Five helmeted action heroes have karate-kicked Sega off Santa's list. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, those evil-battling figures based on a hit television show, are the most sought-after toys this Christmas.
"It is the most unbelievable phenomenon we've seen in the toy industry--as soon as we get them in, within a day or two, they've all sold out," said Michael Goldstein, chief executive officer of Toys R Us Inc.
"It's a full year now (that they've been on the market) and it's bigger than anything we've seen since Cabbage Patch Kids," Goldstein said.
While Power Rangers are the talk of the toy stores, video games are fading, giving makers of traditional toys a chance for bigger sales. Barney is past his prime. But Barbie, who appears to have discovered the fountain of youth yet again, still is the best-selling doll.
Goldstein said many shoppers will be lucky to find Power Rangers, simply because demand is so strong. Bandai America, which makes the toys, has 16 factories turning them out, but there still may not be enough.
So far, no near-riots have been reported in toy stores among parents scrambling to get Power Rangers, unlike the Cabbage Patch dolls, which set off several highly publicized fights.
Anyone selling anything with the Power Rangers name, such as clothes, books and games, will do well. Tyco Toys expects $1 million in sales of Power Rangers Viewmaster slides. "We can't make enough of them," spokesman Bruce Maguire said.
The Power Rangers' success has spilled over to other products in the action figure lineup, giving lines like Batman, X-Men, Samurai Warriors and Biker Mice from Mars a boost, Goldstein said.
Industry analysts agree that the Power Rangers, who mutate into gladiators that save the world, are what's known in the industry as a megahit.
"It's consuming the industry like nothing has for years," said John Taylor, who tracks the toy business for L. H. Alton & Co.
Some big stars of past holiday seasons aren't showing up on wish lists this year, especially video games. After peaking with an estimated 35% of the overall toy market, video's share is now about 20% by some estimates.
To some extent, video games have been displaced by computer games, especially those available in the fast-growing CD-ROM format, which are growing in popularity with children as well as adults.
But video is still a billion-dollar business and still has big hits, including Super Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country game and Sega's Sonic and Knuckles.
Dinosaurs, whether they're the Jurassic Park variety or plush Barney dolls, are also in retreat this year.
But Barbie, a perennial best seller, "is literally off the charts," Goldstein said. Manufacturer Mattel has found another winning formula for Barbie, making her pose-able. Even My Size Barbie, as tall as a little girl and selling for more than $100, is doing well.
Among baby dolls, Taylor found no single standout, although he said Tyco's My Pretty Topsy Tail and All Star Toys' Tattoodles are particularly popular.
Part of the Power Ranger success is due partly to their unisex appeal. Two Power Rangers are girls. Bandai America, in addition to the regular action figures, sells dressable dolls with long, flowing hair based on those characters.
But Taylor said sales of traditional dolls haven't been hurt by the Power Rangers.
Tiger Electronics said its Talkboy tape recorder, featured in the movie "Home Alone 2," likely will sell out for a second holiday season.
Of course, children also love gross and disgusting stuff too. So another big seller is Tyco's Doctor Dreadful mini-laboratories to make edible worms and warts.