It’s a typical night down at the nursery. Bingo Bear is bothering people, asking for the 20th time: “Why don’t you have paws like me?” or “I like being a bear, do you?” Little blond Baby Talk is saying, “I like to be picked up.” Wrinkles the talking dog impresses everyone with his 1,000-phrase vocabulary and Smarty Bear is looking over the tops of his glasses, answering everything in the affirmative, saying, “Yes,” then “Uh-huh,” then “Positively!” Monkgomery Monkey may be slurring his speech, but that probably just means his battery is running down. These creatures are members of the newest generation of plush playthings—interactive toys that start talking with a squeeze or a hug and answer when their young owners speak to them. Voice-activated by microchip technology, the new toys are the next step beyond World of Wonders’ Teddy Ruxpin, the big-selling toy of last Christmas. Teddy’s speech came from a tiny cassette recorder hidden under his fur, whereas the new toys are programmed to speak when spoken to. Others, like Bingo, are activated by a hand-puppet mechanism. Wrinkles, clever doggie, works both ways. Baby Talk is the ultimate: She not only asks for her bottle, but also makes sucking sounds and finally says, “Thank you.” (Placed on her back, she will lower her long lashes and quietly go to sleep.)
When these toys talk, they’re talking big bucks, from $60 for Galoob’s Smarty Bear, $65 for Hasbro’s Bingo Bear and Monkgomery Monkey to $70 for Coleco’s Wrinkles and Galoob’s Baby Talk.
Child psychologist Susan Youdovin thinks the toys are good because “they use imagination on a higher level.” Angela Bourdon, of the giant Toys “R” Us chain, says she expects the talking toys to be big sellers this Christmas. “The whole category is new, exciting and different,” she says. “Parents are entertained as well as the children.”
So if it’s the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse—be thankful and enjoy the quiet. By next morning, it will be bedlam.