Part of the appeal of Baby Yoda, our collective name for the Mandalorian character officially known as The Child, was that he came into our lives almost entirely merch-free. Both the showrunners and Disney CEO Bob Iger believed that The Mandalorian‘s biggest surprise would be ruined by the long lead times and inevitable leaks inherent in the figurine businesses. Baby Yoda could have been the hottest toy of Christmas 2019. Instead, for a few months, we were able to bask in the joy of something all too rare: an uncomplicated, noncommercial love for a fictional creation.
But Disney, lest we forget, is a for-profit, publicly-traded company that is legally obligated to create more value for its shareholders every year. And so, in 2020, the stormtroopers from sales struck back. They cracked down on Etsy sellers making a crust with their Baby Yoda homages. They announced so-so T-shirts, a $25 plush 11-inch model that barely resembled The Child, an equally cheap-looking crib version, an oddly unsatisfying, plastic-y cartoonish Hasbro Black Series model, and, of course, the inevitable Funko Pop.
No product, however, came close to capturing the realistic look and feel of Baby Yoda. Not until Thursday, which saw the announcement of preorders for a budget-busting $350 Sideshow collectible model. For that scratch, according to Sideshow, you will receive (sometime between August and October, probably) an “incredibly lifelike figure” that “has been meticulously detailed to recreate everything that Star Wars fans love about the young alien, from the fuzz on its wrinkled head to its irresistible pout, all the way down to its tiny, toddling feet.”
Admittedly, the model makers have done an excellent job. At 16.5 inches, the figurine is the same height as Baby Yoda on the show. And just look at those individually applied hairs! The slightly downturned ears! The fact that he’s holding that bit of the Mandalorian’s ship’s control panel, the knob he made his disgruntled dad realize was actually a toy!
Is it really worth $350, though? That’s between you and your bank balance. But here’s what I would note: This is a piece of art designed to be admired at a distance. It is not meant to be hugged, nor squeezed so tightly it might break. You cannot strap it into a child seat and take it for a jaunt, nor slip it into a Baby Bjorn and parade it proudly down to your local coffee shop. You can buy a Baby Yoda, but you can’t make it draw a charming crayon portrait of the whole family to stick on your fridge.
All this Child will do is sit in your house, staring at you. And you in turn will sit there and stare back, ignoring irate calls from the office or pleas for your attention from family members. Why does he look like he’s one second away from crying?, you will ask yourself over and over. Why are his eyes red? Am I seeing things or did his lip just wobble? Please, Baby Yoda, stop pouting at me like that. What do you want, a frog on toast? Please, I’ll do anything.
We should be grateful to Sideshow, then, for reminding us of the essential element of the actual Baby Yoda’s appeal: he moves. His ears are incredibly expressive, conveying a range of emotions with the slightest twist. His eyes blink. He adorably summons the Force with his tiny clawed hands. He sips soup.
Maybe one day there will be an official animatronic model for sale that replicates one or two of the movements for which the supremely cute one is known. But, well, first of all, the price tag for that kind of custom machinery would probably be closer to $3,500. And second, it still won’t be able to hug you.
In the meantime, perhaps that $350 of yours might be better spent making the lives of some real-life children a little better. For instance, Save the Children is one of a number of organizations trying to help kids separated from their parents at the U.S. border. You won’t get a figurine with hand-applied fuzz, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you did something to fight back against a galactically cruel and inhumane government.