Starbucks wreaks Havoc in Heaven with Monkey King collab

On 9 January, international coffee giant Starbucks announced its partnership with the classic animated film Havoc in Heaven (1961, 1964), which features the iconic Monkey King. The new co-branded beverages line now includes two coffees. The collaboration has also been teased to expand soon with more ‘monkey business’ on the way.

Havoc in Heaven is an animated film in two parts directed by animator Wan Laiming (1900-1997) of the Wan brothers. The film is adapted from the early chapters of the classic Chinese fantasy novel Journey to the West (c. 1592) where Sun Wukong, the famous Monkey King, rebels against the heavenly court under the Celestial Emperor.

The film included the scene of the Monkey King stealing and eating the peaches of immortality at the Heavenly Garden. The co-branded coffees both integrate peach elements into their unique blend. One is espresso blended with oolong tea, with added peach juice and bits, and the other is an oat milk latte with added peach juice that comes in both iced and hot versions. Both use the new blonde espresso lightly roasted coffee. Further delivery-exclusive products have also been teased for release on 16 January.

The collaboration, however, has been criticised by netizens as “perfunctory” for not putting in enough effort. One of the reasons is that the coffees do not come with exclusive co-branded merch and gifts such as stickers, cups, sleeves or even paper bags. According to a recent survey, merch and gifts are some of the main reasons consumers purchase co-branded tea or coffee. Others point out that the cross-over coffees are not new or exclusive flavours, but off-menu items from its customised service. Also, no dedicated topics were launched for the team-up on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, as the posts are accompanied by the “Starbucks blonde espresso” hashtag, which has gained 17.07 million views since its launch on 2 January.

In partnering with one of the most iconic animated IPs and featuring one of the most beloved characters in China, Starbucks has huge potential with this collaboration. However, the resulting products are underwhelming so far. However, it would seem Starbucks has a few more tricks up its sleeves for the teased delivery-only items to salvage what has been a lukewarm reception to the launch so far.


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