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Toy Fair: A Flood of Animated Toys

Over 40,000 attendees stopped by the Big Apple to get a peak at approximately 5,000 new toys. Here is a rundown...

At this year's Toy Fair, companies offered more products based on animated properties than South Park's Kenny has lives. Over 40,000 attendees stopped by the Big Apple to get a peak at approximately 5,000 new toys. Here is a rundown of some of the toon-related merchandise coming consumers' way this year.

The Super Singing Tommy doll will sing tunes from The Rugrats Movie and tell stories. © Nickelodeon.

Features Battle for Attention

Quest for Camelot is Warner Bros. first full-length animate feature film, scheduled for release July 1, 1998. It tells the story of a strong-willed teenager, Kayley, who lived in England over 1,000 years ago. Toys from Hasbro to support this film include: the Dream Seeker Kayley, dressed in a tunic and carrying her father's shield (MSRP $15.99), and Kayley's love interest, Brave Knight Garrett (MSRP $15.99) who, dressed in ceremonial garb, is ready to aid his lady in her quest to save Camelot. Plush toys include the talking Devon and Cornwall (MSRP $19.99), the mismatched two-headed dragon that recites some of the films more memorable dialogue. Camelot will be available on shelves in April.

Also in 1998 look for Disney's feature Mulan, the story of a Chinese girl who dons a boy's clothing in order to join the army, saving her elderly father from having to serve. Mulan is expected in theaters this July and in April, Mattel will be releasing a line of toys including the 11-1/2'' Mulan doll attired in Chinese dress (MSRP $10.99) and the Secret Hero Mulan doll (MSRP $15.99), who will come dressed in a village outfit that when removed reveals her military fatigues. A unique Mulan doll will be the Matchmaker Magic. Apply warm water to Mulan's face and it will miraculously transform her into a Chinese princess complete with white face, red lips and a hint of eye shadow. (MSRP $20.99).

Also from Disney will be A Bug's Life scheduled for holiday release. Developed with Pixar Animation Studios (Toy Story) this animated feature follows a misfit young ant named Flik as he tries to save his colony from a gang of grasshoppers. Mattel unveiled a deluxe Flik that comes to life with sound and motion (MSRP $19.99) and the large playset where children can play out the movie's final battle scene (MSRP $31.99). Also in the Bug's Life line are the micro playsets (MSRP $9.99) featuring three scenes from the movie and Micro Figure Packs (MSRP $3.99) with bug-sized figurines. A line of unique learning toy based on A Bug's Life is also coming from Uncle Milton Industries, Inc. Eight new science/nature products are being produced including live insect habitats and adventure toys.

Small Soldiers is DreamWorks' computer-animated film for summer release that features toy soldiers inadvertently implanted with computer chips. These animated toys then stage a battle on their owner's street pitting the Commando Elite against the Gorgonites.

Combining Toy Story with Rambo, Hasbro's Small Soldiers figurine sets (MSRP $9.99) will bring the action from the movie to life. 6 1/2'' figures are loaded with battle features and include all of the key characters from the movie, such as the Gorgonite leader Archer and the Commando Elite head Chip Hazard. The entire line will include 40 new toys in all including vehicles, playsets, micro figures and role play items.

Babe, the award-winning film that combined live-action and animation with farm animals, is scheduled to release its sequel, Babe: Pig in the City for Thanksgiving 1998. The Universal Studios property is enjoying extensive licensing including a line of the rubbery Koosh-haired toys by OddzOn and the Equity Toys interactive Real Live Babe. This pig may not work with the computer, but she does have her own internal body clock and computerized chip. Once she is activated, she knows the time of day and interacts with the child accordingly. Real Live Babe has eight basic play patterns including eating, sleeping, tickling, story telling, smelling and hugging. Real Live Babe comes with the three singing mice that gained certain notoriety in the first film. Real Live Babe (MSRP $40.00) will be on the shelves in fall 1998.

