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Disney unveils Playmation, a new line of wearable, high-tech toys

Disney unveils Playmation, a new line of wearable, high-tech toys

Walt Disney Co. unveiled a new toy line that combines motion sensors and wearable technology to encourage kids to run outside and play.

Called Playmation, the toys will center around blockbuster Disney franchises such as Avengers, Star Wars and Frozen. It marks a bold step for Disney, which has traditionally licensed out its brands to toy companies instead of designing its own toys in-house.

The first playthings for sale in October will include an Avengers-themed starter kit with an Iron Man-like glove that can be worn by kids and adults, along with four other smart toys, including two actions figures. The kit will cost around $120.

Children who don the glove will be guided by a narrator on missions that require them to jump and run around. They can interact with another player wearing a glove and with the action figures. A free app also provides additional stories, characters and locations to play along with.

“What we are doing is using light, sound and that physical feedback -- all coordinating with the connected toys in the system -- to really bring this fantasy to life,” said Afsoun Yazdian, director of product management for Playmation.

At a product demonstration on Tuesday, a young girl demonstrating the game was visibly out of breath as she ran around dodging an attack from Ultron, the artificial intelligence intent on destroying the human race that is the bogeyman of the latest Avengers movie.

Kareem Daniel of Disney Consumer Products said the toys "make active, physical play even more fun and entertaining for kids."

"Parents certainly believe that today, technology is increasingly becoming a natural part of kids' lives," said Daniel, senior vice president of strategy and business development. "That said, they often express a degree of nostalgia for ... the active way that they've played growing up."

Daniel said the technology that underpins Playmation, which allows toys to interact with kids and choreograph play, was not available even five years ago.

“The way kids are playing today is evolving -- their desires and expectations are changing accordingly,” he said. “What we did with Playmation was use technology to bring our stories and characters to life in a way that frankly we were never able to before.”

Jaime Katz, an analyst at Morningstar, said Playmation was another way for Disney to get its highly popular Avengers brand to the public.

Children will "love to behave like the characters they admire, and this brings that ability to life," she said. "It gets them out of the house and being physically active rather than just sitting behind tablets to get their technology fix."

Katz said that although the $120 price tag is high for a toy, there's definitely a market for higher-end play items with new technology.

Toy maker Hasbro is manufacturing and distributing the line on behalf of Disney. Disney said Star Wars-themed kits will be available in 2016, and toys centered on Frozen will follow in 2017.

Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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