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V.R. TROOPERS CAST AS HOT HOLIDAY TOYS HIGH TECH TREND INCLUDES RANGERS, SYBER-SQUAD

By Published on .

Look out, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The V.R. Troopers are storming up from behind in the race for the hottest holiday toy.

And if things continue on course, V.R. Troopers will likely cause the biggest headache for parents, who won't be able to find the toys in time for Christmas.

Saban Entertainment, producers of the year-old hit "Power Rangers" syndicated kids TV series, is once again instigating a runaway fad with its recent unleashing of the new "V.R. Troopers" TV series.

The 30-minute series made its debut last month-airing in most markets immediately after the top-rated "Power Rangers"-and instantly became one of the top-rated kids' syndicated programs.

"The V.R. Troopers are off to a good start, and if this follows the Power Rangers' path, there will be a mad scramble for the toys by November," said Gary Jacobson, a toy analyst with Kidder, Peabody & Co., New York.

Like the "Power Rangers," "V.R. Troopers" is a live-action series; in this case, teens slip into virtual reality to fight their foes, underscoring a new, hightech theme in kids' marketing.

When the Power Rangers series surged to popularity last year, it sparked one of the biggest toy shortages in history as toy licensee Bandai America, Cerritos, Calif., simply couldn't keep up with demand for action figures based on series characters.

Shortages of the action figures continue in many markets. Bandai says it has increased production tenfold this year and hopes to satisfy demand, which continues to rage, for the coming holiday season. In all, some 300 international licensees are marketing Power Ranger products, from key chains to lunchboxes to hats.

And just as Bandai was caught off-guard by the intense fever for Power Ranger toys, Hasbro's Kenner is not likely to get enough V.R. Troopers products on the shelves this year to meet holiday demand.

"It will be late in the year or early 1995 before any Troopers toys hit the shelves," said Peter Dang, director of marketing for Saban, Los Angeles. "It's very hard to coordinate the manufacturing with the timing of a new TV series, and we want to correct that" by coordinating the release of future TV series with related toys, apparel and videogames.

Other high tech toys contending for popularity this holiday season include the new Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, backed by an animated syndicated TV series from DIC Entertainment, Burbank, Calif. A line of action figures from Playmates, La Mirada, Calif., is already selling well.

"Reboot," a high tech animated kids' show that recently began airing on Saturday mornings on ABC, is gaining attention, and a licensing program is in the works, said a spokesman for producer Alliance Communications, Toronto.

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