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Bark of robotic dogs expected to highlight Christmas morning

All I want for Christmas is ...

Posted: Wednesday, December 06, 2000

Homes across the peninsula will be filled with the bark of robotic dogs on Christmas morn.

The top selling toys at stores in the central peninsula this year are the variety of interactive pooches.

"They are the Furby or Cabbage Patch Doll of this season," said Fred Meyer Manager Terry Rahlfs.

There are several robot pooches to choose from, including one named "Poo-chi."

"He seems to be the most popular," Rahlfs said. "He's similar to the Furby, as it will learn to recognize your voice."

Another cyber-hound that is also very popular is "Rocket the Wonder Dog." Rahlfs said this dog will not only learn and recognize the voice of its master, but only will respond to that voice.

Two other dogs, "Big Scratch and Lil' Scratch" come as a set and can interact with each other or be controlled via infrared remote control.

Kmart spokesperson Nicole Dowswell, at the company's corporate office in Troy, Mich., said interactive and robotic toys are big sellers nationwide.

"The dogs show emotions, get hungry and like to play," she said. "Say a child is allergic to pets, this is a way to have one."

Another interactive toy is the plush "WuvLuvs," Rahlfs said. "You hold it in your arms for a while and then it has a baby."

Then, he said, mother and hatchling will interact with each other and learn each other's languages.

Interactive toys in general are hot, in a season that has no clear toy leader. "Diva Starz" are interactive dolls about the size of the ubiquitous "Barbie" doll. Rahlfs said girls can share secrets with the dolls and will get advice in return.

"It's a 'Barbie' with an attitude," he said.

Rahlfs said the beauty of the interactive toys is their appeal to both girls and boys in a wide range of ages.

On the non-interactive end, trading card games associated with last year's runaway favorite, Pokemon, and similar toys like Digimon and Dragon Ball Z, are selling well, said Scott Arbelovsky, manager of Don's Hobbies in Soldotna, adding miniature toys also are hot, especially for boys.

"All the mini toys, like finger- boards, bicycles, scooters, that sort of thing, are popular," he said.

The mini toys come with accessory kits such as miniature skate board parks and stunt tracks for the toys, which are operated by placing fingers on them.

"They are a category of toys that didn't even exist a year ago," Rahlfs said. "They're inspired by the X-Games and extreme sports on TV."

For girls, Arbelovsky said, craft toys are popular, especially toys that allow girls to paint or create pottery or jewelry.

Then there's the Barbie doll, popular with girls for more than 40 years. It is again one of the most sought-after toys on the market.

Dowswell said "Mermaid," "Celebration," and "Airplane" Barbies are big sellers this year. "Airplane Barbie" is an airplane piloted by the little doll. While "Shop With Me Barbie" has no doll. It's a toy electronic cash register with play money, pretend credit cards and 100 items girls can "buy."

But Rahlfs said Barbie is not just for playing with anymore.

"Barbie is just one of the premier toys out there. They're always coming out with a new style and a collectible holiday Barbie," he said. "Collectors are really driving Barbie sales. People trade them over the Internet."

The same can be said for Hot Wheels cars. Introduced in the late 1960s, sales of the miniature replica cars also are driven by collectors.

Without a single clear breakout toy, sales this year are about average for a Christmas season.

Arbelovsky said sales are starting to pick up a little after a long period of people just looking for ideas.

Rahlfs said he was holding out hope that as more families see the Jim Carrey movie "The Grinch," more will buy associated products and sales will pick up.

In the meantime, expect legions of robotic puppy tails to be wagging under the Christmas tree, waiting to eat as many pounds of batteries as a real puppy would eat Alpo.



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