FILM by Shane “Small Print, Big Peeve” Hnetka

Spin-off merchandise: it’s an inescapable part of the blockbuster movie business. Yes, the fact that franchises like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe can boost profits by selling books, comics, toys, T-shirts and collectibles is one of the things that makes making these films appealing to movie studios. And that’s good! But if we’re not careful, merch can take away from the actual fun of these movies.

It’s All In The Design

Warner Bros. has released the Mad Max anthology box set. On the back cover, you see the titles: Mad Max: Fury Road, Mad Max, The Road Warrior...

What? No Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome?

You put the box on the shelf. Maybe the next set will have all four movies.

The thing is, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome IS included in Mad Max anthology. The package designers apparently just don’t want you to know this.

Listed in very small print are the set’s contents: all four movies. You’d never see it. But you would see the bigger, bolder type listing the special features in three of the four movies.

Beyond Thunderdome — which doesn’t have any extras — is left out. Which is why, at a glance, the set appears to not include it.

This is good reminder that bad graphic design is bad for business. I know a couple of people who didn’t buy the box set because it seemed to be missing a movie. That’s money Warner Bros. missed out on.

The Force Is Strong With Merchandising

Did you feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of souls reached for their Visa cards only to learn the toy they wanted was sold out?

Even though The Force Awakens doesn’t open until Dec. 18, its first wave of toys, mugs, backpacks, novels and anything else you can stick a Star Wars logo on blasted into stores on “Force Friday” (Sept. 4). The problem: customers across North America who’d been told by retailers to line up found mostly empty shelves. It was a black eye for chains like Toys “R” Us, who’d encouraged the lines.

That said, the merchandizing onslaught will escalate right up to The Force Awakens’ release. So don’t worry — there’s still time to find the droid you’re looking for.

Still… it all feels a little “too soon” to me. This hype probably won’t keep anyone from seeing The Force Awakens in theatres opening day but we might all be a bit burned out by then.

It’ll be a shame if toys take away from the excitement of seeing a new Star Wars movie for the first time in theatres.

Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. He writes Dog Blog’s weekly “Sunday Matinee” column at