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Toy Fair `99: More Animated Stuff

Joe Szadkowski relates the animated products on display at the latest Toy Fair, held in New York City. Come see what will be on a retailer's shelf near you soon!

Stuart Little director Rob Minkoff and film stars Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki and Geena Davis.All photos are courtesy of and © Jacquie Kubin.

Witha KaBoom! animation has exploded, a trend reflected in the manufacturers'lines at the 1999 American International Toy Fair in New York (February 1999).Here are the news highlights... On hand, the first day of the event, directorRob Minkoff (The Lion King) introduced his newest film, Stuart Little (Columbia Pictures), starring Geena Davis, HughLaurie and Jonathan Lipnicki as the Little family. Michael J. Fox providesthe voice of the movie's CGI star, Stuart. Comparing the animated white mouseto his human stars, Minkoff said that the animated actor may never surpassthe live actor, but that they each have their place in storytelling. "Ithink that the art and the artistry of animation is without a doubt equalto that of live-action filmmaking -- but they are completely different,"Mr. Minkoff told Animation World. "I guess I understand why animationhas less cache, because you saw what happened when Geena (Davis), Jonathan(Lipnicki) and Hugh (Laurie) went up on stage, suddenly the paparazzi rushedto their feet and started flashing pictures.Why? Because they have life and vitality, and can appear in public." Not to disagree with Mr. Minkoff, but Stuart Littlemade a very physical appearance at Toy Fair that was well received by fansand paparazzi alike. Advanced models of plush and sculptedStuart Little figures, as well as playsets and accessories, show promise thatStuart Little will become a popular and evergreen product with childrenand collectors alike. Licensor for the property, Sony Signatures, announcedpartnerships with Hasbro for a toy line includingplush dolls, puzzles, collectible figures, a talking Stuart Little and evena Stuart Little toy motor car just like the one he drives in the book andmovie. Other licenses awarded from the film includeHarperCollins for book publishing and LearningCurve for felt playboard and playscenes, wooden puzzles and plush for pre-schoolers.Stuart Little will be on store shelves for the May release of the movie. Also from Hasbro's animated toy shelves will be a line of new Pokemon toys including mini plush. The first wave features Meowth, Charizard, Squirtle, Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Poliwhirl, Eevee and Snorlax ($4.99/July 1999). Pokemon plush collectors will also want to gather up the eight inch tall Pikachu Plush in July ($9.99).

Batman Beyondaction figures.

Batman Beyond on WB TV is bringing forth a whole new generation of Dark Knight collectors and Hasbro has responded with a new wave of toys for the dawn of the millennium. On shelves in March will be Manta Future Knight, Racer, Covert, Laser and Lightening Storm Batman Basic Action Figure Assortments. Each has vibrant neon colors and technology inspired features such as Lightning Storm Batman's force field cape and lightning weapons that he can use to defeat The Joker which is packaged with an assault hover-cycle (March/$5.99 each). Disney and Mattel also debuted toy lines for two newfilms due out this year: Tarzan and the much-anticipated Toy Story2. Tarzan will feature the voice talents of Tony Goldwyn (Tarzan),Glenn Close (Kala, Tarzan's gorilla mother), Minnie Driver (Jane) and RosieO'Donnell (Terk, Tarzan's older primate sister), among many others. The filmwill also feature a soundtrack with five songs written and performed by GrammyAward-winning artist Phil Collins and a musical score by another Grammy Award-winningartist, Mark Mancina (Speed, Twister and ConAir).

Tarzan plushes will make the jungle soft and cuddly for kids.

Supporting Tarzan will be a complete line ofjungle-inspired plush of 'totally awesome' colors including the purple-huedTerk. A star in her own right, Terk is a gorillawith an attitude that carries over into her own hugable plush Totally Talkin'Terk ($29.99). Three voice trigger activations -- one in her hand, her mouthand an inertia gravity switch turned-on when she is shaken or tossedin the air -- respond with dialogue from the movie. A set of seven actionfigures complete with vines, logs and branches to create movie real-play scenarioswere also displayed. Figures include Vine Jammin' Tarzan, Power Pounce Tarzanand Flippin' Terk. Specialty features include the ability to swing Tarzanacross the room, fly the figure from a launching ramp and shoot rubber bullets($7.99 each). Gund will also present two special characters from Tarzan. Oneis a Young Terk ($30), again featuring the voice of Rosie O'Donnell. ThisTerk is ultra soft and floppy with detail sculpted face, hands and feet. Theother is young Tantor, an elephant with a phobia or two. Voiced by Wayne Knight,Tantor worries about everything and the voice comes through on this adorablemaroon plush with floppy ears and poseable trunk ($30).

Is it a surprise that a film about toys has some of the coolest real toys available?

