- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2019

Here are the top gift picks featuring interactive friends.


What is it? A 2.4 GHz remote-controlled beast requiring 3 AAA batteries (included) and 4 AA batteries
Gift group:
Youngsters 6 and older looking for a fight

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Santa’s scoop: The Alpha Groups’ two-fisted, softball-sized, red-and-black spiked creature with glowing red eyes rolls, growls, spins and smashes with help from an engaged child.

Once paired, the included controller offers twin-stick action to turn and move forward and back the Grrrumball using its two rubberized tracks. A pair of bumper triggers delivers either a wild spin motion or allows the beast to lift and drop its arms.

Additionally, the little fellow makes sounds like a Jawa when activated and heard through the controller’s onboard speaker.

Although the rugged design makes for some serious indoor and outdoor action, the spinning motion is the star trick of the show as the creature twirled so fast I thought is was going to take flight.

Gift givers should note, obviously, the best way to appreciate Grrrumball is with another of its brethren, as the potential for battles and races will keep owners busy for hours. The cost should certainly allow for a pair of these guys to show up for the holidays.


What is it? An interactive flying pet
Gift group:
Children 6 and older looking for an easy-to-maintain feathery companion

Santa’s scoop: Spin Master’s 4-inch-tall plastic baby owl with just a pinch of soft blue feathers offers a wide range tricks and sounds as a child learn some basic tips all about taking care of and loving a pet.

It twists, moves its head, does a lot of hoots and sings as its eyes change color even offering the occasional “mama” in a too-cute voice that will make an adult’s heart melt.

Nine different glowing eye-color signals mixed with more than 100 sounds lets an owner know how Owleez is feeling, and sensors in its forehead, beak and belly help to take care of it.

For example, yellow eyes means it’s hungry, and the owner puts the included bunch of berries up to its beak to hear a munching sound. Or, green eyes means it’s gassy, and owners gently taps its back to hear a flatulent noise and giggle.

When not being held or played with on a flat surface, Owleez resides in a blue nest that acts as a charging station (USB compatible) as well as flight pad.

That’s right, after enough nurturing, Owleez will take to the skies.

The extended magic of the interactive creature is its ability to fly indoors. When its eyes turn a rainbow color, it will make a triumphant sound and take flight from the nest using a pair of blade-like wings revealed as its mid-section opens up.

Make sure, it has plenty to room to maneuver and holding hands underneath helps guide it around a room. The transformation is a starling helicopter-buzzing effect and its blades move super fast, so parents should keep an eye on the youngest of owners and keep their faces away from the rugged Owleez as it buzzes around.

The baby owl will not disappoint, and as it evolves even more behavior surprises, such as a color match game, await owners.


What is it? A furry curious bear cub that requires 4 C batteries
Gift group:
Preschoolers not ready to take care of a pet but ready to fall in love with one

Santa’s scoop: Hasbro’s spin on Teddy Ruxpin offers to its FurReal line-up a plush animatronic creature standing 18 inches tall to the tuft of its brown head hair and with more than 100 sound and motion combinations.

With sensors in its paw, nose, cheeks, tummy and top of its head, the bear responds to touch with moving eyes and eyelids, an opening mouth, moving arms, ears and twisting head.

The lifelike chatty bear also giggles, sings, laughs, sneezes, sniffles, purrs and responds to sound. Owners can talk to the cub around 6 inches away, and it will start babbling to them with a sort of “Scooby-Doo”-style dialect.

Use the included bottle with honeycomb to feed it or the brush to keeps its fur nice and clean.

A welcomed nighttime mode has its eyes closed, arms in a hugging position and plays soft music or ambient forest sounds for roughly five minutes.


What is it? A feisty interactive baby elephant that requires 4 AA batteries
Gift group:
Kind zoo trainers in the making

Santa’s scoop: Spin Master’s animal collection now adds a playful purple pachyderm with tufts of pink hair on its head and tail, big blue eyes and a moving trunk as it looks for some affection from new owners.

Touch sensors on its forehead, cheeks, mid-trunk, a back button, a trunk end detector and poseable back legs help bring the 12-inch-tall beast to life as it makes playful noises, sneezes, spins its trunk, flaps ears, bows down, gives the owner a kiss and even trumpets its approval.

Initially turning Juno on has the shy creature hiding it eyes behind its two floppy cloth ears that will elicit an “aww” from everyone in the room.

Once more comfortable, the elephant, with 150 lifelike movements and sounds unleashes the charm and welcomes cuddling. It’s eventually willing to take an included peanut to eat and throw around and even play with its small mouse companion.

As owners continue to train their new pet, it will dance, sing and even play a round of peek-a-boo.

