"Ahhh! You smashed my head!" whines one brutish voice.
A loud and otherworldly laugh replies. Then a burp, followed by some sputters and buzzes that escalate into a fit of manic giggles.
"I'll slam you to the mat!" comes a grunted warning.
Behold what could be the first sounds from toy store aisles for the upcoming holidays. Still 102 days of Christmas shopping left, but the battle in Toy Land to unseat the fibrillating Furby as this season's heavyweight plaything has already begun. Two new contenders have stepped into the ring to go battery-to-battery for multimillion-dollar stakes and the title that in holidays past was held by champs such as Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids.
In one corner, trying to out-tremble Furby with its own brand of frenzied wobbling, is Playmates' OOglies, ticklish plastic aliens prone to interactive hysterics and wacky gibberish. In the other corner, Toy Biz's WCW Tuff Talkin' Wrestlers, large action figures modeled after trash-talking TV wrestlers that spew forth more than 100 different ad hominem challenges.
"We feel they're going to be big just because they're such a wow," says Kathryn Maciel, Toy Biz vice president of marketing, of the first four, 12-inch macho wrestlers--Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page and Sting--that shipped to toy stores at the end of August. The company plans to unveil four more of the Tuff Talkin' Wrestlers ($39.95 for a set of two) in time for the Christmas rush.
The prospective audience? Youngsters, ages 4 and older, who cling to every insult uttered on TV's boisterous World Championship Wrestling matches, Maciel says. "We try to re-create the wrestling experience for kids. We figure the kids who watch WCW programming are the main target."
Besides the muscled deltoids and banal bantering in the voice of the actual wrestler, Toy Biz is betting that its Smart Sense technology, built into each figure's chest, will capture the imagination of wrestling fans and even a wider market. The infrared sensors enable each Tuff Talkin' Wrestler to recognize and antagonize each of the others--and even address their remarks to kids who dare twist their legs or pile-drive their heads.
"I'm Goldberg and I fear no man!" yaps the bald and tattooed Goldberg figure, his mouth moving in sync, in a typical shouting match.
"Goldberg, you can't survive my jackknife power bomb!" the longhaired, pretty-boy Kevin Nash figure shouts back.
"Nash, get ready for the jackhammer!" the Goldberg doll warns.
Pin the Nash figure for the count of three and you'll hear the bell ding, and the wrestler lament his defeat: "Big sexy will get you next time!"
"It's all programmed in their chip," says Maciel, who expresses no doubt about who would still be standing when the dust settles if Tuff Talkin' toys mixed it up with Furby or OOglies. "In and of themselves, Tuff Talkers are fantastic toys--and they also react to each other. They know what's going on. You can turn Goldberg around and the other one will say, 'Hey, Goldberg, face me like a man!' And you can play with them without the other figure. You twist one's arm and they talk back to you."
Maciel's not expecting any backlash from parents over kids mimicking trash talk, however. "If kids are watching the shows, they're seeing far more," she says. "And WCW wrestling is not that edgy. There is definitely the good-guy-bad-guy story line going on, but it is not violent, not profanity. It's just a lot of bravado."
OOglies, on the other hand, are just a lot of "hilarious laughter and sound effects," says Ryan Slate, vice president of marketing at Playmates, who acknowledges the alien creatures' direct challenge to Furby. "The ability to interact with the character in a kind of a nonsensical manner--to laugh along with it, to ask it questions and get answers in OOglie gibberish, basically have fun with it and be entertained by it--that's the overall nature of the product."
Conceptually a combination of Tickle Me Elmo, Furby and a 1975 American Motors Pacer, OOglies ($14.95) arrive on toy store shelves this month in various disguises--from ballerinas to cowboys to football players. And, there's the plain old OOglie.
Jump-start an OOglie by pulling its tail. After saying hello, it goes into warm-ups for uncontrollable hysteria should you tickle its feet. The more you twist an OOglie's foot, the more the vibrating alien laughs, its eyes changing colors and spinning, body wobbling into motion. To calm an OOglie down, pat it on the head.
But OOglies are made to be more than just a laugh riot. Like Furbys, they talk a language all their own, uttering OOglie phrases when their heads are pushed down and "telling fortunes" when their heads are held down. Pulling an OOglie's tail just right causes it to make more sound effects--any of which it can memorize.
"They were developed as these alien creatures from outer space who hit Earth and try to morph into the first thing that makes them laugh," says Slate. The initial wave of OOglies will consist of four characters, with 24 more to follow before the end of the year--which, at their modest price, encourages collectibility.
"The transformation is never complete, but they become all kinds of different characters. Some people like the cows because they collect cows. Some people like the football character and its burps . . . And there's the whole added feature with the added tunes; one of them can burp out 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.' It's sheer entertainment."
Stevanne Auerbach has another take on the upstart OOglies, and especially on insult-slinging wrestler dolls. "These products last as long as a grunt," says Auerbach--also known as "Dr. Toy"--who is in Milan this week lecturing some 200 international toy-industry execs on the art of the toy. Her books, syndicated column and Web site (www.drtoy.com) review toys and advocate for positive play and long-lasting goodness in toys. "I think toys should be more than grunts and groans and silly stuff that have no substance overall."
Or, as one mother of young children who inadvertently witnessed an OOglie's high-pitched seizure put it, before laughing herself, "Oh, God. No."
CAPTION: The contenders: A WCW Tuff Talkin' Wrestler and an OOglie.