Tickle Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo

Synopsis of Toy

Successful toys are frequent, but toy crazes are rare. For a toy to become a full-blown craze, the situation requires much more than a well-made toy. It has to hit at just the right time, have the perfect gimmick, and get just the right amount of exposure to cause the pure pandemonium that marks the finest toy crazes. A textbook example of this kind of phenomenon is the mania that surrounded the Tickle Me Elmo doll. All the factors necessary to make a craze fell right into place for this talking toy, and the result was one of the most wildly-successful dolls since the Cabbage Patch Kids.

The Tickle Me Elmo craze began innocently enough in 1996 when inventor Ron Dubren saw a couple of kids playing in the park. Watching the youngsters tickle each other until they erupted in giggle-fits, Dubren got the idea to create a stuffed animal that would react in a similar way when tickled by its owner. He created a stuffed monkey with an electronic computer chip housed in its stomach that would produce a “giggle” when it was tickled. Most toy companies passed on the toy, but one company kept Dubren and his idea in mind. Tyco liked the doll, but were forced to pass on it because they did not make plush dolls at the time.

When Tyco got the license to make dolls based on Sesame Street characters, they tapped Dubren and his ticklish-doll idea. They applied the technology to Elmo, a childlike red puppet who was a favorite with young Sesame Street fans. The result was Tickle Me Elmo, a doll who presented a unique series of reactions to a tickle-attack. The first tickle made him giggle. The second tickle made him say “Oh, no! That tickles.” The third tickle was the clincher, making Tickle Me Elmo erupt into a flurry of infectious giggles that was guaranteed to make kids happy.

Tyco released Tickle Me Elmo just in time for the holiday shopping season of 1996. Although Elmo dolls had been available long before Tickle Me Elmo, the new toy quickly became popular. This popularity got a shot in the arm when celeb Rosie O’Donnell prominently featured the doll and sung its praises on her talk show. The constant television exposure she gave it transformed Tickle Me Elmo from a popular toy to a full-on craze. When the supply of dolls became short, mob scenes began occurring at many stores, and some of them began selling the dolls for double and triple their original price. Some would-be entrepreneurs bought up all the Elmos they could find so they could re-sell them for prices of up to $2,500.

The Tickle Me Elmo craze blew over after the holiday season passed, but the mania it inspired lingers in the memory of many people. Tickle Me Elmo is not currently available at toy stores, but it remains a hot item at knick-knack emporiums and online auctions. Several other interactive Elmos have hit the market as well (Rock 'N Roll Elmo, Country Elmo and so on), and pals like Baby Tickle Me Cookie Monster and Baby Tickle Me Big Bird have kept the ticklish giggles coming. He may no longer have the power to inspire mob scenes, but Tickle Me Elmo and the bedlam he inspired will go down in history as one of the greatest toy crazes of all time.

Release History of Toy

1996 - Tickle Me Elmo

Sub Categories of Toys

electronic toys
tv tie-in

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