Rugrats, the No. 1 kids show on television, has an animated movie scheduled for Thanksgiving release bringing the popular characters to the big screen. Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon have entreated the award-winning Klasky Csupo animation studio to create a whole new story for the little, well, Rugrats. The movie is sure to be a hit with celebrity voices by Whoopie Goldberg, David Spade, Tim Curry and Busta Rhymes, along with a soundtrack packed with musical artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Lisa Loeb, Devo, Iggy Pop and the B-52s.

Nickelodeon has planned a multi-category merchandising program for the movie and hot holiday gifts for fans will include toys, games, apparel, gifts and even home furnishings. Mattel will release four movie featured character dolls: `To The Rescue Tommy Pickles,' `Going Bananas Chuckie Finster,' `Roller Skating Angelica Pickles' and `Together Forever Phil and Lil DeVille' (MSRP $19.99). Also from Mattel will be the 15'' Super Singing Tommy that will sing tunes from the movie as well as tell stories. (MSRP $39.99). Look for these dolls, as well as playsets, vehicles and more to release in the fall.

A TV play-along kit is among the new Blue's Clues toys available from Nickelodeon. © Nickelodeon.

The Power of Preschool

Nickelodeon is also banking on their top-rated preschool cartoon Blue's Clues to be a marketing bonanza. Tyco Preschool, a division of Mattel has been granted the master toy license and promises a complete line by 1999. Look for everything from Colorforms to CD-ROM games this year. One of the hottest animated properties today is the PBS show Arthur. A best-selling children's book for over 20 years, the Arthur television show boasts over 11 million viewers aged 2 to 11. Arthur and D.W., aardvark siblings, were probably the most exciting, yet eerie, toys of this year's fair (MSRP $109.95 each). Microsoft has taken the concept of interactive play to the nth degree with these two characters that have vocabularies of over 4,000 words, and through sensors on their ears, hands, feet and watches, play 12 games and activities, say more than 100 phrases and questions and help children tell time. All without any computer assistance! Add in the ActiMates PC Pack (MSRP $54.95) and Arthur and/or D.W. can play along with three scheduled software releases (MSRP $34.95). The final peripheral is the ActiMates TV Pack (MSRP $54.95). This add-on works with the VCR's radio frequency transmitter to send a specially encoded signal and animation technology to the toys. This allows the characters to interact with the PBS program broadcasts. When your children sit down to watch this week's episode, Arthur and D.W. will sing along with them, laughing and commenting on the show that they are watching together. If this is not enough, Arthur and D.W. will also be able to interact with the official Arthur Web site. Disney's My Interactive Pooh by Mattel brings the funny little bear to life. The CD-ROM games included with the plush doll bring the other characters that inhabit 100 Acre Wood into play through fun learning activities. This has to be the most interesting and cutest toy, seen at the show.

ZOOB, an interlocking construction toy from Primordial, has been animated in ZOOB Toons, a stop-motion video which will be available to consumers in the fall. © Primordial.

Where Is The Action?!

How do you hide a monster as tall as New York City's Chrysler Building? Ask Sony. Godzilla was by far the most exclusive and elusive property at this year's Toy Fair. The green monster has a major film release in May and cartoon series in the fall but Sony kept the beast under wraps. Trendmasters, Inc. is the primary toy licenser and promises a load of plush toys, playsets and action figures befitting this gargantuan.

From the animated New Batman Adventures are new basic (MSRP $6.99) and deluxe (MSRP $6.99) figures and the new Crime Solver Dynamic Decoder Gear courtesy of Hasbro. Also new is an updated Animation Batmobile (MSRP $21.99) with a hidden blaster under the hood and a special custom decal kit. Collectors will also want the new 12'' animated figures (MSRP $25.99) featuring Batman, Nightwing and Joker all with special accessories.

Marvel Comics' Silver Surfer is flying high again thanks to a popular cartoon series on the Fox Kids Network. Toy Biz's response was immediate and swift with a complete line of action figures. The favorites are a tie between 14'' Electronic Light and Sound Galactus (MSRP $12.99) and the 5'' Cosmic Power Blasters (MSRP $5.99) that shoot light-up projectiles.

All in all, it's a great time to be a media-consuming kid.

Joseph Szadkowski writes on various aspects of popular culture and is a columnist for The Washington Times.