Consumer Nation

Will Sing-a-ma-jigs Be This Year's Zhu Zhu Pets?


It may be too early to tell which toys parents will be hunting for this holiday season, but with Christmas just months away, there is already buzz building around Mattel's harmonizing plush characters, the Sing-a-ma-jigs.

Love them or hate them, these quirky toys are quickly becoming Internet stars. The toys, which croon like "Alvin and the Chipmunks", have already starred in a number of Youtube videos and have now scored a place on Toys 'R Us' "Fabulous 15" list of the best toys for the upcoming holiday season.

There are six characters to choose from, each with their own vocal range and personal song, and they sell for $12.99 each. The combination of being collectible and inexpensive may make them a hot property this holiday season.

But other toys on the "Fabulous 15" list also share these traits, an indication that cute and collectible may be the winning formula this holiday season.

Squinkies, from Blip Toys, are also hot collectibles and they made the list.

The Squinkies' Cupcake Surprise Bake Shop, which retails about $22.99, made it into Toys 'R Us' list. Blip also sells smaller packs of Squinkies shaped like animals, fairies and other characters that are even less expensive. The toys can be used to top pencils, as jewelry or as inspiration for imaginative play.

Like last year, there are a range of price points and age groups represented on the Toys 'R Us list.  While the toy retailer likes to say that there never really is one "hot toy" that is perfect for all children (and that may indeed be the case), there usually is a toy that tends to capture more headlines than the rest.

Remember the animated Elmo dolls that have won the distinction in the years past? This year, there are two toys in this spirit.

The first is Fisher-Price's remote-controlled Imaginext Bigfoot the Monster. The toy features more than 80 actions and phrases, including stomping and belching. Targeted at children ages 3 to 8 years old, the toy's remote uses symbols to make it easy to operate even if the child who receives it can't read yet.

Bigfoot costs about $109.99, which shows that not all toys have to be inexpensive to be popular this year.

Dance Star Mickey, also from Fisher-Price, didn't make the "Fabulous 15," but Toys 'R Us still expects it to be a "hot" toy this year. The animatronic Mickey can groove to one of six different songs in disco, techno, or Latin rhythms. He also can play interactive games such as "Mickey Says" and "Freeze Dance."

Mickey, which will cost about $69.99, goes on sale on Oct. 5.

Games have gained in popularity since the economic downturn hit as families hunkered down and looked for inexpensive ways to entertain themselves.

Beer Pong for Kids?

This year's "Fabulous 15" list contains several games at varying prices that should provide plenty of entertainment.

Mattel's Loopz is a memory game that sells for $29.99 and combines both music and movement to get families up off the couch. 

Players must mimic the lights and sounds by waving their hands through corresponding loops. Motion sensors read each action and score each performance. The longer each player lasts, the faster the light and sound sequences get. 

There are several versions of the game, and it can be played solo or with a group.

Hasbro's Cuponk—which is essentially beer pong for kids minus the beer—also made the list.

Priced at $14.99, the aim of the game is to bounce a ping-pong ball into a cup using a variety of tricks. Players start by selecting a card that presents a challenge. If you succeed, the cup lights up and makes a sound.

Lego also has rolled out a number of board games this year, combining two toy trends: the growing interest in Legos and the surge in the popularity of board games.

Toys 'R Us has selected the Minotaurus game, which sells for about $26.99, for its "Fabulous 15" list.

Composed of 211 Lego pieces and 12 figures, players of Minotaurus must first build the game board then play the game. The winner of the game is the first player to reach a hidden temple, but players can drop walls to prevent their opponents from following them.

The list also has a number of fresh takes on other traditional toys, once again continuing a theme from last holiday season where parents stuck to tried-and-true children's toys.

These include the Calico Critters Luxury Townhouse from International Playthings, a dollhouse with animal characters; Jakks Pacific's Disney Princess & me dolls, 18-inch dolls for Disney princess fans; Fast Lane Wild Fire RC, a remote-controlled toy car from Toys 'R Us' own label; Hasbro's Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS, an automatic blaster that launches a continuous stream of foam darts up to 25 feet; Tomy's Tomica Hypercity Mega Station Set, a train station set, and Ontel Products' Pillow Pets plush animals.

Several of these toys are available only at Toys 'R Us as the retailer is putting a big push behind the exclusive products it sells.

In the electronics category, LeapFrog'sLeapster Explorer, an electronic hand-held device for kids ages 4 to 9 years old, made the cut, but this holiday season it will be interesting to see if sales of Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360 or Sony's PlayStation Move Bundle can move the dial for the videogame business.

Both Kinect and Move made Toys 'R Us' "Hot Toy" list, but not its "Fabulous 15" list.

Rounding out the "Fabulous 15" was Monster High's Cleo DeNile and Deuce Gorgon doll set.  Monster High is a new fashion-doll franchise from Mattel. Think of it as Barbie's edgier cousin.

One notable observation: Cepia's Kung Zhu didn't make the cut. The company introduced ninja- and military-themed versions of its Zhu Zhu Pets earlier this year in an attempt to continue to fuel the hamster craze, but these pets are no longer on the Toys 'R Us list this year.

It will be interesting to see if any of the other hot toys lists include these pets.

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