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These dolls really stink!
Here come B.O Brian, Burpin' Buddy and Sweat Sox Sammy, the stinkiest kids from Smellville.
February 16, 2004: 1:29 PM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - With names like "B.O. Brian," "Skunk Punk," "Butt Breath Bob" and ""Broccoli Bill," you know these dolls mean trouble.

Toy maker Spin Master calls this menacing bunch from "Smellville" the stinkiest kids on the planet.

"These are for boys and their obsession with everything that's gross. We've all heard of stink bombs. Stink Blasters are the next generation", said Harold Chizick, director of marketing for the Toronto-based company.

"B.O. Brian" Stink Blaster doll from Spin Master.

Spin Master debuted its Stink Blasters characters at the ongoing American International Toy Fair in New York. The industry's largest trade fair matched more than 1,200 exhibitors with industry buyers who are hoping to find the "hot toy" of 2004.

There are 24 different characters in the first series of the squeezable Stink Blasters dolls, priced at $6.99 each. "Each character has a unique story and they also emit their own unique disgusting smell," said Chizick.

Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant, has already pegged the dolls as one of the most popular novelty toys this year.

"Moms will probably draw a line on these dolls but they're a good 'allowance' toy for kids on a weekly or monthly budget," said Byrne. "They're goofy, gross, inexpensive and a classic buy for a 5-year-old boy."

Other toymakers are also hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the gross factor with kids.

Pressman Toy brought back its classic "Gooey Louie" -- the unusual game where kids take turns sticking their fingers up Louie's plastic nose to pull out rubbery green "gooeys" until someone gets the wrong one. And then Louie's brain pops out.

And Jakks Pacific (JAKK: Research, Estimates)'s "snot shot" gun shoots out slime when you press the trigger. "This is a fun outdoor product for kids. The slime could be multi-colored it or even glow-in-the-dark," said Genna Goldberg, spokeswoman for Jakks.

Barbie-Ken split: Publicity gimmick or another man?

The biggest surprise at the Toy Fair was the unexpected break-up of Barbie and Ken after 43 years as a couple.

Cali Barbie with her new  
Cali Barbie with her new "friend" Blaine.

Barbie and Ken's romance began when they met on the set of their first television commercial together in 1961 and they've been together ever since. Too much of a good thing? Mattel (MAT: Research, Estimates) thinks so, saying it was time for the pair to spend some "quality time apart."

As a newly single girl -- Cali (as in California) Barbie -- is spending time at the beach with some new friends. The new doll sports a deep tan, pierced ears and trendy bikinis and shorts.

But she's also been hanging around with an Australian bloke named "Blaine," fueling rumors of a new romance. Mattel offered a tongue-in-cheek response, "Barbie is free for the first time in a very long time. She's just having fun."

Bryne sees it differently.

"The Barbie and Ken split is a publicity stunt," Bryne said. "From a business perspective, Mattel wanted to relaunch the Barbie line. Young girls today are less likely to go steady with just one guy early on. They're likely to spend time in groups and date more than one guy. I think Mattel wanted to make Barbie more representative of today's lifestyle."

Mattel's new mini-doll line called  
Mattel's new mini-doll line called "Shorties."

Mattel also debuted a new line of mini-dolls temporarily called "Shorties." The company said it hasn't yet decided on the final name for the dolls. The dolls have exaggerated proportions -- short and wide -- and are about humor, according to the company.

"I think these are very clever," said Byrne. "They're inspired by toys skewed to boys, like characters in Japanese Manga comic books with the small heads and big bodies, but are meant for girls. And there's the obvious cute factor. Shorties will also be a strong niche product."

Betting on TV plug & play games

Jim Silver, an industry analyst and publisher of the "Toy Book" trade magazine thinks the hot category in 2004 will be interactive TV games -- not the Xbox and PlayStation 2, but simpler plug and play gaming systems.

Jakks Pacific is introducing the revamped Activision TV games unit featuring 10 classic videogames such as Pitfall!, River Raid and Spider Fighter. Additionally, Jakks will also release the Spider-Man and Ms. Pac-Man TV games this summer.

The VEIL- encoded remote Batman toys from Mattel.  
The VEIL- encoded remote Batman toys from Mattel.

"The fact that videogames are so expensive has really opened up the niche for cheaper plug-and-play gaming units ," said Byrne.

Additionally, the latest interactive innovation featured at the Toy Fair was the Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL) technology that enables wireless toys to become activated by receiving digital signals from an encoded TV show.

Mattel's new VEIL-enables toys, including the Batman action figure and the Batmobile -- are based on the new Warner Bros. Batman series out this fall. Each episode of the animated series is encoded using VEIL technology.

While watching the show, the toys can be activated to receive the encoded signal. So the Batmobile toy revs up at the same time that the cartoon car is ready to go on the TV screen and the Batman action figure interacts in real time with the cartoon.  Top of page

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