It's been nearly three years since the megahit Mighty Morphin Power Rangers landed, and toymakers heading to the 93rd annual American International Toy Fair, opening in New York next week, are nervous.
Facing a distressed retail environment and a revolution in family entertainment wrought by computers, industry executives seem to be seeking shelter in the safe territory of retro ideas from 1960s TV programs such as "Flipper" and "Jonny Quest."
"Indeed, there seems to be a trend of favoring toys based on properties and concepts from our own childhoods, but it's not just because we're from the baby boom generation," said Andy Gatto, exec VP at Toy Biz. "These toys have a lot of appeal to today's kids."
Mr. Gatto's company is unveiling a line tied to Universal Studios' updated "Flipper" film, based on the TV classic about a tricky dolphin, which opens Memorial Day weekend.
The film is backed by a multimillion-dollar promotional and licensing campaign through MCA/-Universal that includes tie-ins with Pizza Hut and Kellogg Co.'s Rice Krispies.
Toy Biz breaks an estimated $3 million TV campaign this spring for its Flipper Stunt Set toy, via Berenter Greenhouse & Webster, New York.
"The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest," a modernized 65-episode animated TV series, debuts this fall from Turner Broadcasting System, and will be backed by a line of products including action figures from Galoob Toys.
Other tried and true concepts dominating the Toy Fair involve products based on comic book superheroes and classic tales. Walt Disney Co.'s "Hunchback of Notre Dame" is another hot commodity; Mattel Toys is expected to unveil toys tied to the film.
Saban Entertainment, creator of the Power Rangers, is putting its emphasis at the Toy Fair on a "relaunch" of its hit series, called "Power Rangers Zeo." Bandai America offers action figures and vehicles hitting stores this spring, with ad support from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago.
The computer revolution has sent the traditional toy industry into a tailspin, say analysts, who expect the overall business to grow only 3% to 5% this year.
At the Toy Fair, Mattel will show CD-ROMs based on its classic brands, including Barbie and Cabbage Patch Kids; the new Hasbro Interactive division expects strong interest in its CD-ROMs based on classic games including Monopoly, Battleship and Clue.