: “Hasbro has completed development of all season one and two product featuring Cara Dune, and there are no current plans to create more. We are actively working with our retail partners to address existing orders.” When io9 pressed for further comment—in particular about the decision not to cancel the retro-styled Cara Dune figure seen above—the company declined.
Other manufacturers are so far staying silent as the controversy around Carano’s exit continues, making headlines as she cites herself as a victim of cancel culture, even as she pivots her acting career to right-wing markets. io9 reached out to representatives from Funko, Lego, and Disney to inquire about the status of Cara Dune merchandise multiple times in the run-up to publication, and has yet to receive responses detailing their plans. For now, it would seem, what exists in the market will be left to peter out, as merchandisers set their eyes on other Star Wars opportunities—seemingly never-ending in Disney’s stewardship of the franchise—like the upcoming Book of Boba Fett spinoff.
Star Wars’ history of merchandising often guarantees that even the most obscure of characters can live on forever in plastic form, or as part of a multitude of merchandise in the galaxy far, far away. But when Star Wars’ owners would much rather forget part of that history for good, how true that will be in the case of Cara Dune will remain to be seen.
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