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Foul Play : Today, the Sweetest Little Girls and Boys Pick the Most Vile, Gross and Disgusting Toys

April 13, 1989|BEVERLY BEYETTE | Times Staff Writer

Welcome to the contemporary kingdom of "Toy land, toy land, little girl and boy land. . . ."

Where, in an "evil pit of gruesome ooze . . . horrible goop turns trapped warriors into Slime monsters." (Slime included.)

Where, with the Mad Scientist Dissect-An-Alien kit with plastic scalpel, youngsters can "yank out alien organs dripping with flowing alien blood!" (Warning: Alien blood sticks to fabrics and hair and is impervious to dry cleaning).

Where, with a Nintendo and a Millipede game, boys and girls can get "lost in a dark, perilous and enchanted forest (where) dark dangerous mushrooms push up through the squishy forest floor, snaring you on every side. . . ."

Where, taking aim with their Glooper Game gun, children can "fire globs of oozing, slimy gloop up to 25 feet!" (Goop comes in easy-to-load cartridges).

Where, by depressing the plunger on Gooper Ghost's backpack--which comes with twin Nutrona Blasters--youngsters can make him ooze purple Ecto-Plazm kisses.

And they can do it all while munching Boogers, a gummy green candy that has spawned its own cult humor, as in: "What's the difference between school books and boogers? You put your school books on top of the table."

Guns have peaked, ditto high-priced talking dolls and animals. Barbie, who just turned 30, was never more popular, with Mattel expecting 1989 sales to surpass 1988's 40 million worldwide. And gross, it seems, is always good in the selling of toys.

"The more the parents scream, the more the kids want it," said Tom Berquist, a Connecticut-based idea man who brought "Boogers" to Confex candy company in New Jersey.

"I wouldn't call it a trend," said Bruce Apar, editor of Toy and Hobby World in New York, of the proliferation of gross on toy shelves. Because the toy business is a low entry-level business, he explained, it is easy for someone struck by inspiration to market something that is "either tasteless or totally inappropriate" as a new toy.

For the most part, he noted, these come from companies that "come out of obscurity and usually go back in, and justifiably so." Many, he added, never make their way into stores.

A 'Hall of Shame'

From his "Hall of Shame" folder Apar culled a sampling: A "Brat on Board" doll, face contorted, designed to look as though it's hanging out a car window. Marty Toy Co.'s genuine replica of Freddy's Glove from "A Nightmare on Elm Street," complete with plastic blades extending from the fingers.

There is nothing inherently unwholesome in ooey, gooey, slimy toys, said Dr. Jerome Karasic, a psychiatrist specializing in children and adolescents and a clinical associate psychiatry professor at USC.

"There is a fondness for the dirty, the ugly, or whatever, the detestable, in the very young infant," he explained. "As the infant matures, he learns that it's not acceptable and gives up his fondness. The slimy, ooey, gooey toys are like a bad joke, or maybe a good joke. If it helps a child to express something inside, what could be wrong with it?"

Grown-ups, recognizing the necessity for acceptable and hygienic behavior, react to a child's fondness for the dirty by saying, " 'Ugh! Yuck!' and the children quickly adopt those attitudes," Karasic said. Nevertheless, he observed, adults' own childhood attachments are not easily shaken: "Grown-ups sometimes like to go out in the garden and get mud on their hands."

'A Sadistic Toy'

"Threatening" toys are another matter, Karasic said. He includes in that category Freddy's Glove: "I don't think that glove has any place. I think it's a sadistic toy."

The real trend from this year's Toy Fair, Apar said, was that "there were no trends, and there haven't been for a couple of years now. . . . There's nothing really distinguishing itself from the rest of the pack."

The exception: Nintendo, which in 1988 sold 7 million playing machines and 32.5 million video games.

But, look for: "Trump, The Game," coming in May from Milton Bradley, the Monopoly people. The object is to be the player with the most money, a la New York real estate magnate Donald Trump. More Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures. Electronic baseball cards where the players talk to you.

And a generous dollop of slime and ooze and blood and monsters.

The Garbage Pail Kids craze, which started in 1985, is "pretty much finished" in the United States, said Norman Liss of Topps, its New York-based manufacturer. Now they're in Holland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel and in France, where they are being marketed as "Les Crados."

But, Liss said, Topps is bringing back Garbage Can-dy, which he described as "a miniature pail filled with pieces of candy in the shape of things you'd find in the garbage--fish heads, old shoes. . . ."

Noting that toy land trends tend to be cyclical, with four years a "real long life" for most new toys, Liss said, "We have a product now called Dinosaurs Attack, in which dinosaurs go wild and attack people and eat them up . . . years ago we did Mars Attacks. Very similar."

'Always Been In'

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