Waiting for Elmo ....

Black Friday crowds line up at stores in the wee hours for one of the hottest holiday toys.

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- For the hundreds of Black Friday shoppers crowded in front of the Toys R' Us in Times Square, thoughts of T.M.X. Elmo - not sugar plums - danced through their heads.

Fanatics of the furry monster - who is celebrating his tenth Black Friday as an electronic toy star - piled into the the Toys R' Us flagship store when the doors opened at 6 a.m. Some shoppers screamed playfully, while others shoved in frustration as the crowd bottlenecked at the doorway. The scene was one of orderly madness - more or less - with no injuries and no arrests.

Toys R' Us cashiers had a wall of T.M.X. Elmos when doors opened at the Times Square store on Black Friday.
Hundreds of shoppers wait for hours in front of Toys R' Us in Times Square just before doors opened at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.

"No running! No running!" shouted a security guard. "If you want Elmo, this is the line! This is the line for Elmo!"

Security guards funneled shoppers towards the Elmo line, where they were greeted by someone in a giraffe costume and a man dressed as a king.

"I just heard about [T.M.X. Elmo] in the summer and when I came here, they said there were all sold out," said Terminator Coles, who waited three hours in front of the Toys R' Us flagship store to buy one of the red robots for his 1-year-old son. "I figured if I came here the day after Thanksgiving, they'd have one."

Coles was at the front of the store when the doors opened at 6 a.m. About 15 minutes later, his prospects for getting one of the furry monsters were looking good. He was moving up the line and getting close to the cash register, where scores of T.M.X. Elmos were stacked in their faux metal cases like bricks in a wall.

A few minutes later, after Coles and other early birds filed past the cash register, the shelves were swept clean.

"I know we have thousands of Elmos available across the country today," said Toys R' Us spokesman Bob Friedland, who would not disclose the inventory for the Times Square store.

Early arrivals looking for Mattel's (down $0.04 to $22.90, Charts) spasmodic laughing monster would not be turned away. But shoppers looking for the gaming consoles Playstation 3 from Sony (down $0.38 to $39.63, Charts) and Nintendo (up $0.20 to $28.07, Charts) Wii had nowhere to go.

A store employee, who did not provide her name, said the store sold out of 5,000 Nintendo Wii game systems the previous weekend. But hours later, at about 1:30 p.m., a corporate spokeswoman told CNNMoney.com that a truckload of 1,000 Wii games had arrived at the store.

And Playstation 3? Forget about it.

"It's a worldwide issue," said the employee, referring to the zealously sought-out PS3 game system, which inspired unruly and sometimes violent crowds at Wal-Mart (down $0.13 to $47.90, Charts) stores around the country when it was released in short supply on Nov. 17, including a shooting in Connecticut.

The employee said that a store's chances of getting the PS3 in stock was akin to "winning the lottery."

So aside from the chances of grabbing a T.M.X. Elmo, what brought shoppers to the stores in the wee hours of Black Friday?

"I'm not American, I'm German, and I'm already awake at 3 o'clock," said a shopper who gave only his first name, Andreas, as he stood in the crowd at 5:45 am, just 15 minutes before the Toys R' Us doors were opened. "Right now, for me, it's 11:45. For me, at noon, the store will open."

Andreas was gunning for a Lego set for his 4-year-old. Other hot toys for this year include the Happy Feet: Tap Dancing Mumble penguin, the doll Amazing Allysen, and the Gameboy Micro.

Shoppers aren't afraid to spend money this year. Donna Brown, visiting the Times Square store with her family from Jacksonville, Fla., said she doubled her spending this year to $1,500.

"We just had our first grandson, so we're spending a lot on toys," said Brown.

Little Mermaid still a movie star

At the Childrens Place (up $0.20 to $67.53, Charts)-owned Disney Store, another retail icon - The Little Mermaid - proved that she's still got what it takes, 17 years after her first movie came out.

Beth Moller, the New Jersey district manager for Disney Store, said that extra-tall dolls of Ariel the mermaid were rapidly snatched up at the Freehold, N.J., store, where early birds were rewarded with 20-percent discounts.

"The Ariel doll that sold out is about three-foot tall, so she's almost as tall as a little girl," said Moller, speaking by phone from the Freehold store as the early bird sale was winding down.

Moller said customers were also buying up a line of toy cars controlled remotely by infra-red beams. The cars were named after Ariel and three other Disney characters, including Lightning McQueen from the recent hit "Cars," whose car can do wheelies.

"Lightning McQueen will be the first to sell out," said Moller. "There's only four left. The race is on."

Black Friday: Ready, set, shop! Top of page

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