NEW YORK – Interactive electronic toys are ready to battle it out for holiday sales records, as the industry-coveted 2005 Hot Dozen toy list was revealed last week in New York City.

Furby is back for round two. About 27 million interactive Furbys were sold seven years ago, when the toy was introduced. Hasbro is counting on the new Furby, with six times more memory, changing facial expressions and a familiar name, to be the blockbuster of this year’s holiday toy sales.

But the odds are against a knockout punch. Also on the list is an electronic toy named iZ, introduced by a new toy company, Zizzle. The founder is Roger Shiffman, a former Hasbro executive who gave the original Furby its boost.

The iZ looks like a cross between an alien ant and a music machine. Kids can press iZ’s belly and other body parts (it’s a stretch to say the thing has ears or antenna) for rhythms, semidisgusting sounds and flashing lights to create an entire musical event. But iZ is also an animatronic interactive speaker, so users can connect it to a CD player, iPod or radio and watch it react. Industry observers say this one has a good shot at being the Toy Industry Association’s Toy of the Year.

But the toys on the Hot Dozen list, predicted by the trade journal Toy Wishes to be most in demand this holiday season, will have to do more than just go the distance to beat the increase in sales of video games.

In 2004, sales for the $20.1 billion toy industry fell 3 percent, according to NPD Funworld, an industry marketing source.

In contrast, 2005 will most likely set a record for video game sales. Retail sales were up 21 percent the first half of the year and are expected to reach $13 billion by the end of December.

The hot dozen

1. Black Belts Karate Home Studio (Spin Master; ages 3 and up; $24.99). The kit includes a training mat, an inflatable bag and a 30-minute instructional VHS or DVD tape.

2. Dora’s Talking Kitchen (Fisher-Price; ages 2 and up; $79.99). The kitchen set offers appropriate phrases in English and Spanish.

3. Fly Wheels Assortment (Jakks Pacific; 8 and up; $4.99-$39.99). This generation of Fly Wheels does stunts including spinouts and high-speed driving.

4. Furby (Hasbro; 8 and up; $39.99). The little critter speaks in English, or “Furbish,” plays games and tells jokes and stories.

5. I-Dog (Hasbro; 8 and up; $29.99). The robotic pooch is lost between the Furby/iZ feud. He feeds on iPod music or any source with a headphone jack.

6. iZ (Zizzle; 5 and up; $39.99). A lot of hype surrounds this 9-inch-tall, three-legged character, available with a red, green or blue body.

7. Leapster L-Max Learning Game System (LeapFrog; preschool through fourth grade; $99.99). The game system teaches kids math, language, logic and writing skills. Can be used as an on-the-go handheld or TV plug-in.

8. Magnaworld Magnacity (Rose Art; ages 6 and up; $49.99). This Magnetix building set features more than 100 pieces.

9. Pixel Chix (Mattel; ages 7 and up; $29.99). These animated characters who live in a five-level handheld game can change clothes even faster than the icon of the fashion doll world.

10. Shell Shocker (Tyco; 8 and up; $79.99). The remote control toy can change into a “cyberbeast” in the blink of an eye.

11. Vcam Now (Hasbro; ages 8 and up; $79.99). Kids can record up to seven minutes of video or take 480 still photos with the 4X digital zoom and 1.3 megapixel resolution.

12. V.Smile Pocket (VTech; 5 and up; system, $89.99; games, $19.99). This handheld version of the popular learning system works with the complete library of the company’s “Smartridges.”

(Jill Sell is a free-lance writer in Sagamore Hills, Ohio. She wrote this article for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.)

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