Tickle Me Elmo
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|Tickle Me Elmo|
Tickle Me Elmo is a children's toy from Tyco Preschool, a division of Tyco Toys, based on the character Elmo from the children's Muppet television show, Sesame Street. When squeezed, Elmo would chortle. When squeezed three times in a row, Elmo would begin to shake and laugh hysterically.
The toy was introduced in the United States in 1996, quickly becoming a fad. The doll's short supply due to the unexpected demand led to an increase in price and some instances of violence over the limited stock among customers. Newspaper classifieds sold the plush toy for hundreds of U.S. dollars. People reported that the toy, originally sold at US $28.99, fetched as much as $1500.
Tickle Me Elmo was invented by Ron Dubren and Greg Hyman, two veteran toy inventors. In 1992, it was presented to Tyco Preschool as "Tickles The Chimp," which was a toy monkey with a computer chip which laughed when tickled. At the time Tyco did not have rights to make Sesame Street plush, but did have Looney Tunes plush rights so it was worked on for several months as Tickle Me Tasmanian Devil. A short time later, Tyco lost rights to do Looney Tunes but gained the rights to Sesame Street, thus starting Tickle Me Elmo. The invention was originally introduced under Cabbage Patch at Hasbro Industries.
A clerk (Robert Waller) at a Wal-Mart store in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada was among those injured by "Elmo-mania". During a Midnight Madness sale, a crowd of 300 stampeded down the aisle on December 14, 1996 after spotting him being handed a box of the toys by another employee, he "was pulled under, trampled—the crotch was yanked out of [his] brand-new jeans." According to People, the clerk "suffered a pulled hamstring, injuries to his back, jaw and knee, a broken rib and a concussion.
Further Tickle Me toys
By February 1997, Tickle Me: Ernie and Tickle Me: Big Bird toys were released, followed by Tickle Me Cookie Monster in May. None of these toys achieved nearly as much fame, or sales. With the rerelease of Tickle Me Elmo, mini Tickle Me Cookie Monster and mini Tickle Me Ernie were also put on the market.
The "Surprise Edition" of Tickle Me Elmo, issued fall 2001, was an elaborate contest. Five of the "Surprise Edition" Elmos stopped laughing on 9 January 2002, and instead announced to the people squeezing them that they had won a prize. The grand prize was US$200,000.
In 2006, Fisher-Price released a new Elmo doll, which was announced at the American International Toy Fair, called TMX (meaning Tickle Me (Elmo) Ten or Tickle Me Extreme). Rather than simply vibrating like the original, the TMX rolls around on the floor laughing and smashing his fist on the ground, begging for the tickler to stop. The full look of the doll was not revealed until it debuted live on ABC's Good Morning America and arrived on store shelves on September 19, 2006. Toy experts said that the delay was unprecedented, with only a few people in the media allowed to preview the product, all signing confidentiality agreements. The packaging it comes in has been designed so that the doll cannot be seen without purchasing it. The box includes a preview flap, but upon opening, only the doll's eyes are visible. It requires six AA batteries, and costs approximately US$40. In a promotional clip, Jim Silver, co-publisher of Toy Wishes magazine said, "The first reaction I had was, 'Where are the wires?' Because I didn't think anything like that could move on its own.".
Toy analyst Chris Byrne told USA Today, "This is a quantum leap forward, another breakthrough in the preschool plush category." Byrne believed sales would be high, but the reaction would not be as unprecedented. "The culture has moved beyond that, the whole hot-toy phenomenon." He cited the fact there has not been such a craze since Furby in 1998. However, some members of the media expected a large response.
Toys "R" Us stores and Amazon had a pre-sale program for the doll, the first included elaborate in-store displays with a digital countdown to the doll's launch. Amazon took more presale orders than it could fulfill.
As with the original Tickle Me Elmo doll, demand for the new toy has given rise to extreme acts by some people. One person in Tampa, Florida was allegedly threatened with a gun to hand over a TMX toy. This was parodied on Saturday Night Live, which said the man "was subdued by the new 'Gimmie a Reason Bert'".
Mattel credits this toy, along with two others, for its performance the six cent share increase from that time, a year earlier. TMX also helped increase sales of other Elmo toys.
There are three versions of the TMX doll, one which has the Warning sticker on front (which most TMX dolls have now), the Top Secret sticker (which was just for launch, making that more rare), and one that no longer includes a flap and instead a hole to try the toy. The Warning and Top Secret boxes appear to be identical except for the variation in the text on the front, and Elmo says different things when opening the flap. When the flap is opened on the Top Secret box, Elmo says "Uh, uh, uh! No peeking! Ha, ha, ha, ha!" When the flap on the Warning box is opened, he says "Elmo feels really ticklish in here! Ha, ha, ha, ha!" However some "Top Secret" boxes in the United Kingdom have been reported to have the latter sound, e.g. "Elmo feels very ticklish in here" etc. when lifting the flap. There are differences under the flap too. On the Warning box, there are images of the TMX Elmo rolling and giggling, while the Top Secret box only has an image of Elmo peeking out of the box. On the Try Me box, consumers can tickle Elmo using the hole in the box. However, it does not include a flap.
eXtra Special Edition
Playskool released the toy again as "LOL Elmo". Not a single image of the toy was revealed until the American International Toy Fair 2012; in the Hasbro showroom's Sesame Street section, there is a sign printed "Laughter Unleashed! Fall 2012". Above it was a video of kids giggling. The toy was released in September. It is also known as Tickle Time Elmo.
In popular culture
In a Christmas 2006 episode of MADtv, a fictional spin-off of the Tickle Me Elmo was called "Tickle Me Emo", which has Emo saying different emo sayings, cries & whines, and saying "I hate you!" three times. MADtv also featured a Sesame Street parody, where Elmo is portrayed as a terrorist now renamed himself to "Elmo TMX". In the Futurama movie Into the Wild Green Yonder there is a toy called "Tickle Me Bender" which is a toy version of Bender. In the video game Sam & Max: Ice Station Santa, there's a parody of Tickle Me Elmo called "Torture Me Elmer." A song by Circus Of Dead Squirrels is named "Elmo's Last Laugh." In the South Park episode Black Friday, a commercial is seen for a parody of Tickle Me Elmo called "Stop Touching Me Elmo".
- "Just Tickled". People, January 13, 1997.
- Dean, Katie. "Elmo's Worth More Than a Tickle". Wired October 11, 2001.
- "Tickle Me Elmo X TMX Elmo".
- Barker, Olivia "Meet 'Top Secret Elmo'" USA Today, 1 February 2006
- Kotecki Vest, Erin. "Elmo Suckers Me to the Dark Side". The Huffington Post September 22, 2006.
- "Tickle pickle: Your Elmo or your life!". New York Daily News. 25 September 2006.[dead link]
- "Following T.M.X. Elmo, here come his friends". CNNMoney.com January 29, 2007.
- Fisher Price T.M.X. Special Edition
- Wired: Elmo's Worth More Than a Tickle on the Surprise Edition
- CBS13.com: Elmo Demonstration, video demonstration of the new Tickle Me Elmo