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All We Need is 'Wuv'
New Doll Gives Birth, then Names Its Babies

LONDON — Fluffy, cute and able to give birth after 30 minutes of stroking - the 'Wuvvie' is thought by many in the toy industry to become this year's 'must-have' toy.

Toy industry representatives at the five-day British International Toy and Hobby Fair in London said the Wuvvie could be the biggest seller of the year as children crave more gimmicky and eccentric toys.

"All the major toy stores are stocking it. Collectibility is the big thing," said Kim Rankin, product manager at Toy Options Ltd, makers of the Wuvvie.

The Wuvvie, a wide-eyed interactive toy in need of 'wuv' - love - aimed at three to seven year olds, can name her offspring from over 2,000 choices and will sing songs, recite the alphabet and wobble around with her baby.

"Children are more sophisticated now and their attention span is so limited. They get bored easily which is why interactive toys work so well and video toys are so big," said Emma Carle, promotions manager at Tiger Electronics UK Ltd.

Britons spend an estimated 1.6 billion pounds ($2.58 billion) a year on toys with electronic plush toys the biggest growth area.

Tiger Electronics is following up on the enormous success of last year's bestseller, Furby, with 'Shelby'. Able to communicate with Furby and Furby Baby, Shelby can speak more than 80 words and has animated antenna and mouth and eyes which move up, down and sideways.

Carle said research had shown over 18 percent of Furbies were bought for adults while children favor them because they become a companion which captures their imagination.

Interactive E.T.

Other big players in the toy market this year were expected to be an interactive E.T. and an interactive Yoda, the diminutive long-eared Jedi Master from the 'Star Wars' films.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game is also set to continue to be a hot-seller this year. The collectable card game for two players contains mysterious creatures - Pokemon - who exist alongside human characters and the aim is to become the greatest Pokemon trainer in the world.

Banned in some British schools because the trading cards craze was disrupting class and play, the game hit Britain in October 1999 and so far its publishers Wizards of the Coast estimate over 150 million cards have been sold in Britain.

Even old-fashioned dolls have been brought up to date such as the technologically advanced 'Amazing Ally', who has an animated face, can tell a story and remember a child's name and birthday, thanks to a 32 megabyte chip inside her.

With children increasingly raised on a diet of video, computer games and the Internet, technology is now part of their common language and they look for that in their toys, one market professional said.

"It's the responsibility of toy manufacturers now to portray the latest technology in traditional toys which is why a doll is now not just a doll which you cuddle," said Paul Weston of Vivid Imaginations, makers of Amazing Ally.

Other new products on show were the SupaSplat Paintball Repeater blowgun which can shoot 16 paintballs in 10 seconds and Wuzit the Dog or Cat which can repeat any word told it in a 'rap' singing style.

The famous 'Tracy Island' control centre from the cult series 'Thunderbirds' has also made a comeback complete with an all-action techno playset with electronic wizardry to bring the control center to life.

"Children want constant stimulation. In the future, everything is going to become more high-tech and simple ideas will be made electronic," said Carle.

But will the trend in computer games and interactive toys mean no more blocks and other building toys?

"Toys like Lego will be with us for another 100 years," said Gerry Masters at the British Association of Toy Retailers. "(Computer games) are challenging in their own way and can live side by side with old fashioned toys. I don't see why a child can't play with a computer with a teddy sitting on its lap."

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