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Mattel Takes Car Idea, Leaves 'Apprentice' Team in the Dust

September 15, 2004|Melinda Fulmer | Times Staff Writer

These are the bright business minds competing to be Donald Trump's protege: They invent a toy so appealing that Mattel Inc. wants to market it and they won't see a penny of the profit.

Such are the breaks on "The Apprentice," the reality-esque series starring the real estate mogul that's in its second season on NBC.

For last week's premiere, Mattel agreed to judge the merits of toy ideas cooked up by male and female teams instructed to take aim for boys between 5 and 8 years old.

The women's team conceived a sporty remote-controlled car that can be smashed to near smithereens and easily put back together in various forms. The El Segundo toy maker assembled an instant prototype and discovered that the young boys who tested the car liked it.

"The concept was good," said Sara Rosales, a Mattel spokeswoman. "It has everything that boys love."

Called Morph Machines, the cars will be in stores early next year, retailing for $30 each. Mattel is already taking orders on the Toys R Us website.

And the women on the team? They get kudos from the Donald and zip in recompense from Mattel, which paid the show's producer, Mark Burnett Productions, a one-time licensing fee of an undisclosed amount.

By the way, the cuddly proposal from the team of men was for a line of lovable sea creature action figures called Crustacean Nation.

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