Shelf Talk

With Beanie Babies having long ago supplanted Tickle Me Elmo as the collectibles craze du jour (according to U.S. Customs officers, they're still the number one toy of choice for counterfeiters), it was only a matter of time before an enterprising...
October 1, 1998

With Beanie Babies having long ago supplanted Tickle Me Elmo as the collectibles craze du jour (according to U.S. Customs officers, they’re still the number one toy of choice for counterfeiters), it was only a matter of time before an enterprising party found a way to cash in on this trend, while simultaneously avoiding running afoul of American copyright laws. Publisher Somerville House, USA has created just such a product. The Sew Your Own Bean Bag Friends book and kit (US$12.99) allows consumers to create four of their own beanie thingies-Fernando the Frog, Diggy Dog, Beatrice the Bear and Swishy Fish. The kit comes with beanie-building materials-eyes, nose and fabric-and a 40-page book that walks users through the sewing steps. Consumers are required to supply their own needle, thread and beans. Penguin books began distributing the product at mass and specialty stores last August. The sequel to Sew Your Own Bean Bag Friends, Sew Your Own Bean Bag Bears, is set for release in the spring of 1999.

If you’re at a loss to explain why your kids are getting poor marks at school, stop wondering. Try looking in their binders. It’s possible they’re busy playing one of Manley Toy Quest’s electronic handheld Notebook Games (US$4.99). There are 12 games in the set-Baseball, Football, Soccer, Hockey, Car Racing, Basketball, Helicopter Attack, Dodge `Em, Submarine War, Space Combat, Motorcycle Mania and Ninja. Each lightweight game features an LCD screen, an all-important mute button and three holes, which kids are encouraged to use to place the game on the rings of their binders and notebooks. ‘Who says you can’t play games in the class? Just put it in your notebook and play all day. You’ll never get caught!’ urges the on-pack ad copy. With pitches like this, Manley hasn’t been scoring many points with educators and at least one retailer. Before it would agree to carry the product, Target demanded Manley Toy Quest remove this copy from the package, because it felt it sent the wrong message about education to kids. According to Allyson B. Serino, associate product manager at Manley, the company will oblige any retailers that develop similar qualms about the pitch. Notebook Games are currently available at all mass and specialty stores.

From the files of the disturbing and noisy: Wiggly Giggly (US$14.99), created by HandsOn Toys, is a fluorescent green ball that, when kicked or shaken, wobbles and produces a multipitch yelp reminiscent of a wounded animal. HandsOn Toys developed proprietary technology to create the dissonant sounds of this toy, which requires no batteries to run. Company president Andrew Farrac says HandsOn has been actively trying to secure a licensing agreement for a popular kids cartoon character, but has yet to ink a deal. Wiggly Giggly is suitable for toddlers to adults, and is currently available at select specialty toy stores only.

How do consumers know they’re about to rent that one good Charlie Sheen flick? By reading a back-of-the-video-box summary? By asking a store clerk? The answer is they couldn’t, until the dawn of Demoscan Press and View. Created by Boaz Technologies of San Diego, California, Demoscan Press and View is a portable interactive presentation board that holds up to 74 minutes worth of video. You can buy Demoscan with a 6.4′ LCD screen and touch panel (US$745), or the touch panel separately (US$475), which you can hook up to a larger TV monitor. Clips are stored on a VCD (video compact disc), which Demoscan runs when you push down on the key pad. To select clips, owners must send tapes to Boaz Technologies, which will record the videos onto the VCD using a CD recording machine. The Demoscan Press and View is the perfect balm for rushed consumers in need of quick, unfiltered information about entertainment products, and has a killer app for video retailers, says Tony Chien, assistant sales manager at Boaz Technologies. So far, Boaz has been testing the Demoscan Press and View machines with a couple of Christian book retailers and book publishers, both of whom are using them to store interviews with authors plugging their latest works.

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