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Star Wars

Star Wars

Posted: December 08, 1999

By Katka Krosnar

Two-year-old Lukas Lilling runs around the toy store, his wispy blond hair bobbing and his big, brown eyes marveling at the brightly colored cars and trucks that he pulls off the racks one by one. Moments later, he turns his attention to the LEGO blocks in a quiet corner and starts to piece them together. "He wants a toy car or bus this Christmas, and a rocking horse," says his smiling mother, Vera Lillingova. But Lukas is unusual. This Christmas, most children in the Czech Republic seem to have just two words on their lips: Star Wars. Stockings all over the country are set to bulge with memorabilia from the sci-fi movie Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. Gift options range from plastic Star Wars figures costing around 450 Kc ($13) and T-shirts at 370 Kc, to scary-looking masks for 1,599 Kc and Star Wars LEGO sets at 2,225 Kc. 'It's ugly, but I like it' On the ground floor of Sparky's toy store in Prague 1, the Krtek soft toys, based on a traditional Czech mole cartoon character, almost look forlorn as youngsters from a Prague 7 school run right past them. The children head for the Ziggle toys, which shake and giggle hysterically at any sound or motion. Before long, the 8-year-olds are pulling apart the Star Wars display, giggling as they pick up rubber masks based on the movie's main characters. "It's ugly, but I like it," one 8-year-old girl says as she grasps one of the masks. "I really like the Star Wars stuff," a boy in her class adds. Erik Johanson and Walter Juslin, fourth graders at the International School of Prague, both have their eyes on the Star Wars LEGO sets, while Jack Dea, 10, is after a Nintendo 64 game machine with the "Shadows of the Empire" Star Wars game. The reason? "Because Star Wars is really popular and it's really cool," Jack replied. Jack's mother, Claudia Dea, has her own explanation. "I think the film's popularity is due to the fact that the original Star Wars fans are now parents and have passed that enthusiasm on to our children, and are therefore happy to buy the stuff for them," she says. In another part of the store, Lukas Jakes, 9, enthusiastically points to the Action Man display, which features models selling for around 1,149 Kc. "I already have five Action Man figures. I like the way they can move and shoot. And my father likes Action Man too," he says. Ondra Klokocnik, 9, shares his enthusiasm. "I have one Action Man and want another one," he says. "I don't know exactly why I like him, but all my friends have them too, so we can play with them together." Of the store's 10,000 toy varieties, brand names such as Action Man, LEGO, Barbie and Chicco are the top sellers, says Katharine Butler, director of Sparky's. "These toys are heavily advertised, and despite their price people buy them feeling they can rely on their quality, name and internationality," Butler says. "Traditional toys - wooden toys, balls and blocks - tend to sell proportionately less at Christmas, although Krtek is popular with tourists." Dolls are still in Despite the trend, dolls remain high on girls' wish lists. For young girls, Baby Born is one of the most-wanted toys. The 2,000 Kc doll cries and wets itself and comes complete with a whole range of accessories to match the human equivalent - from diapers, bottles and pacifiers to baby carriages and cots priced from 85 Kc. The new 999 Kc Sleeping Beauty Barbie model is also popular. "We have a much cheaper alternative make, Steffi [for 235 Kc], but girls just don't want it. They want the original," says Radmila Tomoski, a buyer for Sparky's. At Tesco, it's a similar story. Star Wars figures and radio-controlled cars are selling well for boys, while Baby Born and Sleeping Beauty Barbie are the most popular choices for girls. "The choice of toys depends very much on marketing campaigns. Children want what they see advertised on television," says Marcela Bechtoldova, head of the store's toy department. In the face of so much brash consumerism, some children do give selfless answers when asked what they want for Christmas. "Some clothes, a small teddy bear, and I wish we would all be healthy," 9-year-old Terezka Petraskova replied shyly. - Jana Bauerova contributed to this report.

By Katka Krosnar

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