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Buyers Have an Early Adventure in Toyland : Industry Show Previews Talking Teddy Bears, Cuddly Dolls, More Rambos

February 21, 1986|JOHN DREYFUSS | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Rambo, made famous as a violent warrior in recent Sylvester Stallone movies, will become a loyal, reliable fellow we can turn to in time of trouble, in the form of a 6 3/4-inch plastic children's doll to, be available this summer, backed by a $22-million advertising and promotion campaign.

The Rambo "action figure," to be produced by Coleco Industries Inc., epitomizes the vast range and strange juxtaposition among toys being produced this year. Many emphasize the combination of play and violence, while others rely on being cuddly and lovable.

New toys that seem sure to be big hits are as diverse as Coleco's Rambo action figures, which are being touted by their manufacturer as "the Force of Freedom," to a computerized doll that talks, won't "sleep" if it's noisy, and moves its cheeks while making sucking sounds when a bottle is stuck in her mouth.

Updated Toy Guns

Two companies are selling a new toy guns that emit infrared beams to be aimed at targets strapped to children. The concept was so offensive to two other companies that they decided not to produce similar gun and target sets, despite having gone to the expense of developing them.

Buyers for stores and for wholesalers showed enthusiasm for those toys and others this week and last at the 83rd annual American International Toy Fair, where they gathered to select merchandise for toy store shelves. Most of it will be sold in the fourth quarter, when cash registers will ring up about 55% of the nearly $13 billion that Americans are expected to spend on toys in 1986, said a spokeswoman for the Toy Manufacturers of America Inc., the trade association that sponsors the Toy Fair.

About 17,000 buyers from the United States and more than 60 foreign nations spent an often frenetic 10 days trying to pick winners from tens of thousands of toys offered by about 1,000 manufacturers. Some of the toys already are available, but most of the new ones won't be in stores before spring.

Small plastic dolls called action figures have been popular for several years. Perhaps the surest winner among new action figures--although some buyers question its chances for enduring--is the 6 3/4-inch Rambo character.

Obviously sensitive to anti-war, anti-violence groups' reaction to Rambo movies and toys, Coleco Industries Inc., which will make the Rambo figures, is emphasizing loyalty and reliability rather than violence in its promotional efforts. "He will be the kind of person we can all turn to in times of trouble . . . his sense of fair play, compassion and caring will make him a special kind of hero," a Coleco spokesperson said.

Allies and Enemies

Rambo, who in action-figure land bears only minimal likeness to Sylvester Stallone, will sell for about $6. So will his several allies and enemies.

A veritable flood of Rambo-type items can be expected in stores well before Christmas. They range from Rambo bicycle horns that look like hand grenades to "Rambo Peanut Butter Action Cups," which are chocolate peanut butter cups.

Toy Fair buyers predicted big sales for the two gun sets that require children to strap on targets so their buddies can shoot them and vice versa. Presumably, if enough children buy the toy, large numbers of them will have guns and targets, and whole neighborhoods can go to infrared war.

Photon gun and target sets made by LJN Toys Ltd. will sell from about $56 to about $120, depending on the equipment selected.

Worlds of Wonder, which calls its gun and target game Lazer Tag, will sell a single set of gun, target and belt to hold the target on for about $39.95. A helmet with an infrared target on top will be available for another $39.95.

Two other toy companies--Coleco and Axlon Inc.--developed similar toys, but decided not to produce them. "I don't want to make a product where a kid shoots another kid in the head," said Tom Zito, Axlon's vice president for marketing.

Besides Rambo, several other new action figure dolls were seen by Toy Fair buyers as likely characters to appear under this year's Christmas trees.

They include Centurions, new 7 1/2-inch action figures that "combine man and machine into a sophisticated weapons system." The articulated figures use weapons that meld with their bodies. Kenner Products Division of Kenner Parker Toys, Inc. makes Centurions, which will sell for about $12.50 or $13.

Kenner also makes a new Chuck Norris action figure. Norris, a karate expert and star of numerous adventure films, is the model for these spring-loaded, karate-oriented dolls whose martial artistry and weaponry literally spring into action when the dolls are properly manipulated. They will sell for about $5.50 to $5.70.

More Stallone Clones

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