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THE GOODS : The Wish List : It looks like the fun and games this holiday season will come via television and movie characters. So go get those Power Rangers and hunt down that Lion King.

October 21, 1994|LYNN SIMROSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ho, ho, ho, parents. Only 64 shopping days left until Christmas. Do you know what the kids want?

The New Jersey-based Toys R Us puts the answer quite simply on its Hot Items-Christmas 1994 list: "All Power Ranger Products."

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Lion King stuff head the pack for the upcoming holidays according to trackers of toy sales.

"Anything Power Ranger is still popular. It's like a feeding frenzy the demand is so great," says Chris Byrne, toy consultant and editor of the new Market Focus: Toys magazine set to debut December 1.

"You can slap a Power Ranger license on almost everything and the parents will buy it. They say to the kids, 'See, I got you something Power Ranger. So please don't hate me.' "

But, if you will need one or more of the five Mighty Morphin Power Ranger figures (or additional accessories), head straight to the nearest toy store. NOW.

Because the TV show is still tops with children, expect the newest Power Ranger accessories--five new battle machines called Thunderzords, others called Thunder Powerzords, and a host of Evil Space Aliens--to be especially hot by the holidays.

Look for mania over a new Power Ranger, the White Tiger, who commands the White Tigerzord, which "morphs" from a "ferocious tiger mode to a battle-ready warrior" complete with electronic light and sound.

Nipping at the heels of the Power Rangers is the Lion King, in plush toys, games and puzzles.

Since the release of "The Lion King" in June, Disney has licensed "well over 50 Lion King products, from aprons to xylophones," says Chuck Champlin Jr., director of communications for Disney. Mattel in El Segundo is the major licensee and is just now shipping out its newest plush line, "Talking Simba," "Roaring Simba" and "Purring Simba." Bet on Talking Simba to be a favorite. The charming big-eyed creature talks, giggles and tries to roar.

Don't rule out other company's toys, such as Milton Bradley's four new Lion King games and its Power Ranger game and puzzles.

"Although it is obvious the Power Rangers and Lion King are still big favorites, there are no real new blockbuster-type hits this year," says Frank Reysen, editor of Playthings, a toy industry trade magazine. "Big this year are movie tie-ins."

Indeed, this year's Duracell Toy Industry Forecast, which is predicting a 2% to 4% gain in toy revenue, says toys based on popular entertainment characters from movies and TV will make up at least half of all toys sold. (Last year, total overall toy revenue was $17.5 billion).

Expect toy characters from "The Flintstones" movie to be still selling for the holidays, as well as X-Men, Spider-man, Ninja Turtles and even Batman.

"You have to remember that a TV show that comes into the house once or twice a day is a powerful persuader with a child," Byrne says.

Both Reysen and Byrne see another industry trend emerging during the past two to three years, that of the multicultural dolls and toys.

"Toy companies are doing multicultural toys in a more sensitive way," Reysen says. "There are not just black dolls, but American Indian, Asian, Hispanic ones. The companies are attempting to reflect the cultures involved, and trying to do it right. They're not just putting a black face on what is basically a white doll."

Reysen says toy manufacturers now use various colored skin tones and ethnically correct facial sculpturing and hair to define their multicultural dolls.

"This trend toward authentic multicultural toys and dolls began with the small minority toy firms and has mainstreamed," Byrne says.

Cultural Toys in Minneapolis is one of those minority-owned firms that has influenced the multicultural toy market. Launched in 1992 by Jacob Miles, a black engineer with 21 years experience in the toy business, the firm is the country's leading producer of multicultural dolls, infant and preschool products, board games, puzzles, and music and video cassettes. Next year, Miles plans to add CD-ROM products.

His 1994 line of dolls, called Dinkytown Daycare Kids, debuted at Target stores earlier this year and is expected to be a top seller.

Cultural Toys' eight Dinkytown Daycare Kids represent children of a variety of backgrounds, including African American, Asian American, Latino, Native American and white. New this year is a doll wheelchair.

"There's no question we've created a new category of toys in doing what we're doing," Miles says. "And the big guys are now getting involved."

Several large manufacturers of talking toys and dolls now include Spanish as well as English-speaking versions. Mattel produces its 35-year-old Barbie in a Dolls of the World Collection. This year's entrants are Dutch Barbie, Chinese Barbie and Kenyan Barbie. There is also a new Mattel line called "Children Together," so far featuring collectible dolls representing England, Mexico and Norway.

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