German cross-eyed opossum to land in Oscar gift bags

BERLIN Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:31am EST

An undated handout picture made available to Reuters on February 11, 2011, shows the famous cross-eyed opossum Heidi in Leipzig Zoo. REUTERS/Zoo Leipzig

An undated handout picture made available to Reuters on February 11, 2011, shows the famous cross-eyed opossum Heidi in Leipzig Zoo.

Credit: Reuters/Zoo Leipzig

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's superstar cross-eyed opossum Heidi will travel to Hollywood for the Academy Awards after all, appearing as a plush toy in celebrity "goodie bags" at Sunday's annual awards show.

German toymaker Koesener struck a deal at a recent toy fair in New York to get its toy of the white-haired marsupial into gift bags at the Oscars.

Heidi became a star in Germany when her photo appeared in the mass-circulation newspaper Bild in December, but her international following has blossomed into appearances on U.S. television and a Facebook following of more than 315,000.

Koesener has been manufacturing an officially licensed 20 cm (8 inches) Heidi plush toy, complete with crossed eyes, for the past two weeks.

"This is a great opportunity for a small firm like us," Helmut Schache, who runs the century-old firm with his daughter Constance, told Reuters.

"My wish is that one of the celebrities will hold the toy up to the camera, but we'll see if that happens," he said.

Oscar nominees, presenters and other high-profile guests are often given goodie bags stashed with luxury items and vouchers.

Promotional firms help companies use gift bags as a way to get their product into the hands of celebrities, but awards shows discontinued their official gift bags -- reportedly worth up to $100,000 -- several years ago because of tax implications.

Schache, whose firm employs 40 in the eastern German spa village of Bad Koesen, said that he intends to stay up well past midnight local time to watch the Academy Awards.

Usually, he just watches the highlights the following day.

Hollywood's annual Academy Awards are on February 27 in Los Angeles.