It's that most wonderful time of the year for toy makers. Parents will soon be stuffing the closets full of toys to give as holiday gifts.
But before we get there, parents will need to know what to buy. So here comes the parade of hot holiday toy lists.
First out the gate is the world's largest toy retailer, Toys 'R Us, and Sears Holdings' Kmart, with their lists.
Both retailers issue a list of their top 15 toy picks, but Toys 'R Us also dishes up a larger list of hot toys broken down by age groups.
From the looks of it, there's music in the air.
Most likely there will be a real battle of the bands between Hasbro and Mattel's Fisher-Price, which are bringing out rock-star versions of two of their top licensed characters, Elmo and Mickey.
It will be interesting to see which star shines the brightest in this duo. Toys 'R Us may be giving the edge to Elmo. Although both toys made the Toys 'R Us list, Elmo is among the retailer's "Fabulous 15." And there may be good reason for this.
One of the more attractive features of the Elmo doll is it's a versatile member of the band. He can strum a guitar, he can play the drum, shake a tambourine, or jam on the keyboards. What's more, Elmo shares. The child can join the chorus and play Elmo's instruments when they're not being used by the doll.
Mickey, on the other hand, is a dedicated guitar player, but he has some slick dance moves to keep it interesting for his fans.
Toys 'R Us, not surprisingly, is highlighting its own value pack, which combines Elmo and several instruments. Other retailers may be selling Elmo and the instruments either individually or in other bundled configurations.
In keeping with its strategy to focus on its exclusives this year, Toys 'R Us put a few toys that can only be found at its stores on its hot toy list. It will be interesting to see if these items truly become the hot sellers this year.
One item with a lot of potential is Air Swimmers, a remote-controlled flying fish balloon that had the convention hall buzzing at this year's American International Toy Fair in New York City.
The Toys 'R Us list includes several brands that became popular last year and still have a steady following. Among them are Monster High and Lalaloopsy.
Kmart also has selected a product from the Lalaloopsy brand for its list, but it opted to include a Barbie product — specifically Barbie Designable Hair Extensions and Doll — instead of a selection from the Monster High brand.
In addition, Toys 'R Us is throwing a lot of support behind Moshi Monsters, a brand sold only in its stores. Commercials for the toy line, which is manufactured by Spin Master, have already started running on TV during children's programming. So if kids were unfamiliar with online Moshi Monsters game, they won't be for long.
The toys help bring online play into the real world, and the toys include codes to unlock new elements of the game online.
This game already has a strong fan base, and judging by the turnout at Toys 'R Us's launch event for Moshi that attracted hundreds and hundreds of kids, there is real momentum behind the brand heading into the holiday season.
The Moshi Monsters also help highlight the range of price levels on this year's list. While many of the Moshi packs sell for less than $10, the retailer also included the Power Wheels Dune Racer,a car that sells for nearly $270.
But most toys included on the list fall somewhere in between.
There are several that were new editions of popular brands that incorporate some pretty interesting technology.
For example, Air Hogs Hyperactives — which is on the Toys 'R Us list — upholds the tradition of the brand by testing the boundaries of affordable radio-controlled vehicles. Hyperactives can travel more than 20 miles per hour and run on a 2.4 gigahertz controller so they have a long range and good staying power, which means the biggest limitation may be the size of your own backyard.
Kmart included the latest addition to Hasbro's FurReal line, Cookie My Playful Pup, to its list. Cookie is a toy dog that barks, moves its head and wags its talk, and responds to sounds from a squeaky toy that comes with the dog.
But both retailers agreed Nerf's on to something with its Vortex blasters. Kmart tapped the Nitron blaster for its "Fab 15" while Toys 'R Us included the Vigilon. Both are toy guns that use "XLR" discs instead of the foam pellets in Nerf's N-Strike product line. The discs are able to shoot farther, faster and with more accuracy than the N-Strike models.
But back to the musical theme. For this holiday season there will be no shortage of microphones equipped to "autotune," or correct a singer's voice as he or she croons. The retailers are putting their bets on Jakks Pacific's I am T-Pain microphone, but there are others in the category, including one from WowWee under its Paper Jamz brand that didn't make the retailer's list.
(The I am T-Pain microphone made the Kmart "Fab 15" and was included in the longer Toys 'R Us list.)
Then there are Wow! Stuff's My Keepon and Radica's Fijit, either of which could come from nowhere and be a must-have toy of the season.
Neither is in itself musical, but both have the ability to interact with the sounds around them — including music. They both coo and move around, and apparently can be irresistible to kids and adults alike.
My Keepon, which looks like two tennis balls squashed together, has already developed a strong You Tube following — proof enough there's some hit potential there.
The toy was originally created as a therapeutic tool for autistic children who can be overwhelmed by face-to-face interactions. In fact, a portion of the sales of My Keepon, which is only sold at Toys 'R Us stores and was included on its "Fabulous 15" list, will be donated to autism research.
Fijit is similar to My Keepon, but it is much more stylized. It has a soft, pliable "skin" in pastel shades, antenna and a smiling face. In short, it looks like it would be perfectly at home in a tween girl's bedroom. Fijit talks dances, laughs and moves around. It can understand and respond to more than 30 commands and has more than 150 built-in phrases and jokes.
Both Kmart and Toys 'R Us had Fijit among their top toys.
Leapfrog's LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet also made both retailers' lists. This is a fresh way for kids to interact with Leapfrog's learning software, and parents may be able to keep their young kids from playing with their iPads, at least for a little while.
The complete list of Toys 'R Us's Fabulous 15 toys:
1. Air Hogs Hyper Actives from Spin Master
2. Air Swimmers eXtreme from Animal Planet
3. Lalaloopsy Silly Hair dolls from MGA Entertainment
4. LeapPad Explorer from LeapFrog
5. Monster High Fearleading 3-Pack from Mattel
6. Moshi Monsters Moshling 3-Pack Mini-Figures from Spin Master
7. My Keepon from WOW! Stuff
8. NERF Vortex Vigilon from Hasbro
9. Ninjago Lightning Dragon Battle from LEGO Systems
10. Poppin’ Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper from Playskool
11. Power Wheels Dune Racer from Fisher-Price
12. Radica Fijit Friends from Mattel
13. Sesame Street Let’s Rock! Elmo from Hasbro
14. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure from Activision
15. The Trash Pack Garbage Truck from Moose Toys
1. Let's Rock Elmo
3. I am T-Pain Microphone
4. Barbie Designable Hair Extensions and Doll
5. Lite Sprites Lite Wand, Prisma and Pod
6. Redakai Championship Battle Tin
7. FurReal Friends Cookie My Playful Pup
8. Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster
9. Mini Lalaloopsy Treehouse Playset
10. WWE Colossal Crashdown Arena
11. Transformers Mechtech Ultimate Optimus Prime
12. LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet
13. Lazer Stunt Chaser R/C Vehicle
14. Simon Flash
15. Dora Fiesta Favorites Kitchen