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Toy sales are off to a roaring start this year, courtesy of "Star Wars" merchandise.

Retail buyers at last week's American International Toy Fair in New York placed bigger "Star Wars" orders than expected as the film continues to sizzle in theaters.

"The 'Star Wars' phenomenon is huge-retailers are asking us how fast they can get the stuff," said Marc Rosenberg, VP-public relations and promotions for Tiger Electronics, which introduced an extensive line of "Star Wars" products including light sabers with sound effects and the Darth Vader Voice Changer.

A series of 30-second TV spots is planned for this fall from Posnick & Kolker, New York.

Industry analysts say the pressure on buyers and toy manufacturers will be heavier than usual in the fall, when more expensive high-tech toys, dolls with complex features and CD-ROMs hit store shelves (AA, Feb. 10).


Mattel Toys unveiled its Talk With Me Barbie doll, a $90 programmable version of its perennial hit fashion doll. It comes with a tiny computer that can be connected to a PC.

The doll also comes packaged with a CD-ROM allowing children to program the doll to say 45 seconds of various phrases. Mattel insists the whole process is simple enough for kids under 12.

The doll's introduction will be supported by a 30-second TV spot breaking in November, via Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles.

Hasbro is betting on a diverse line of toys, including new large dolls such as Baby Did It, who wets her diaper after feeding, and Newborn Baby Diaper Surprise, who soils her diapers. The diapers are "magically" cleaned in a special accompanying canister.


Hasbro this year will offer its first disabled toy, tied to the upcoming Shaquille O'Neill film "Steel." The product line includes an action figure based on the character Lt. Sparks, who comes with a mobile-defense wheelchair.

Upstart marketer Play by Play Toys introduced Talking Tots, a pair of dolls who "talk" to each another at a child's command, using infrared technology. The line is backed by a $2.5 million TV campaign coming from Ziccardi & Partners, New York.

Playmates Toys reintroduces the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this year as Ninja Turtles, the Next Mutation, featuring a line of action figures tied to the new live-action program on Fox TV. A fifth turtle, the female Venus de Milo, has been added with the new villain called the Dragon Lord.

Tyco Preschool, which scored last year's biggest hit with Tickle Me Elmo, is offering three new versions of talking Sesame Street characters, along with Elmo's Boom Box, Elmo's Radio Control Stunt Plane, Elmo's Radio Control Railroad and the Sing & Snore Ernie.


Hasbro's Parker Bros. division plans to double its ad spending this year to introduce new versions of classic board games, including the new Scrabble Up game, with ads handled by Grey Advertising.

Also, a sampling promotion for its classic Boggle will kick off this summer, starring Boggle Boy.

Several new CD-ROMs derived from its classic board games also were unveiled including Pictionary, Boggle, Sorry!, Outburst and the Mr. Potato Head Activity Pack.

Last week, Hasbro Interactive announced a partnership with Microsoft Corp. that should enhance its Internet gaming options.

Beginning in June, anyone who owns one of Hasbro's 20 CD-ROM games will be able to compete with players anywhere in the world through Microsoft's free Interactive Gaming Zone site.

"People want to hook up from various locations on one universally accessible Web site to play these CD-ROM games, and with the growth of unlimited Internet access packages this will really take off," said Joe Gammal, a Hasbro

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