Following T.M.X. Elmo, here come his friends

Mattel will launch new 'extreme' versions of Cookie Monster and Ernie this fall. Plus: Talking Pizza Elmo.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- T.M.X. Elmo is about to get some company.

Mattel, the No. 1 toy maker, this fall will introduce "extreme" versions of Elmo's Sesame Street friends, Cookie Monster and Ernie.

Following the huge success of T.M.X Elmo, Fisher-Price is set to introduce T.M.X. Friends featuring Cookie Monster and Ernie.

T.M.X. Elmo, which the company launched last September, was one of the hottest, and most sought-after, toys of the holiday season, and shortages of the product made it even more coveted by both kids and parents.

The 10th-anniversary version of the furry red monster was the most technologically advanced Elmo of all. It could sit, fall, roll over, kick its legs and stand up on its own.

Following T.M.X.'s popularity, Mattel (Charts) is set to introduce "T.M.X. Friends" featuring Cookie Monster and Ernie.

Chris Byrne, a toy industry analyst who saw the new Elmo products at the toy fair in Hong Kong in early January, said Mattel is repeating the strategy that it used when Tickle Me Elmo was first introduced in 1996.

That Elmo went on to become one of the fastest-selling toys that Christmas shopping season and sold more than 1 million units. In 1997, Mattel quickly followed up with Tickle Me Ernie and Tickle Me Cookie Monster dolls.

"Quite often for us, once the main character [Elmo] was released, we follow with the friends," David Allmark, general manager of Fisher-Price Friends, said in an interview with

"I've seen a video of the Cookie Monster and it's really funny. Mattel has stayed true to the character," said Byrne.

However, both Cookie Monster and Ernie are about three inches smaller than T.M.X. Elmo and cheaper. T.M.X. sold for about $40 at stores.

According to Fisher-Price, the new 11-inch dolls are expected to hit stores in October and retail for $29.99.

"The cost is a little less and Mattel is hoping to pick up more sales with the Friends franchise," Byrne said.

Each new doll has its own unique actions. T.M.X. Elmo required three tickles to set him off on a bout of hysterical laughter. Cookie Monster and Ernie get going with two tickles.

Cookie Monster giggles and laughs and rolls from side to side before he gets back up.

Ernie giggles and laughs as he kicks his legs in laughter, spins in a complete circle and then gets back up.

Each toy also says humorous phrases.

If that's not enough, get ready for Pizza Elmo. According to Byrne, it's an Elmo doll holding a pizza, and the pizza talks and sings along with Elmo. The toy is expected to retail for $19.99.

Meanwhile, Mattel will continue to supply retailers with T.M.X. Elmo this year, Allmark said. "We feel there's still demand for T.M.X. Elmo," he remarked, adding that he didn't think the new Cookie Monster and Ernie dolls would likely cannibalize pent-up demand for Elmo.

'It's unlikely that will happen. We think ... T.M.X. will become a collectible property," he said.

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