The World’s Biggest Entertainment Franchise Has a Very Small Star

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It was a big week for Baby Yoda. Not only did the little guy spend time on a new planet in Disney+’s The Mandalorian, but his show was named the top entertainment franchise on this one.

NRG, called by Variety a “global insights and strategy firm,” interviewed more than 350,000 people regarding 700 franchises—asking them which of them are bold, inspiring and thought-provoking enough to stand the test of time. Disney+’s The Mandalorian topped the list, followed by The Avengers franchise and Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Oddly, The Mandalorian’s umbrella franchise, Star Wars, didn’t land in the top 20. Meanwhile, plenty of individual Avengers snuck into NRG’s list: Black Panther was fifth on the list, and was joined by Guardians of the Galaxy (No. 6), Black Widow (No. 10—not bad, considering her stand-alone movie has yet to arrive), Thor (No. 12), Iron Man (No. 13) and Doctor Strange (No. 16). Spider-Man actually made the list twice—once in the guise of his Avengers-related franchise, and again in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse universe.

As you might expect, Disney properties absolutely dominated the top 20, with Mouse-House-related titles filling up 70% of the top 20. But Netflix did just fine, too, what with its streaming series The Witcher and Ozark landing in the top 10 with Stranger Things.

But here’s another interesting factet: Most of the franchises on the list have a built-in multigenerational appeal: That is, they’re made for families.

The top non-family property on the list would be the R-rated movie franchise John Wick, which finished fourth. And a full 80% of the top 20’s entrants—including very kid-friendly franchises Toy Story, The Lion King and the primarily video-game-based Nintendo property Mario Bros.—would qualify for at least a parental look-see.

That’s interesting, especially given NRG’s desire to uncover properties that people deemed “bold” and “thought-provoking.” Once again, it lays bare the lie that problematic content is necessary for bold storytelling. It also suggests that these franchises have multigenerational legs and, perhaps, decades-long futures ahead of them. After all, the 12-year-old watching The Mandalorian today will likely be a parent in the future, eager to share a bit of her own childhood with her kids. Let’s face it: That nostalgia is probably a big reason why The Mandalorian exists at all. Its creators grew up with Star Wars, and many of its most avid viewers did, too.

So families, be encouraged: The world’s best, most creative franchises are keeping families at least a bit in mind. And storytellers, take note: great, sprawling franchises can be clean ones, too.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.