Say hello, if you can, to Teddy Ruxpin, the first mass-produced, automated, talking toy. His mouth, eyes and nose are programmed to move while he sings or tells stories. The sound comes from a cassette player built into his back; 13 other cassettes, about friendship, bravery and other subjects, are available. Ruxpin was introduced to retailers last spring, without much hoopla. Now Worlds of Wonder, which makes Teddy in Hong Kong, can't keep up with the sudden demand. "It's scary," says company chairman Donald Kingsborough, 38. "There was no way to predict we'd grow this fast."
Well, there was, if everybody had been smarter. Teddy appeals to many, if not all, ages. Jordan Marsh in Miami's Omni International Mall had to replace its floor-sample bear because he had lipstick all over his face. Ruxpin sells from $60 to $100, but "it's worth it," admits a Chicago woman who bought one for her son, "because I don't have time to sit down and read to him."
He is a modern marketing wonder, a fact that, unfortunately, cuts two ways. The good news is that he is a nifty new talking bear that almost everybody wants for Christmas. The bad news is the same. In Costa Mesa, Calif., Toys International has signed up 300 customers and is accepting no more. "If we kept adding to the list, it would probably go into the thousands," says president Gayle Hoepner. At The Toy Maker in Houston, 30 people have coughed up $80 apiece with no delivery date in sight. The news is the same everywhere: "They are," Hoepner says, "virtually unobtainable."