The much anticipated sequel to Disney's 1995 blockbuster, Toy Story 2 not only brings back the talents of Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, but a whole new category of toys from Mattel. Smart Flying Buzz is a brand new deluxe 12" figure that allows children to interact with their favorite space ranger. This Buzz turns his head in the direction of his child-propelled flight, providing comments and suggestions throughout the mission. With wings deployed, Buzz Lightyear not only interacts but helps direct a child's play ($39.99/October). Every child who loved the film also loved Woody's down-home strummin' in "You Got A Friend In Me." With Strummin' and Singin' Woody ($24.99) when a child waves Woody's guitar pick across the guitar, his favorite cowboy will begin to play one of three songs from the movie. As Woody plays he can either sing or whistle along as children join in. Toy Story 2 will also have a complete line of action figure two-packs including Woody and Bullseye, a new character joining the play chest ($14.99), Buzz vs. Zurg with backpack that transforms into a space scooter, and Al's Toy Barn Battle Set ($12.99) which includes Buzz, Zurg and a Rockem' Sockem' Robot. This is the only toy that includes the Rockem' Sockem' Robot.

Disney's Jessica Rabbit Collector Doll will probably be a big hit with older fans.

Disney and Mattel have also been working together tocreate a line of Disney Collector Dolls that bring the magic of Disney tolife in highly detailed, elegantly dressed dolls. Personal favorites includethe Great Villains Collection featuring such past grand dames as Cruella DeVil, Ursula and Snow White's Evil Queen. For 1999, be on the lookoutnot only for the elegant Sleeping Beauty ($74.99/April), but also the wickedMaleficent ($74.99/April). Other classic dolls in the collection include CaptainHook ($69.99/July), Mary Poppins ($39.99/September) and the sensuous JessicaRabbit ($64.99/December) from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.. A new superhero comes to Fox Kids Network this spring in The Magician.Ace Cooper, the greatest magician alive and a master of illusion and disguisehas been called upon to wage battle against the evil-doers of the world. TheMagician uses his knowledge of classic magic to see and stop the manipulationsof the Global Underworld crime organization. With the swirl of his cape andtap of his cane, Ace Cooper transforms from stage performer to crime-fightingsuper-hero. Airing Saturday mornings on the Fox Kids Network, the new Magician action figure line from GP Toys features all the characters from the showin six, six-inch magic figures, each of which will perform a different "illusion."One example is the Action Magician that comes with a mystical cane that triggersthe lights on the action figure's body. Also in the line will be four, five-inchaction figures with weapons and accessories. These toys will be on store shelvesthis fall ($9.99).

Here's one spud that's not a dud.

Mr. Potato Head has been a perennial favorite andnow he has his own half-hour, mixed-media series on Fox Kids Network. Of course,the head spud is celebrating more than forty-seven years of popularity. Unearthedin 1952, the original potato head toy required children to supply a real potatoand it was not until 1960 that Hasbro, Inc. began supplying the hard plasticbody. Mr. Potato Head has also been licensed as electronic and video games,board games, apparel, accessories and novelty items. The Yellow Submarine sets sail again this year. The 1968 classic animated Beatle's film is being released on home video by Sony Signature Music with licensing support by Todd McFarlane Production which will releasing detailed sculptures of John, George, Paul, Ringo, the NoWhere Man and The Blue Meanie. Playing Mantis will also be releasing a Polar Light Yellow Submarine model. Bandai of Power Rangers fame debuted its newest addition to children'sanimated television with Cyber 9, a sci-fi action-adventure seriesscheduled to appear in September on the Fox Kids Network. The toy manufacturerwill support that TV debut with five, four-inch action figures with accessoriesas well as planes, tanks and robots. Collectors will be able to assemble theirown Heroic Team of Good including: Jack, a young hero and leader of a ragtagband packaged with a Cyber 9; Akira, Jack's spiritual leader with samuraisword, rifle and boomerang; Mick, a mercenary soldier bundled with assaultrifle and boomerang; and the evil Machestor who comes with heavy mask andbody armor ($4.99 each/fall). Transportation vehicles for the action figureswill include Jack's Jumper, a dirt bike style vehicle; the Scout Glider, afighting air vehicle; and Akira's Battle Bike, the Mongoose ($9.99/fall).

It may be hard for some to believe, but all of this was seen on just one day at Toy Fair, promising that 1999 may be the year of the animator. With the setting of the sun, the day was far from over. Miss Angelica of Rugrats' fame held court at the annual Nickelodeon bash where everything was brightly colored.Celebrating eight years of fame, Nickelodeon will continue through 1999 not only with kid favorites Blue's Clues and Rugrats, but also its newest show, CatDog, that premiered October 1998. Mattel is launching a line of CatDog products that reflect the character's zany, stretchable and transformable body. The Pull and Pose plush ($19.99/on shelves now), CatDog Adventures Playset ($19.99/July) and Yakety Yak talking plush CatDog ($35.99/July) are only a few of the items in the toy store for this off-beat toon of an opposite persuasion. Rugrats is the highest rated kid's television program in the US withmore than 23 million viewers tuning in each week. The November 1998 releaseof The RugratsMovie dominated the box officeits first weekend and support for these babies is getting stronger. Mattelwill continue to hold the Nickelodeon master toy license with 1999 releasessuch as Makeup Angelica & Susie ($19.99/August), with which little girlscan give Angelica a makeover and transform her from the princess she is intoa beautiful ballerina. For the Rugrat fan with it all, Walking Rugrats aredolls that take a stroll just like their television counterparts. Tommy carrieshis bottle, Angelica her Cynthia doll, Chuckie has his teddy bear and Spikewalks on all fours ($14.99/April). Joseph Szadkowski writes on various aspects of popular culture and is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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