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Taking a Fling at Success : New flying toy, invented by a North Hollywood native, is called a hybrid of the disc and a boomerang.

July 09, 1993|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Flying through the air these days with the greatest of ease is Woblong, a new flying toy invented by North Hollywood-native Miro Bouchakian.

Introduced in February at the Toy Fair in New York, the Woblong is already available at Target, Imaginarium and other stores.

Manufactured in Sun Valley, the Woblong features two different-colored bi-elliptical plastic rings perpendicularly connected to each other. The rings--which come in eight different colors--can be pulled apart and put back together to create different combinations.

"It has more airlift and stability than a disc," Bouchakian says from his Studio City office. By a disc, he's referring to its ancestor, the Frisbee. In fact, Bouchakian has been told that the Woblong is a cross between a Frisbee and a boomerang, creating a rather dynamic game of catch.

Bouchakian, who lived briefly in Hawaii before returning to the San Fernando Valley, says he got the idea for his invention last year when a craving for steamed rice led him to buy a rice cooker.

"There was this oblong cardboard ring in it," he recalls, "and I took it out and flung it across the room and it flew. I could see right away that something that wasn't round could fly and, in fact, looked better than a round flying object."

Bouchakian, 33, put all his money into developing the idea. Although there were many companies that wouldn't take him seriously, he eventually got together with an aerospace engineer who developed air foils to make the Woblong fly straight and glide.

A few prototypes later, they eventually came up with the right design.

"It's a lot of fun and it flies in a very different way than a Frisbee," says Woblong fan Jon O'Hara of Canoga Park. "It's a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's really great. The reward is well worth it."

Worth it certainly to Bouchakian, who says he ships 20,000 Woblongs a month to Australia, where a heavy television campaign garnered plenty of interest. In addition to being available throughout the United States, Woblong is also sold in Japan and Europe.

"It's unique and we've never seen anything like it before," says Susan Fox, assistant buyer for Imaginarium, which is based in Walnut Creek. "It flies great. I've heard positive comments from store managers who say that it's easy to use, even for little kids."

Bouchakian points out that while the packaging indicates that Woblong is designed for kids ages 10 and up, younger kids are attracted to the toy's contrasting bright colors. He adds that since it flies a little slower than a Frisbee, it's also less daunting for younger players.

Three-time regional Frisbee champ--and collector--Gary Perlberg, 40, of Hollywood, also is a Woblong fan. "Learning to throw it reminded me of learning to throw a Frisbee. I put Woblong through its paces. It flies well and it curves and has this ability to get a certain lift when it flies. I can make a Frisbee do that, but the Woblong does it on its own. It has sort of a helicopter effect."

WHERE TO GO What: Woblong. Locations: Area Target and Imaginarium stores. Price: $7.99. Call: (818) 784-8094.

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