Worlds of Wonder was a toy company in the 1980s, specializing in interactive talking toys (usually using a book and tape system). Their lynchpin character and franchise was the popular Teddy Ruxpin, and their properties subsequently expanded to include the Talking Mother Goose, "The Talking Mickey Mouse Show" (with Goofy), "The World of Snoopy" and interactive dolls like Julie, as well as more diverse efforts (notably the Lazer Tag game). The Teddy Ruxpin toys were designed by Alchemy II, a group of designers and technicians led by Ken Forsse.
On August 4, 1986, Worlds of Wonder announced a deal with Henson Associates, Inc. The deal was for a Ruxpin style line of animated talking toys, along with a book and cassette series, to be produced as a collaborative effort between the two companies. Worlds of Wonder's CEO Don Kingsborough announced "We have every reason to feel the technology of Worlds of Wonder and the creative genius of Jim Henson will continue to produce wonder and excitement for kids of all ages." On the Henson side, the company's vide president of licensing, Isabel Miller, was quoted as saying "The extraordinary success of WOW's talking-toy technology, first popularized by Teddy Ruxpin, has inspired us to consider ways in which this technology can be incorporated with Henson's characters."
The agreement encompassed the The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies characters. The latter were the first line and the only to actually make it through production. The Muppet Babies toys debuted in February at the American International Toy Fair in New York City. As Fortune magazine described the toys, "Muppet Babies, about $79 for a basic kit, have moving mouths and eyes like Teddy Ruxpin. But where Teddy requires a cumbersome cord to converse with other talking toys, Kingsborough's versions of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and other Jim Henson characters are cordless. Five Muppets will be able to carry on a conversation with each other."
The toys themselves were plush, and in place of cords and cassettes in the back, "the source of sound and animation for The Talking Muppet Babies lies in the Magic Trunk, which houses a remote cassette player and a radio transmitter. The transmitter sends voice and movement cues, contained on the special animation cassette to receivers in each of The Talking Muppet Babies dolls." The toys were announced for release in fall of 1987. The first in the book and tape series were released that year, with stories and illustrations by the established Henson writers and artists such as Louise Gikow. Titles included Baby Kermit and the Magic Trunk, Muppet Babies and the Magic Garden, and Baby Rowlf and the Boomtown Bandits. The umbrella title for the book series (and presumably the toys) was "Muppet Magic."
In May 1987, Henson signed an extension of the earlier licensing agreement with Worlds of Wonder, which was intended to grant the company exclusive rights to produce animated toys, extend the product types and, "in principal," cover international markets. These plans included Little Boppers, a line of toys (which included Teddy Ruxpin and Mickey Mouse characters) who would dance in synch to any nearby sound or music (from cassette players, record players, or other sources). Boppers of Baby Kermit and Baby Piggy were made.
Worlds of Wonder suffered financial setbacks and, in August, announced plans to delay shipment of the actual talking toys until later in the year. October 29, 1987, however (known as "Black Monday"), brought on an extended stock market crash which the Muppets themselves subsequently helped address in the special ABC News Special: Wall Street and the Economy. Worlds of Wonder was among the companies affected and declared bankruptcy in 1988.
- ↑ "WOWI Announces Henson agreement" Business Wire. August 4, 1986
- ↑ Ramirez, Anthony. "Top Gun in the Toy Business." Fortune. March 2, 1987].
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Henson Associates and Worlds of Wonder sign agreement to expand Muppet license." Business Wire. May 19, 1987.
- ↑ "Worlds of Wonder Cuts Jobs 15 Percent." The Associated Press. August 7, 1987