Originally created 09/20/06

Getting tickled



EAST AURORA, N.Y. - He's still red, fuzzy and really ticklish, but now Elmo's laughing fits have him slapping his knee, falling to the floor, rolling over and pounding his arm.

Fisher-Price, a unit of Mattel Inc., on Tuesday took the wraps off T.M.X. Elmo, ending months of unprecedented secrecy that's had the toy industry abuzz. Until the unveiling, only about 50 people had seen it.

Predicted to be a hot holiday seller, the new and improved Tickle Me Elmo made its debut on ABC's Good Morning America.

The "X" in T.M.X. stands for extreme.

"When I originally saw a picture of how it moves, I really thought there were some sort of wires, like a puppet, moving it," said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of Toy Wishes, a trade publication. "We've never seen a stuffed animal that has this type of movement."

The debut of T.M.X. Elmo was timed to the 10th anniversary of Tickle Me Elmo, the must-have toy of Christmases past that giggled when its stomach was pressed. In the new version, Elmo's squeaky laugh and body movements grow more pronounced with three successive tickles.

Mattel president Neil Friedman had been president of Tyco Toys, now a unit of Mattel, when it launched the original Tickle Me Elmo, which had parents of preschoolers elbowing each other in the aisles.

"With today's technology, this one is even more incredible," Mr. Friedman said. "You really have to see it to believe it."

Executives at KB Toys Inc. and Toys R Us Inc. said pre-orders for the toy, which retails for $39.99, have exceeded expectations.