Fish bots and He-Man heating up at retail

Aquaroids: The next lava lamp?
If you counted the number of pet fish that have expired on children soon after they have taken them home from the pet store, it would probably fill an ocean. Japanese toyco Takara, though, may have...
June 1, 2001

Aquaroids: The next lava lamp?

If you counted the number of pet fish that have expired on children soon after they have taken them home from the pet store, it would probably fill an ocean. Japanese toyco Takara, though, may have found a way to spare kids the emotional upheaval of having to flush yet another cold-blooded companion down the toilet. Aquaroids, the company’s line of robotic fish, will swim hypnotically around an aquarium for hours, never requiring feeding or attention. And best of all, they won’t die on you.

The `roids come in three species-fish, jellyfish and turtle-and are powered by two AA batteries, which will provide 120 hours of use. Each water-bot contains light sensors that activate the toy when you turn on the aquarium light, and return it to sleep mode once you turn it off. Released in Japan last month, the battery-powered toy is a more moderately-priced version of Takara’s original adult-skewing solar-powered Aquaroids, which came with a special tank, Halogen lamp and a steep price tag of US$815.

Takara GM Masaru Nakajima is confident that Aquaroids, which will retail for US$25 to US$30 each, will have more appeal for kids. Though Takara initially licensed Tiger Electronics to distribute the toys in North America, Tiger has since backed off the item because of the toy’s price and its potential safety problems, says Lana Simon, director of communications at the Illinois-based company.

However, Yoshi Yai, marketing manager at Takara’s New York office, assures that the Aquaroids are safe, adding that within each of the toys, the batteries are stored in a waterproof compartment. Takara plans to begin shipping Aquaroids to specialty toy and hobby shops in August/September.

Bob sets up shop at Sears

Hoping to bolster its relationship with U.S. families with small children, department store chain Sears Roebuck has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with HIT Entertainment for its preschool property Bob the Builder. The deal, which runs from July to December, gives Sears an exclusive six-month window to sell licensed Bob preschool apparel and accessories. Licensees participating in the program include: Children’s Apparel (playwear), Haddad and Changes (T-shirts), Berkshire Fashions (gloves, scarves, hats, umbrellas), Gorilla Biscuit (backpacks) and Wormser (sleepwear).

Sears will house all of the Bob product, including non-exclusive items like toys, home videos and home furnishings, in dedicated areas within the children’s apparel department in each of its stores. The retailer will promote the line with Bob the Builder POP displays.

Sears will also support the program with a multimedia campaign running from July to December that consists of: circular ads in the Sunday editions of U.S. newspapers; targeted mailings through its consumer loyalty Kidvantage program; exposure in Sears credit card billings; and a TV commercial. Additionally, Sears will offer special gift-with-purchase Bob the Builder photo backgrounders to families who get their pictures taken at Sears Portrait Studio.

He-Man lives!

If Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings can forge a comeback, why not He-Man? Though the super-ripped defender of Castle Greyskull shows no indications of getting another crack at the small screen, Mattel has been quietly releasing He-Man toys at retail-and getting some surprising results. Last December, Mattel bowed with a He-Man nostalgia assortment featuring 12 figures from the original line. The product, which came encased in a blister pack with the original `80s comic book and toy packaging, was ranked the 18th best-selling action figure for January and February by market research firm The NPD Group.

‘We know there’s a huge collector base out there for He-Man. If you go on-line, you’ll see there are thousands of fan sites,’ says Sara Rosales, director of worldwide marketing and communications at Mattel, explaining the company’s decision to revive the brand. For now, Rosales says Mattel is targeting products to collectors, and recently granted an exclusive to JCPenney to sell a limited-edition He-Man Collector 10-Pack through its catalog starting in July. Valued at US$250 each, the assortment will feature all the major figures, including Skeletor, Man at Arms and the Man himself, and will also come with the original packaging and He-Man comic.

Also in July, Rosales says Mattel (which owns the property) will be showcasing He-Man at comic book trade show Comicon in July. The 2-D sci-fi cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which debuted in syndication in the U.S. in 1983, followed the trials of a prince from the far-off planet Eternia, who occasionally transformed himself into the mighty He-Man to protect his planet from the evil Skeletor. A live-action movie based on the show was released in 1987.

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