Santa by subscription; Is the new Toy Wishes magazine the ultimate buying guide, or the ultimate shopping temptation for kids?; MATERIAL WORLD


Just in time for the holidays -- OK, if you're ready for the holidays already, you have some major issues in your life to work out -- comes the new magazine Toy Wishes, which will either leave parents cheering wildly or gritting their teeth so hard they pop a blood vessel.

The slick, 232-page glossy hits newsstands Oct. 5 and promises, in a folksy publisher's letter, to "help you pick the newest, coolest and hottest toys for the holiday season."

It's the "you" in that last sentence that might bother some people.

Is Toy Wishes -- "The Ultimate Holiday Toy Buying Guide" -- simply a helpful tool for harried parents, who can now preview the new toys at their leisure without gunning the car over to Toys R Us and trading elbows with the howling holiday shopping mob?

Or is this a thinly veiled marketing ploy directed at the kids themselves, a glittering, enticing tour through Toy Valhalla that will leave the little monsters giddy with excitement as they stab a fat little finger at each page and squeal: "I want that! I want that! I want that!"

In October, no less.

On the phone from his Congers, N.Y., office, on a day almost clear enough to see the gleaming towers of Manhattan commerce in the distance, Jim Silver, one of the magazine's co-publishers, earnestly lays out his publication's mission.

"It's targeted for both" parents and kids, he says. "A 3-year-old can look at all the toys. A 5-to-7-year-old can look at all the toys and read about them, too.

"And the features are what the parents will read ... and all the [information] on the toys."

In its inaugural issue -- Toy Wishes will be published annually, with an initial press run of 350,000 copies -- the publication previews "over 500 toys your kids want," as well as features on how parents can ease the stress of holiday shopping, safety tips to enhance a child's "playing experience," and where to go when you're ready to buy.

There is also a complete listing of customer service telephone numbers and Web site addresses for every toy manufacturer the magazine features.

But lest we forget who else is being targeted here, the front cover, ablaze with colorful Pikachu, Barbie, Elmo and Darth Maul dolls and action figures, screams that there are "4 Free Exclusive Pokemon Trading Cards" inside, along with "Free Teletubbies Gift Tags, Nickelodeon Stickers and More!"

Silver, who has three young kids of his own, also publishes the Toy Book, a leading industry trade publication.

His work there, he said, proved to be the inspiration for Toy Wishes.

"For years, I've gone on hundreds of TV shows and [done] magazine and newspaper interviews, and every holiday season I'm inundated with the same question: 'What's the hot toy for kids?' " he says. "That's what we're trying to [answer] here."

Still, some parents may be less than impressed with the Toy Wishes "Wish List" cards, which, according to the magazine "enable kids to customize their wish lists and send them directly to their favorite gift-givers: Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Harry in Roanoke -- even Santa at the North Pole."

To some, this may seem like a shameless way for kids to hit up their relatives for gifts, as well as a convenient way for busy parents to find out what their kids want for the holidays without actually interacting with them. ("Ashley, Mommy and Daddy have to run to the office. Fill this card out and put it on my bureau, OK, Sweetie?")

But Silver says he has yet to hear any criticism ("No, none whatsoever") regarding the Wish List cards.

"Most parents ask kids to make lists anyway," he insists.

By the way, this year's hottest toy for the holidays, according to Toy Wishes, is something called Amazing Ally (Playmate Toys, $69.99).

Ally is a cute doll, dressed in a blue jumper, blue tights and striped turtleneck, with a mop of blond hair. Her attraction? She "won't ever stop talking to you -- unless her batteries run low!"

Which means some parents may conveniently forget the extra set of Duracells this Christmas.

Got to have these

Some Toy Wishes hot toys for the holiday season:

* Furby Babies (Tiger Electronics, $29.99): The Furbies have spawned. And, yes, the kids speak our language, too.

* Intel Play QX3 Computer Microscope (Mattel, $99.99): "Kids can magnify any object, display it on their home computer and use the included software to creatively manipulate the image ..."

* Interactive Yoda (Tiger Electronics, no price listed): Wise old "Star Wars" dude is now "voice-activated ..."

* Pokemon Fossil Cards (Wizards of the Coast, $3.29): Like a huge, money-making tsunami, the Pokemon craze rolls on.

* Rock and Roll Elmo (Fisher-Price, $29.99): Elmo rules on stage in a cool leather jacket, heavy-duty sneakers and light-up guitar!

* 12-inch Talking Darth Maul (Hasbro, $29.99): Everyone's favorite "Stars Wars" bad guy wields a double-bladed light saber to go along with that badly sunburned face.

* Working Woman Barbie (Mattel, $29.99): Smartly tailored suit? Check. Briefcase? Check. Cell phone? Check. Barbie's ready to play hardball in today's corporate world!

Pub Date: 09/26/99

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