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New Talking Dolls Can Even Put Foot in Their Mouths

November 22, 1987|DENISE GELLENE

The new electronic "talking" dolls love to "talk," but--like their youthful owners--they don't always "say" the right thing.

Take Worlds of Wonder's Julie. The $119 doll is supposed to "recognize" certain words, like hungry, play and sing. During a demonstration at the firm's Fremont headquarters, the doll repeatedly said she was tired when asked if she was hungry. Somewhat flustered, product manager Patty Brennan explained that this particular Julie was just a worn-out "demo" used to demonstrate the toy to retailers.

Coleco's Talking Cabbage Patch gets confused sometimes, too. The $125 doll is supposed to laugh when tickled, but when spokeswoman Helen Boehm tickled her doll's stomach, it responded, "I like standing on my head."

Boehm says the Talking Cabbage Patch dolls have special sensors that allow them to "talk" to each other. But, Boehm admits, television sets and fluorescent lights can interfere with the radio signals the dolls use to "communicate."

The toy manufacturers have made special efforts to make sure that little girls can communicate with the dolls. Jill comes with instructions recorded on a three-minute cassette tape. And Mattel set up a toll-free telephone line to answer questions about the doll.

For the most part, retailers say problems with the dolls aren't serious. Richard Brady, a vice president with Play Co. toy stores in San Diego, said one complaint from customers last year was that Baby Talk's eye lids had a mechanical click, and didn't always open when Baby Talk "woke up."

David Capper, marketing vice president for Galoob, wouldn't disclose how many Baby Talk dolls were returned but said the number wasn't high "for that kind of doll."

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