Column: Christmas season brings the usual crop of interesting toys

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 2, 2002

Well, Thanksgiving is over and the busy Christmas shopping season is underway. I have essentially finished my Christmas shopping, and noticed that some of the toys available this holiday season are something else.

Have you seen what they’ve done with Sit-n-Spin? Now it lights up and plays music, in addition to spinning children to the point of sickness. I have a few suggestions of my own if they ever want to make further renovations. How about adding a sensory-deprivation face-shielding helmet and headphones, in which the wearer would watch a strobe light while listening to white noise? Then convert the spinning base part from manual to belt-driven, with adjustable speeds, kind of like a record player. As cool as that would be, something tells me this toy would be at the top of the product recall list.

Play-Doh has introduced a new McDonald’s restaurant playset, in which you can sculpt hamburgers and french fries. This is a step up from the playsets they introduced while I was growing up. They used to only have four colors; now they have a color selection that rivals anything offered by Crayola. Incidentally, I’d like to know what precautions Play-Doh has taken against accidental ingestion, as the products made with this particular set appear to be the approximate color, texture and temperature of an actual McDonald’s hamburger.

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Have you ever noticed how many celebrity incarnations of Barbie exist? Last year, my wife and I bought a &uot;Dorothy&uot; from The Wizard of Oz version of Barbie for our niece. This year, some of the offerings include Marilyn Monroe, Daphne from Scooby Doo, Samantha from Bewitched, Fay Wray from King Kong, and characters from nearly every Disney film featuring a female lead character. Ken seems to get overlooked, though. But who knows? Maybe someday, Mattel will introduce him as every member of the Village People.

One toy that has been around for a few months is the latest in the &uot;Elmo&uot; series, Chicken Dance Elmo. In this incarnation, the Scourge of Sesame Street is dressed like a chicken and performs, in its entirety, the Chicken Dance. Come again? Whose idea was this? I grew up watching Sesame Street, and besides Bert doing &uot;The Pigeon,&uot; I don’t recall any dancing Muppets. But, you never know. If this Chicken Dance Elmo catches on, maybe next we’ll see an Electric Boogaloo Grover, Disco Fever Count, Country Line Dancing Ernie and Bert, or a Beer Barrel Polka Cookie Monster.

Board games are another popular Christmas item, and Monopoly easily tops the list. Since its introduction during the Great Depression, hundreds of variations of the original game have been released, with themes ranging from Star Wars to sports teams. However, aside from appearance, nothing about the game has changed. An update is long overdue. Maybe they could make the game more competitive, and combine it with Clue. That way the players could draw a Chance or Community Chest card reading, &uot;Pay Professor Plum $5,000 to whack any one of your opponents in the Marvin Gardens Conservatory with a candlestick.&uot; I’m guessing that would increase the value of that &uot;Get out of jail free&uot; card.

Finally, toys with a movie tie-in are popular, especially in action figure format. Visit the toy department of any discount store and you will find Star Wars, Harry Potter, Spiderman, Scooby Doo and Lord of the Rings action figures. Action figures allow children to reenact their favorite scenes from the movie, or create their own new adventures. It wouldn’t work to produce action figures for every movie, however. There would likely be little demand for action figures from movies like Road to Perdition or Juwanna Mann. (I would think.) And parents might be somewhat reluctant to run out and purchase action figures from movies like Jackass or 8 Mile. (I would hope.)

These are just a few of the absurdities you’ll find in the toy aisle. Or in my mind. Wherever. I’m just glad I’ve finished my shopping. Have fun with yours.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Mondays.