- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2009

NEW YORK — It’s another year filled with pop-culture products and, even with a very down economy, you can be sure toy companies are going to wring every dollar out of any viable licensed property based on comic books, cartoons, video games and movies.

Here’s continued coverage of the 106th American International Toy Fair.

* Bandai America-Akira Toriyama’s famed manga and anime universe becomes a live-action movie - Dragonball Evolution - in April. Bandai is ready with a pair of action-figure collections.

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First is a set of 4-inch articulated figures ($7.99 each, May) featuring characters such as Goku, Yamcha, Piccolo, Roshi and Bulma in their film design form. Each figure comes with a piece to build a big ape transformation named Oozaru and insert card to form a Shenron Dragon. Also, the 6-inch Fast-Acting series ($10.99 each, May) gives children a similar set of characters, but each has a ripcord in its back that when pulled unleashes a rapid punching or kicking action.

* Mattel-The home of Barbie and DC Comics’ mass-market action figures and toy lines. Oddly, the DC Universe figures - along with figures devoted to He-Man and Ghostbusters - were a mysterious lot, relegated to the far corner of the showroom, on display for a limited time and viewed by invitation only. I felt as if I were looking at watches in an alley. I suggest checking out the Mattel Online Store (www.mattycollector.com). It’s difficult to get too excited about the lineups.

However, what was easily accessible was a collection paying tribute to the Caped Crusader’s new animated show, “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” A child-friendly collection of 5-inch-tall figures will continue to trickle onto store shelves this year, including Batman, Plastic Man, Green Arrow and a pretty maniacal-looking Joker. I’m betting the 7-year-old crowd will most appreciate the Sky Force Batmobile ($34.99, June). A simple tug on the right points of the vehicle quickly transforms it into a Batjet.

* Jakks Pacific-Jakks owns the costumer Disguise and offers the ladies a Halloween treat. Specifically, comics’ most fashionable females come to life in the Women of Marvel Costume Collection ($39.99 to $99.99). Disguise’s Sassy Prestige line offers flirty garb for teens and adults with costumes featuring a minidress, glovettes, thigh-high boot covers and, when appropriate, cape and eye mask. Look for versions of Spider-Girl, Black Suited Spider-Girl, American Dream (Captain America), Black Cat and Emma Frost this fall.

* Lego-The company celebrates 10 years of producing “Star Wars”-themed building kits with another potent lineup from a galaxy far, far away. Reaching toy shelves in August is the mega play set Battle of Chewbacca, two Scout Troopers and three redesigned Ewoks, also will make collectors happy.

Also, the massive Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the blocky reproduction features an opening front panel to access Chancellor Palpatine’s chamber and a built-in handle to guide the ship easily for in-air battles. Of course, youngsters get a handful of miniature characters to staff the cruiser with two senate commandos, a clone pilot, clone gunner and a DragonBall Z-looking version of Palpatine.

Indiana Jones with more buildable sets covering the four-film franchise. Arriving in August, the Fighter Plane Attack (384 pieces, $49.99) re-creates a harrowing scene from “The Last Crusade” as Indy and his dad try to escape from Nazi forces. The set includes a biplane (with bullet-riddled tail fin), fighter plane and miniature versions of the father and son.

More epic is the Temple of Doom play set (652 pieces, $89.99) providing a mine car that runs on a couple feet of track winding among the temple, stone dumping cart and barriers. Miniature versions of Indiana Jones, Short Round, Mola Ram and two of his minions wielding big weapons are included.

* USAopoly-The company known for its stylish melding of pop-culture licenses and classic board games has a trio worth watching for this year.

A pair of games under the Monopoly brand is sure to tempt fans. Not only does “Hasbro’s famed action figures also get a tribute in the Monopoly G.I. Joe Collector’s Edition ($35.95, June). The game takes collectors back to the 1980s cartoon as they trade and buy locations and bases from the show.

Next, Arcadia.

Notes from the floor

* MegaBrands revealed a buildable play set based on the Halo Wars video game. Cool stuff indeed, especially with mini-block-figure versions of Master Chief and his squad.

* Rubies Costumes offers the kiddies a couple of “Terminator Salvation” costumes. Children can trick-or-treat as John Connor (buckled jacket, pants and gloves) or as a gruesome T-600 (molded mask and jumpsuit).

* Diamond Select Toys presents another group of diverse movie Minimates that includes odes to “The Godfather,” “Ghostbusters,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “The Spirit” and some particularly fun “Terminator 2” characters.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).

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