Barbie Goes Hollywood and Your Toothbrush Gets a Soundtrack


Monopoly now has an electronic banker, and each player has an ATM card that withdraws or credits money into virtual bank accounts. No more cheating by the banker -- you know who you are.

And the "Game of Life" will get its first makeover in more than 50 years. There's still a board, but the game is no longer just about the money. Now it's about earning "life points" through loving, learning and living life to the fullest. All that in a board game.

Hooray for Hollywood

Our national obsession with celebrities shows no signs of ending, and toys are capitalizing on this.

For toy collectors, Barbie has gone Hollywood. There's the Hilary Duff Barbie, named for the young Hollywood actress, that comes complete with a red carpet and velvet rope. And there's also a Marilyn Monroe-like Barbie named Ingénue (only $50) that wears a white, lacy baby-doll dress with blue ribbons.

But Barbie's not the only "doll" in Hollywood. Archrival Bratz has gone celebrity as well. Tied into the expected release of the live-action "Bratz" movie in August, the dolls get glittery, sequined dresses and even a 35 mm camera so little girls can play paparazzi at home. Red carpet not included.

Bratz will also sell actual clothes that match the dolls' dresses.

And it's not just girls cashing in on Hollywood. For boys, the favorite car/robot might become even more fun with the many incarnations of Transformer products.

Along with a live-action "Transformers" movie, 200 different licensees including toys, clothes and even stationery will be released this year. "Transformers" stationery? I guess one robot car is a poet in his spare time.

Pimp My Wagon

Even the good ole standby -- the little red wagon -- has gone glitzy.

Taking a page from the auto shows, Radio Flyer presented a concept wagon called the Cloud 9. And with all due respect to Cadillac, it's the Escalade of wagons. With a fiberglass finish, this two-seater features a five-point seat belt for kids and even has two cup holders and a tray table. And there's a "wagonometer" -- a fancy name for a pedometer -- in the handle.

"It sells for anyone who wants the ultimate in wagoning," said chief "wagon" officer Robert Pasin.

This Toy Is Made With What?

Beyond electronics, advances in other technologies have resulted in new toys.

Be Amazing has found a play use for a superabsorbent polymer created by the medical industry for blood absorption. Add water, and this polymer churns out piles of white powder material that falls like snow. Sadly, there are no unique snowflakes here -- every snow particle is the exact same.

Oregon-based PlayFoam offers up nontoxic, nonallergenic, phthalate-free polymers and foam beads. In English, that translates to a toy with a Rice Krispy-like texture that does not dry out and can be molded into any shape. Sticky to the touch, it leaves no residue on your hands.

Not to be beat, Jakks Pacific is selling Gorilla Blocks: large-scale building blocks made of expanded polypropylene. You know, the same material in car bumpers.

To encourage kids to brush their teeth, Hasbro put music into electric toothbrushes, using the science of transmandibular sound transduction. When a child puts the brush to his or her teeth, the toothbrush plays songs by musicians such as Queen, Hilary Duff or Destiny's Child.

Where Is 'It?'

Somewhere, among the miles and miles and piles and piles of toys, lurks the hot item for 2007.

But where?

As most of the toys on display at the show will not be on shelves until this summer or fall -- just in time for back to school and the holidays -- everyone will have to wait and see whether any toy will be this year's T.M.X. Elmo.

To find that out, there's only one ingredient left to add: kids.

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