Dreams of pop stardom drive holiday sales

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NEW YORK --- Being a rock star has been the closet dream of many a teen.

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Activision Manager Daniyel Garcia demonstrates the Guitar Hero III video game in Santa Monica, Calif. Pop music-inspired toys are one bright spot in a sluggish season for toymakers.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Activision Manager Daniyel Garcia demonstrates the Guitar Hero III video game in Santa Monica, Calif. Pop music-inspired toys are one bright spot in a sluggish season for toymakers.

This holiday season, though, that dream has been embraced by a younger set, and rock star-theme toys inspired by TV hits Hannah Montana and High School Musical 2 have been extremely popular.

As analysts predict a sluggish holiday season overshadowed by toy recalls and an uncertain retail economy, pop-music inspired toys are one bright spot.

"Hannah Montana singing dolls are one of the hottest items on the market," said Jim Silver, the editor-in-chief of Toy Wishes , a trade publication. "Fifteen or 20 years ago, kids would have been listening to kids songs. Now kids after the age of 5 are listening to pop."

Walt Disney Co. owns two of the hottest franchises related to the phenomenon, the Disney Channel TV show Hannah Montana , which stars Miley Cyrus as a secret pop singer, and High School Musical and High School Musical 2 -- with plots revolving around teens putting on a musical.

"What Disney has done so brilliantly is leveraged teenage fascination with music and put it into properties that really appeal to a younger age demographic," said Chris Byrne, a toy analyst.

Jakks Pacific Inc. licenses a variety of Hannah Montana products, and president Stephen Berman said best-sellers include a Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus singing doll, along with a microphone that plays songs through a stereo.

Marc Rosenberg, the chief marketing officer of Zizzle LLC., which licenses many High School Musical toys, said a best-seller is the High School Musical Dance Mat, which challenges users to dance along to its songs.

The rock-star trend transcends the gender barrier as well, Mr. Rosenberg said, noting the popularity of Zizzle's High School Musical Basketball Jam box, a basketball children plug an iPod into.

And related products extend all the way to babies, via Fisher-Price's Little Superstar Sing-Along Stage, said Bob Giampietro, the senior vice president at Toys "R" Us.

Teens are targeted with the recently released video game Guitar Hero III .

Jakks' Mr. Berman said the phenomenon hit home when he attended a Hannah Montana concert with his 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter and was surprised by the energy.

"Adults, kids, no one sat down the whole concert," he said. "I've seen the Rolling Stones and U2, and I've never seen a show like it."


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