More chatty creatures great and small

SpongeBob StretchPants (Alpha Group and Nickelodeon, for ages 4 and older, requires 2 AA batteries included, $24.99) — Get a hands-on dose of that wacky sea dweller with this 7-inch-tall, rubbery and hard plastic figure dress in his traditional garb and offering fond memories of when Stretch Armstrong ruled the toy store aisles.

One or more humans can pull on its rubber arms and legs to elicit more than 30 phrases from the legend including “now that’s a stretch,” “OK, that’s too far,” and “these pants sure are reliable” while always accompanied by his annoying laugh or screams of joy that is guaranteed to drive parents nuts, and that’s a good thing, kiddies.

His arms stretch more than 2 feet long and his legs about 6 inches each, but it would have been even more impressive if an owner could boink his rubbery nose and also get some audio action.

Psst, parental units, there is an off switch.

Movin’ Lips Mr. Potato Head (Playskool, for ages 3 and older, requires 3 AA batteries included, $24.99) — A classic toy that has been around since the 1950s gets a pinch of an interactive upgrade with help of a magnet mouth and sounds.

This 7-inch-tall chatty spud features more than 40 phrases and four songs when buttons are pushed on either shoe.

Press the yellow button to hear “Hey pull my finger, no wait that comes off,” followed by a flatulent sound, or “this conversation is spuddering out.”

Press its purple button to hear it sing a tune such as a parody of the song “Lips are Movin’” by Meghan Trainor,

The cool trick is that its mouth (male and female included) dances around under the potato’s nose and actually opens to match the phrases.

As should be expected, the plastic potato also includes removable arms, ears, eyes, a nose and a hat.

The only thing better is if they had used the late Don Rickles voice (as heard in “Toy Story”) for his various vocalizations.

Ice Blasting Dragon (Zuru, for ages 3 and older, requires 2 AA batteries included, $24.99) — Zuru’s Robo Alive line gives fans of legendary beasts an 11-inch-tall by 18-inch-long (to the tip of its spiked tail) active member of the dragon family.

Turn on the winged figure at its belly, painted in shades of blue and metallic blue, and it comes to life walking along wood floors, twisting its head and opening its mouth to a satisfying roar.

The dragon’s wings manually open, and it will also open its mouth when its eyes glow blue to simulate breathing, complete with another load roar.

Forky (Disney Store, for ages 3 and older, requires 3 LR44 batteries included, $18.95) — One of the stars of the latest “Toy Story” film comes to life as a talkative, 7-inch-tall figure.

Looking like he was plucked from the film, with details down to his owner’s name “Bonnie” spread underneath its popsicle stick feet, Forky also features a plastic fork style body mounted into a blob of gum-like mound and a red, bendable pipe cleaner for arms.

When a child pushes the figure, its feet pop up and down and its body shakes uncontrollably.

Better yet, when a button gets pushed on the gum mound, Forky emotes a dozen phrases such as ”So, I was made by the girl?,’ and ”Can we stop? My sticks are tired” in a vocalization similar to actor Tony Hale (the voice in the film).

The only issue is it’s very hard to hear the phrase so a child will have to hold him close.

Additionally, Forky will respond to other “Toy Story” Interactive figures from the line such as Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

Boppi The Dancing Llama (Zuru, for ages 3 and older, requires 4 AAA batteries included, $19.99) — Well, I think the toy’s name says it all. Zuru’s Pets Alive creation is a too-cute, hyperactive 10-inch-tall, white plush llama with pink ears and feet, and a rainbow-colored tuft of hair on its head.

Owners press a musical note patch on its torso, and Boppi starts shaking its booty and twisting its head and spinning around to one of three song snippets for about 20 seconds.

Boppi apparently went to the Elaine Benes (from “Seinfeld,” of course) school of dancing and also likes shaking to one of the songs that sounds like the theme song from “The Price is Right.”

Children will be mesmerized to be sure, but those last two quirks will endear the creature to adults as well.

Dragonoid Maximus (Spin Master, for ages 6 and older, requires 4 AA batteries included, $44.99)  — The collectible tabletop card game and cartoon franchise Bakugan Battle Planet is alive and well as witnessed by the latest three-dimensional representation of one of its fiercest creatures.

Standing at 8 inches tall when full transformed, this fiery red, orange and green, articulated-winged dragon roars to life with not only a transformation but also lights and sounds.

Owners compact the dragon to half its size and drop the exclusive Titan Dragonoid Bakugan ball (included) on top of the Dragonoid’s back and watch as it unravels into its most powerful evolution while the power core in its chest lights up.

Of course, closing the Dragonoid up will be a challenge to adults, but youngsters will find it a breeze.

Additionally, the Bakugan ball can also get used away from the dragon in the tabletop battle game, opened with a pair of included Baku Cores.

The dragon also comes with an exclusive Dragonoid Maximus character as well as a Titan Dragonoid card to thrill the pure Bakugan fan.

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