Disney unboxes the Force to drive buzz for 'Star Wars' toys

Wed Sep 2, 2015 7:08pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When technology and geek culture enthusiast Chris Pirillo purchased his iPhone 6 last year, he rushed home to broadcast himself unboxing the item live on YouTube.

The video has garnered nearly 50,000 views and is part of the growing craze of 'unboxing' that is a centerpiece of a live global Walt Disney event, starting on Wednesday evening in Australia, to unveil new toys from its December movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

The goal? To drive up excitement ahead of "Force Friday" on September 4. That is when new "Star Wars" toys and other merchandise from companies such as Hasbro and Lego will be released in stores and online around the world just after midnight.

The Disney event, to be live-streamed online, is the most high-profile embrace to date of unboxing, where people film themselves opening and trying out new toys and gadgets.

"It really created the perfect opportunity to take the new products to fans directly," said Josh Silverman, executive vice president of global licensing at Disney Consumer Products.

For those unboxers who can draw audiences, it's big business.

Eighteen of the top 100 YouTube channels are devoted to toys and toy unboxing and accounted for 8.1 billion views from January through March, according to Tubefilter figures provided by Disney.

Unboxing on YouTube goes beyond toys, with viewers drawn to YouTubers showing off their 'hauls' in beauty, fashion and technology. Some unboxers can earn millions of dollars from ads that run ahead of their videos or in some cases from manufacturers who pay them to feature their products.   Continued...

A child wearing a Darth Vader mask participates in a light saber duel with other children after the live internet unveiling of new light saber toys from the film "Star Wars - The Force Awakens" in Sydney, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed