In battling off the insurgent forces of video games, which have gobbled the consumer dollar of late, toy manufacturers have stumbled on a new market - girls. Or so it seems from what's on view this year at the 87th American International Toy Fair.
This week 18,000 buyers will crowd into 200 Fifth Ave. and adjacent showrooms where toy manufacturers are offering their new wares, most of which won't show up in stores until later this year.
The toy industry hopes to recover some of the revenue lost to Nintendo over the past three years. ``There is a determination not to let video games dominate the market again,'' says Frank Reysen Jr., editor of Playthings.
And so, dolls are now big business, though licensed action figures are still the biggest business.
After the success of Kenner's ``Batman'' line last year, the company is bringing forth a ``Beetlejuice'' line based on the movie. Hasbro has ``The New Kids on the Block'' line of dolls modeled, of course, on the band.
But perhaps hottest of the hot will be the ``Dick Tracy'' figures from Playmate Toys, due to premiere in June, as will the movie. Playmate is also pushing out more of the mondo popular ``Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.''
Girls' toys include an innovative introduction from Tyco. ``Dreambuilders'' are pastel blocks packaged so that a girl can construct a dollhouse or nursery.
Following the success of its ``Oopsie Daisy'' doll last year,
Tyco is also bringing out ``Newborn Baby Shivers,'' which shakes when she's cold and stops when covered with a blanket. ``Cheerful Tearful,'' from Curiosity, promises to cry when hungry, laugh when happy and coo when hugged, all responses made possible by a computer chip.
Kenner has ``Cool Cuts Kara,'' whose hair can be cut and then grows back. Matchbox is bringing out dolls fashioned on Christie Brinkley, Beverly Johnson and Cheryl Tiegs. Mattel has the new Barbie Summit doll available in four ethnic groups. But the talk of the industry is ``Baby Uh-Oh,'' from Hasbro, who wets her diaper. Depending on which diaper she has on, it turns yellow or brown.
Small dolls may soon be the rage. Galoob, whose miniature action toys for boys, ``Micro Machines,'' has enjoyed phenomenal success, is introducing ``Cutie Club,'' an extensive line of teeny-tiny dolls and ``Secret Places,'' a line of doll furniture that opens up to reveal two dolls, one big, one little.
What of the mighty Nintendo? Well, the two hottest accessories were actually introduced last year but will reach mass market this year. ``U-Force,'' from Broderbund, does away with the joystick, allowing a player to operate the game by a mere hand motion before a screen.
Mattel's ``Power Glove Sports Edition'' is an update on last year's ``Super Power Glove,'' which also gives a player fingertip control - curl your hand and the boxer onscreen delivers a punch.
From Mattel also comes ``Sound F/X,'' a motion-activated sound system that can be purchased in themed sets. Four wristbands and two anklebands in hot neon colors make noise as the child moves. The ``Screamin' Line Drive'' set, for instance, would reproduce the sounds of a baseball game.
Just plain neat toys include Tyco's ``Spy-Tech,'' a line of functioning spy equipment that can transform a 10-year-old into a sinister figure from the Cold War; Mattel's ``Magic Nursery,'' a line of dolls each with a disposable garment that when placed in water transforms into a small accessory, and Galoob's ``Big Sister,'' which strolls along pushing a grocery cart.
``Guard Dog,'' from Nasta, is a stuffed animal with a secret pouch that can be programed to bark should anyone try to force entry. ``Lanky Doodles,'' from Tiger Toys, is a collection of bizarre but appealing stuffies, which, when thrown, land on their feet.
And for the city child, from Hasbro comes ``The Go-Go My Walking Pup,'' a shaggy battery-operated dog on a leash that walks and moves its head but, thankfully, does nothing untoward on the pavement.