December 1, 2009
In seasons past, ELMO is the toy we get all the calls for -someone in desperate need for the latest version of the original Tickle Me Elmo Doll. We have particular fondness for the original – Joanne brought Elmo on the TODAY Show – Bryant Gumbel loved it–and played with it for the entire show.
This season, ELMO is being completely ignored. A smaller, perhaps cuter critter has grabbed the imagination of children and media outlets everywhere -even though ELMO tells jokes this year as well as any Borscht Belt comedian. Oh and yes, he’s still throwing kisses…it could break your heart. Watch our video.
March 19, 2009
The reveal of the new tween Dora the Explorer was going to be a pre-holiday event-much like the way the company rolls out Elmo every year. Alas–the silhouette release in February caused alot of upset. Parents were concerned that the beloved character was growing up too fast. So what’s a company to do? Release the photo and assure parents that the Dora brand has not taken a terrible turn. While the “great” reveal has been done prematurely, I’m sure the folks at Mattel are thrilled with the extensive coverage and general positive response to the new Dora. Taking a page from the American Girl (also owned by Mattel)- the new Dora celebrates being a girl. Her story line focuses on solving mysteries with her multi-ethnic group of girl friends. While we haven’t seen the games yet–it seems they have steered clear of boys and shopping at the mall. Although there is a fashion component (even a ecologically aware tween needs to look cool). We look forward to seeing the on-line component to the new Dora. Stay tuned.
March 6, 2009
Mattel and Nickelodeon/Viacom, hoping to take this hit preschool brand to the next level, is introducing a more grown up version for older girls. Much like the Elmo rollout each year, we won’t see the actual new Dora until it is revealed later in the year. We’ll see whether Dora fans transitioning into the next age group will accept an older, more mature version (she is scheduled to move to the “big city” and have a a “more fashionable look”)–or whether Dora will be a character they want to remember from their early childhood. Thoughts?
November 14, 2008
We have a long history with Elmo. When my mother was doing the TODAY Show the year Tickle Me Elmo first arrived on the scene we were in the green room as Bryant Gumbel was examining Elmo. We could see him on the screen–he was making faces at Elmo — until he heard the giggle–and then Bryant just starting laughing. He played with Elmo at almost every break–helping to fuel the Tickle Me Elmo craze that year.
The same year we were also invited on the Maury Povich show. Nothing against the show, but it wasn’t our regular type of gig. We were assured it would be a very wholesome show–a cooking segment, gadgets and us. So we went. We should have been tipped off to the fact that we weren’t in Kansas anymore — when the green room had plastic chairs, a window opened up to a creepy air vent and signs warning guest to be considerate of each other. We then went to the bathroom where we found a young woman washing her hair in the sink (really).
We then went up to hair and make up where the hair person told me that my hair color was the worst ever (it was my own natural color) — such a confidence builder before you go on national television. I looked at my mother – not happy but we pressed on. We were taken back stage where they put the mics on you and we meet the guests for the cooking segment. Two women who had written a book called something like “How to Cook for Your Man so He Looks Good Naked”…at this point my mother and I were both laughing and horrified. How to ruin our reputation in five minutes–but we were mic’d — we couldn’t really back out. Did I mention that both women were wearing the equivalent of tube dresses?
Maury made a kind of off color remark about how Elmo vibrates. And oh yes, the woman who washed her hair in the bathroom–she got a close up as an audience member. She was happy.
So over the years–we have eagerly waited for the new version of Elmo. The original Tickle Me Elmo did so well because it was also a very huggable doll–you could make him giggle–but he could also just be Elmo. Most later versions of him (the latest included) do more tricks and therefore have harder bodies–reducing dramatically the huggability factor. There is the wow-wee how does he do that factor–but again it’s more about watching and short lived novelty. Our favorite Elmo of recent years–Elmo Goes Potty–he was right on target about the whole potty training experiences (accidents happen). Check Up Elmo was also very polite and engaging.
The current Elmo Live talks alot, tells stories, jokes—can put his arm up in the air (that’s pretty cute). Our two year old testers were a bit overwhelmed by him and moved on pretty quickly.
December 2, 2007
Perhaps one of the upsides to our collective focus on toy safety this year–the absence of a hot toy. With the news cycles focusing on the latest recalls, there really hasn’t been room for soft and fuzzier stories about the hot toy. As much as Elmo tried, he couldn’t giggle his way to center stage this season.
While we often have some hot toys on our list, most know that featuring the heavily promoted toy of the season isn’t our function. The reality is that a hot toy is not necessarily a great toy and certainly not a toy for everyone. A few years ago when Furby took off (in large part to a pre-market article in Wired Magazine) we were struck by the number of people trying to hunt Furby down for their kids–even though Furby’s gremlin like character would be frightening to most younger kids. Even though no child had played with the Furby when the article put the creature on the map. Quickly we learned that “hot” often has more to do with adult collectors on Ebay than a truly kid-driven craze. It can happen (Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch, the original Tickle Me Elmo!)– but they are few and far between (as most toy makers will tell you).
Now we’re left to wonder as we look around our homes—not whether we have the hot toy–but whether we have safe toys.
November 25, 2007
Elmo is back this season with new tricks in hopes of maintaining his dominance in the novelty doll category. The original Tickle Me Elmo was an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winner. In fact Joanne’s appearance on the Today Show helped fan the Elmo craze when Bryant Gumbel was so taken by Elmo that he played with it during several segments of the show.
More recent variations of Elmo have lost the appeal of the original Tickle Me Elmo for one very simple reason. The original was also very huggable–true it had that extra novelty–but at the end of the day you were left with a soft doll. The new versions have a hard body (to make the new tricks possible)– but gone is the huggability factor.
My favorite novelty doll is Arnold the Snoring Pig from Gund. Squeeze him and he really does snore–complete with one ear shaking — it’s hard not to hug him and, you guessed it, he’s extremely huggable. Visit http://www.toyportfolio.com for more info on Arnold.