Tis the season. Moms and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends all asking the same question in their toy search for that special something to put under the tree — What's Hot and What's Not?
Two of the leading authorities on that subject are Toy Wishes, a publication that covers the entire toy industry under the watchful eye of co-publishers Jim Silver and Gareb Shamus, and KB Toys, Inc., the 80 year old privately held company that is the nation's largest mall-based toy retailer.
In making their evaluations, Toy Wishes also utilizes the expertise of Chris Byrne, an independent Toy Industry consultant known as "The Toy Guy."
"There's a lot of really impressive toys out there this year. But, in the final analysis the best guide to buying toys is to know the individual child you are buying for, their interests and what they really like," Byrne said.
According to Nancy Lombardi, editor in chief, Toy Book, and contributing editor to Toy Wishes, "The retro toys are still very hot as are the T.V. plug-in games such as V.Tech with v.smile. Both are video games for pre-schoolers," Lombardi said.
John P. Reilly, Director, Sales Promotion and Public Relations, KB Toys, Inc., said, "This year VideoNow Color and Snugeez compliment a list heavy with retro toy favorites from past holiday seasons. Also, among those returning to prominence this season are the classic virtual pets."
Toy Wishes unveiled their "Hot Dozen," toys predicted to be "the most in demand and hardest to find once the buying season gets underway," in New York on October 5. As part of the Second Annual Toy Industry Association & Toy Wishes Holiday Preview, the event encompassed 500 toys for the 2004 holiday season from 55 manufacturers.
Toy Wishes' editorial staff began its Hot Dozen selection process a year ago to preview and review all the toys and games scheduled to hit the market in 2004. Over the past five years, they have accurately predicted the best-selling and most popular toys and games of the year, from the more than 150,000 toys on the market at any one time, according to Silver.
While Toy Wishes Magazine features more than 500 new toys, only those predicted to be the most difficult to find because of their popularity receive the "Hot Dozen" status. Here is this year's list, in alphabetical order, not in order of preference:
* Balloon Lagoon by Cranium for ages five and up at $19.95. It's all the fun of a day at the carnival. Four fast-paced activities keep kids (and adults) challenged and amused as the race to collect a variety of objects before a musical Merry- Go-Round timer stops. It's the perfect combination of skill, chance and thought.
* Barbie as Princess Anneliese and Erika by Mattel for ages three and up at $19.99. Barbie is back in the movies this year, starring in two roles in the Princess and the Pauper. These two dolls feature Barbie in her costumes from the film. They also sing songs from the film score.
* Bella Dancerella by Spin Master for ages three to eight at $29.99. Bella Dancerella is a complete ballet studio that includes costumes and ballet accessories as well as a video.
* Bratz Tokyo-A-Go-Go Dance N' Skate Club by MGA for ages three and up at $89.99. The Bratz dolls enter a retro-disco world with this club playset that includes a dance floor, revolving DJ booth, roller rink, lounge, working speakers and doll with many accessories.
* Cabbage Patch Kids by Play Along for ages three and up at $29.99. They're back in a big way this year. Children can also officially register their adoption and their dolls personal name and identity.
* E-L-M-O by Fisher-Price for ages 18 months and up at $29.99. Seasame Street Elmo sings and plays along as he spells out the letters of his name.
* INTERACTV by Fisher-Price for ages three and up at $39.99. Watching TV just got more interactive and educational as children watch DVD's of their favorite characters and use the electronic tablet to answer questions and play along.
* Ms. Pac-Man TV Games by JAKKS Pacific for ages five and up at $20. This plugs into the television and enables children to play five classic Namco games including Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Pole Position, Xevious and Mappy.
* Nitro Battlerz by Radica for ages eight and up at $39.99. Ultimate competition and ultimate thrills can be achieved when children create their own customized radio controlled racing vehicles and a challenging dome.
* Tamagotchi Connection by Bandai for ages eight to 14 at $14.99. The original virtual pet is back with different modes of play and a pause button. Owners can interact wirelessly with other owners and take interactive play to new levels.
* VideoNow Color by Hasbro for ages six and up at $75. This is a child's personal video player. The videos are now in full color and the unit is totally portable. Children can choose from a comprehensive library of favorite shows to create their own personal video collection.
* VTECH V.SMILE by VTech for ages three through seven at $59.99. VTech has created a learning system that takes the play of video games and creates an interactive educational environment that's just right for preschoolers. It plugs directly into TV sets.
KB TOYS INC.'S "Hot Holiday Toy List" for 2004 contains 15 items. There are some overlaps with Toy Wishes' list. Some items on KB's list are shown in categories as opposed to individual items. For those listings the prices are given in a range. Toys found on both lists are:
* Plug It In and Play TV games by JAKKS, which includes Pac- Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger and others at $29.99.
* Tamagotchi Connection by Bandi at $17.99
* VideoNow Color by Hasbro at $74.99.
The following items made KB's list but not Toy Wishes:
* Disney Princess Dolls and outfits by various manufacturers for ages three and up in a price range of $4.99 to $19.99.
* Flip-Open Sofa by Spin Master for ages three and up in a price range of $19.99 to $39.99.
* FurReal Luv Cubs by Hasbro for ages four and up at $34.99. Huggable bear cubs that make facial expressions and sounds.
* Little People Playset by Fisher-Price for ages one and up at a price range of $9.99 to $24.99.
* My Little Pony Figures and Playsets by Hasbro for ages three and up at a price range of $5.99 to $24.99.
* Polly Pocket Playsets by Mattel for ages three and up at a price range of $5.99 to $29.99. It has a wide array of dolls and accessories.
* Power Rangers and Accessories by Bandai for ages four and up at a price range of $7.99 to $39.99.
* Radio controlled Flying Saucer by Universal for ages 10 and up at $24.99. The saucer is controlled by a radio transmitter that recharges in minutes using the included AC adapter.
* Snugeez by KB Toys for ages three and up at a price range of $9.99 to $19.99. A totally new kind of plush toy, it is made of spandex.
* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Playmates for ages four and up at a price range of $7.99 to $29.99.
* World Wrestling Entertainment Figures by JAKKS for ages eight and up at $8.99. This is WWE's entrance into the toy market.
* Yu-Gi-Oh! Dual Disc Launcher by Mattel for ages five and up at $34.99. Complimenting the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card game, this allows children to play the game like they see it on TV.