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Sunday, October 6, 2002

Technology

Lego Galidor: Not all that good
Gizmos

By Martha Mendoza
Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Its arms fall off, it has a banal computer game in the back and you have to watch television for it to fully interact. Could this possibly be Lego?

Sadly, yes. Lego's new Galidor line -- its first foray into the action figure market -- is a terrible disappointment. To us grown-ups, that is.

My kids, who love action figures and have spent many happy hours building with Lego's famous colored, plastic blocks, were highly entertained with the new toy and are, at this moment, dive bombing it off the couch into their baby sister.

''It's not like any other Lego product, and the punch is kind of feeble, and the computer game part is boring, but as an action figure it's spectacular,'' said Raymond, 9.

''I just think it's great,'' said Thomas, 7, who I should warn you pretty much thinks all toys are great.

Galidor is a line of action figures based on a new kids television series, ''Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension.''

Its price ranges from $9.99 to $59.99.

Airing Saturday mornings on Fox Kids, the show combines live action and computer-generated animation. It follows hero Nicholas, his sidekick Allegra Zane and their adventures battling an evil tyrant, Gorm, in an outer dimension.

My kids and I were excited to try out three features.

The action figures have audio sensors so they can react to the television show. They have interchangeable limbs and heads. One has a computer game built into its back.

''Oh yea, this is going to be good,'' said Thomas, tearing open the box. ''This is going to be good.''

But Galidor, in the end, was not all that good.

As my kids and I discovered one frustrating weekend, unlike Lego bricks that snap together securely and can be taken apart with relative ease, the Galidor figures are fickle. Arms and legs, designed with numerous points of articulation and 360-degree rotational abilities, fall out a lot.

And it's actually not all that exciting to be watching a television show with an action figure in your lap occasionally banging, beeping or hollering ''Look out'' or ''Missed me'' in a strange, computerized voice. (Raymond points out here, however, he likes to watch television, with or without an action figure).

As for the computer game: It's a dud.

Maybe before GameBoys and PlayStations spoiled us all with incredible graphics, sound and adventure, we might have been impressed with the postage-stamp sized three-button game. More than anything, it resembles the games that come with cellular telephones these days.

Even worse, you control the Galidor computer game built into the Kek Powerizer action figure by rotating the arms, which makes them fall off, or rocking or tipping the entire toy, which makes it hard to see what's happening on the screen.

Toy consultant Stevanne ''Dr. Toy'' Auerbach, director of the Institute for Childhood Resources in San Francisco, believes kids need more time for creativity -- not television companions.

But try telling that to the 9-yearold boy who lives around the corner and who had to spend last week at home after breaking his arm.

I dropped a set of Galidor figures at his house, and a few hours later his Lego-covered desk had been cleared and the action figures were engaged in a heated battle.

Lego, a 70-year-old family-owned Danish company, suffered its first annual loss in 1998 and then posted another deficit in 2001 for the previous year.

Analysts blamed the losses on too many new products such as computer games and electronic toys, as well as a weak toy market.

After cutting about 10 percent of the workforce, owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen has vowed to ''return to the core of our brand and to deliver what consumers are expecting from us.''

Lego officials say the 2003 product lineup will again be dominated by interlocking plastic blocks.

My oldest son, Raymond, approves of this business plan.

''It's kind of odd that Lego is trying to make action figures,'' he said. ''Unless they come up with some brilliant idea, I think they should stick to what they know best.''

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