Elmo's two-decade reign as toy king

Sara Morson looks at a dancing Hokey Pokey Elmo doll October 8, 2003 at the Toy Industry of America's Holiday Preview in New York Ciy. 

There are a few news stories you can pretty much guarantee to see during the holiday season these days. Ones about air travel anguish, fried turkey fiascos and desperate parents battling tooth, nail and sometimes fist over this year's hot toy. And nearly every year for the past two decades, one of those hot toys has been some incarnation of Elmo. There's been  Rock ‘n Roll Elmo, Chicken Dance Elmo, Hokey Pokey Elmo, TMX Elmo, Let’s Rock Elmo and the one that started it all (for better or for worse) Tickle Me Elmo. All of them have been blockbuster sellers, and Quartz writer Roberto Ferdman says they all make a big statement about the current status of the toy industry in America. Ferdman wrote an article for qz.com titled, "From Tickle Me Elmo to Big Hugs Elmo: nearly two decades of Christmas toy dominance." He says Elmo's appeal is still somewhat of a mystery, even to toy industry experts.

" I remember one analyst in particular going through what exactly is so appealing to pre-schoolers about (Elmo). You know, Elmo is like a pre-schooler, Elmo can speak, Elmo is warm and fuzzy and nice so parents like Elmo. And then I spoke to another analyst who said that if anybody says they know why Elmo's really popular, they're probably making it up."

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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