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Burger King’s ‘Toy Story’ Box Is Nearly Empty : Marketing: Response to movie promotion has fast-food chain scrambling to deal with screaming small fry.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kids hoping to get miniature versions of toys from the runaway hit movie “Toy Story” at Burger King may be in for a big disappointment.

Many of the fast-food chain’s outlets nationwide say they are quickly running out of the action figures just two weeks into the company’s 5 1/2-week promotional tie-in with the film. Children have been snatching them up at a much faster-than-anticipated rate, leaving company officials scrambling to come up with a way to make up for the shortfall.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 7, 1995 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 7, 1995 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Financial Desk 2 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Toy Story--Equity Marketing Inc. of Los Angeles is the provider of miniature “Toy Story” figurines and puppets to Burger King. Thinkway Toys of Toronto owns the master license to manufacture the items. An article in Tuesday’s editions incorrectly identified Thinkway’s involvement.

“We’re practically sold out,” said Camilo Lujan, manager of a Burger King in the Crenshaw district. In the second week of the promotion, he said, his restaurant had sold more than half its supply of figurines and puppets.

Stores also reported that sales of Burger King Kids Meals have skyrocketed. The promotion--under which the toys can be purchased with Kids Meals for an additional $1.99--began Nov. 16 and is scheduled to end Dec. 31.

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Ofelia Burton, assistant manager of a Burger King franchise in Eagle Rock, said her store has sold more than 600 of the pint-size Kids Meals every day since the start of the promotion. That’s up from the usual 125.

She added that her restaurant has run out of the most popular items and only has the Army men action figures left. To dry the tears of the most upset customers, workers at the Eagle Rock store have put aside a handful of Buzz Lightyear and Woody items--by far the most popular--for the youngest customers who start crying or throwing a tantrum when they learn there are no more left.

The fast-food conglomerate purchased 35 million of the figurines and puppets for its promotion. The toys were produced by Thinkway Toys of Toronto. Officials at Thinkway said they and Burger King are examining ways to make up for the shortfall.

Burger King confronted this problem in 1994, when the chain quickly ran out of its “Lion King” action figures. The company quickly shifted gears and distributed 20 million trading cards to replace the movie toys.

Nestle, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid and Payless Shoe Source also have marketing tie-ins with the popular film, but are not selling figurines or puppets.

“Toy Story” has grossed $64 million in its first two weeks, making it the most popular film of the 1995 holiday season.


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