Mattel to tout tween Dora, Elmo gloves in '09

NEW YORK Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:50pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A "tweenage" Dora the Explorer doll and a pair of ticklish Elmo gloves will be among the mostly moderately priced toys unveiled by Mattel Inc for 2009, as it tries to entice consumers in a recession-ridden economy.

Mattel, the world's top toymaker, and others such as rival Hasbro Inc will introduce their top products for 2009 at the American International Toy Fair that begins on February 15 in New York.

Mattel's latest Dora doll, priced at $59.99, is set to appeal to girls aged five and older, and is a grown-up version of the popular Dora the Explorer cartoon character. The doll can be computer-customized to change the color of its eyes and the length of its hair.

"Elmo Tickle Hands" are furry, red gloves that vibrate and produce laughter like the Elmo Sesame Street character when the wearer touches something. Average retail price for the gloves will be $29.99.

U.S. toymakers are still reeling from the 2008 holiday season, which turned out to be the weakest in almost four decades as consumers cut back sharply on spending.

Toy analysts and experts say that consumers want inexpensive toys or ones that cater to the entire family when they do make purchases while contenting with job loss, household budget crunch and tighter credit.

To attract stay-at-home consumers this year, Mattel will sell "Mindflex" -- a $79.99 game that challenges players to control a small ball using the electrical activity of the brain. The game was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Mattel said.

The company is also planning a line of African-American fashion dolls for later this year, aiming at almost the same demographic as the Bratz dolls, which Mattel won the rights to in 2008. But the new line was not its way of competing with the multiethnic Bratz, said Michelle Chidoni, a Mattel spokeswoman.

"It is not to answer the competition. It's just a commentary on the state of the world," she said, referring to the election of President Barack Obama.

Mattel shares closed down slightly at $15.40 on Thursday, and are off their year high of nearly $22 in April.

(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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