If you were one of the millions of moviegoers who experienced Steven Spielberg's mind-blowing morality tale A.I.: Artificial Intelligence over the weekend, then you no doubt have a whole new appreciation for stuffed plush — thanks to Teddy the bear, Haley Joel Osment's heroic, heartwarming supertoy. Luckily, audiences' love affair with the raspy-voiced plaything won't have to end when the credits roll: Tiger Electronics — the company behind Furby — is hoping to have Teddy dolls on store shelves by late July.
Four versions of Teddy will range in size (four to 15 inches) and price ($4.99 to $29.99), with the larger dolls uttering such phrases as, "I am robot, but I am also teddy," "You have a trusting hand, my friend" and "What's new, super friend?" (The bigger models won't be out until fall.) The chatter was recorded by voiceover artist Jack Angel — who also lent his raspy vocals to the big screen Teddy. But as the performer notes, a striking resemblance and an identical pitch are about all toy Teddy and A.I. Teddy share in common.
"I said to [Tiger execs], Teddy was a very stoic bear [in A.I.], he didn't say much and he didn't emote very much," Angel recalls. "And they said, 'Yeah, but we can't sell a bear that doesn't say much and doesn't do much. We have to have a bear that growls and laughs and farts.'" (Alas, Tiger rep Lana Simon clarifies that unlike Furby, Teddy won't be suffering from flatulence.)
With the issue of Teddy's bodily noises solved, the folks at Tiger — as well as Warner Bros. and DreamWorks — may face a far more daunting hurdle in coming weeks: Dealing with angry parents who insist A.I., with its graphic violence and sexual situations, is an adult film — and selling a cuddly tie-in toy sends the wrong message. "He's a very sophisticated robot," counters A.I. producer Kathleen Kennedy. "He's not just a stuffed teddy bear."As it is, Karine Joret, Warner Bros.' senior V.P. of worldwide public relations, insists that the interactive gadget will not be peddled to the Rugrats-set. "Tiger Electronics is targeting the collector-based adult market," she explains. "It's a very limited quantity that Tiger is making and it's very limited distribution." Adds Simon: "Many adults are collectors of bears. We have many adult fans of Furby."