LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disney is trying to tap into Star Wars fans’ creation of YouTube fiction by tying Friday’s release of the action figures from new movie ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ with a competition to create the best short films using the new toys.
The concept of ‘Star Wars’ fan fiction is a YouTube sensation with videos collectively getting over 16 billion views in the last year alone.
To kickstart the competition #GoRogue, Disney hired James DeJulio's crowd-sourcing company Tongal to find superfans to make four short films to inspire competition entries and they picked Kevin Ulrich, Ben MacKenzie and Tucker Barrie.
Ulrich, who has made short films with the toys since the age of 11, explains their place in popular culture. "George Lucas did something brilliant with Star Wars which nobody else had done which was to make so many toys that you could have just the random background characters, you could have the major characters and you could basically create your own Star Wars world with toys."
The toys are being released less than three months before the film’s cinematic release. However, the three fans making the films got to see the range much earlier than the general public.
MacKenzie explained "We didn't get any more information than was available to the public but getting these characters and getting to see them up close more than just a second in a trailer and seeing their designs was sort of a joy."
But they did get a little insight into the film's storyline by accidentally emulating it.
"There was a lot of feedback from Disney and Lucasfilm," said Ulrich, who animated the Lego scenes as well as wrote the screenplay. "I'd make something up and maybe it would be too close to the actual film so then we'd have to change it."
When the first 'Star Wars' film 'A New Hope' was released in 1977, the action figures swiftly became the year’s most wanted toys and toymaker Kenner was unprepared for the demand. By the end of 1978, $100 million was made in sales from the toys.
The Star Wars toy market continues to be strong with $500 million worth of toys sold in 2015 and the same expected in 2016.
The competition is open until October 21 and media asset packs are available on the starwars.com site.