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Santa's orders launch invasion of robots

Sunday, November 25th, 1984 12:01AM CST

Category: Site Articles
Posted by: Seibertron   Views: 536,977

Written by Judy Hille. Micro-fiche from the Arizona Republic (Phoenix) 


Santa. Hey, Santa! Stop swilling eggnog for a minute, and answer this vital question. Those of us who are No. 12,248 or so on the Cabbage Patch doll waiting lists want to know what else is going to be under the tree and underfoot this year.


GoBots? Robotrons? Autobots? What are you mumbling about, old pal? Take your beard out of your mouth and - good grief! What's that thing emerging from the kitchen?


Yes, Virginia, robots are the bottom line this Christmas. And they're doing a lot more than fighting evil and zooming through space in a youngster's imagination. Don't be surprised if the punch and fruitcake come in to the party on little roller feet.


Omnibot, from the California company Tomy, is 2 feet tall, programmable a week in advance and comes with a serving tray for $300. Maxx Steele, a $350 robot from Ideal, does similar tricks, like waking you up in the morning with a built-in alarm clock. They're being promoted for ages 3 to 12.


This information comes from Penny Richman, communications director for the trade association of commercial elves, the Toy Manufacturers of America. She just bought a robot herself. Guess what it did at her latest cocktail gathering?


Robots for most kids, though, will be smaller and will come to the party as cars, trucks, planes, and watches and other innocent guises. The magic happens when the kid gives the Volkswagen a couple of spins and a click. Shazam! It's a robot.


Japanese children have been playing with metal people for about 10 years, but this is the first year they've been exported here. They are sold with legends that give kids a good-vs-evil scenario for play.


GoDaikin Super Robots are the originals, well-designed and fairly expensive ($15 to $85). One of the less costly ones, Dynaman ($18), shoots his fist into space and can turn into a rolling vehicle.


Tonka has GoBots, 4-inch plastic and metal cars and trucks that change into machine people, for about $3.50. Similar are Robotrons, a from Buddy L. Corp., which are a bit cheaper.


"Kids are gravitating to the Transformers," said Mark Osman, assistant manager at Toys By Roy in Fiesta Mall. "Last Saturday, the Matchbox ones, Voltrons - I put out a case and it sold in 15 minutes. I brought out another case, and people were grabbing them out of my arms. It was the same thing Monday."


Transformers, by Hasbro, come in a wide range of prices (about $3 to $25) and varieties of complication. One of the most alluring is the Decepticon Communicator ($20) disguised as a mild-mannered mini-cassette player. Not only does the player turn into an 11-inch robot, the "cassette" also converts into a tiny companion piece.


G.I.Joe and the Star Wars group are the granddaddies of the action figures and still do moderately well. Mattel's Masters of the Universe, which last year sent dozens of parents scurrying after the heroic but scarce He-Man, has introduced Snake Mountain, where the evil Skeletor lives. He-Man's feline war buddy, Battle Cat, is in big demand this year, Osman said.


The outlook in the Cabbage Patch is still bleak, said Osman, who gets at least 25 to 50 calls a day about them. Cabbage Patch clothes, strollers and other accessories are flying off the shelves, however.


"We have numerous amounts of collectible dolls, not Cabbage Patch ones, but others, that are going like crazy," said Donna Scelza, manager of Little House Toys at Metrocenter. According to Richman, doll collecting is now the No. 2 hobby in the United States, after stamp collecting.


Coleco changed this year's Cabbage Patch doll body, Richman said, to cater to just this market. It also has introduced Preemies, which are adopted at an earlier age.


The most popular doll in the world is a jockette this year, Great Shape Barbie. Mattel, maker of the 21-year-old Barbie, also hopes to cash in big with a new line of Rainbow Brite dolls ($10 to $21).


Rainbow Brite has a cast of characters (Red Butler, Patty O'Green, Murky and Lurky Dismal), transportation (STarlite, a flying horse), a little friend (Sprites, tiny dolls that come with each bigger doll) and, of course, a story line about Rainbow Land, where they all live.


"It's really cute stuff," Osman said. "But Rainbow Brite hasn't been on TV yet that much. Once it gets exposure, it's going to sell."


The thing at Little House Toys that attracts the most kids is a Swedish Brio wooden train, Scelza said.


"You start with the starter kit and go on forever, until you have a farm here and a village there," she said. "People just go crazy over it. Kids come in here just to see it and stay forever."


Trivia games, though not as white-hot as they were last spring and summer, have proliferated and are selling briskly. Some sources say there are as many as 50 on the market now, and many of these are for the younger set eager to play the sort of game that's keeping Mom and Dad up past midnight, yelling with their friends.


Selchow & Richter's Trivial Pursuit version for young players won't debut until around February, Richman said.


Editor's Note: This newspaper article was obtained through Linden High School's micro-fiche film library during my senior year in 1995. Linden High School is located in Linden, Mi. See ... it pays to save all that stuff!!!

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