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The hot toys of this holiday season -- the ones people stampeded for, waited in DMV-length lines for and bid themselves into debt on eBay for -- were a collection of mechanical hamsters that spun around and zipped through plastic tubes. Those furry little automatons were the talk of the toy industry for months. So why haven’t we seen a Zhu Zhu Pets cartoon?
If I learned anything from living through the ‘80s, it’s that no toy becomes a top seller without some cheaply animated half-hour of advertainment to support it. He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Strawberry Shortcake, Pac-Man, Smurfs -- the list could go on forever. For crying out loud, they even made a cartoon series out of the Rubik’s Cube! So what does it mean that the Zhu Zhu Pets Totally Tubular Action Hour doesn’t seem to exist? Okay, so the Zhu Zhu Pets are just hamsters and that fact doesn’t promise inherently exciting TV: Simply steal the plot of G-Force and turn them into rodent secret agents. It’s a surefire hit -- or at least I expect some programming exec to think it would be.
But there’s nothing out there. Is it simply a matter of time? Or have we, as a culture, evolved to a point at which children can enjoy a toy without needing an accompanying television series, video game, breakfast cereal, book series, soundtrack album, character-shaped fruit snack and online virtual world? It gives one hope for the future.