L.A.'S TOY STORY CREATIVE TALENT GIVES AREA A PLAYFUL EDGE IN PRAISEWORTHY LIST.
Los Angeles-area toy makers don't play around when it comes to making the best toys.
Local companies and their subsidiaries snagged seven of the 12 coveted spots on the ``Hot Dozen'' toy list compiled by longtime industry insider Jim Silver.
El Segundo-based Mattel, which owns Fisher-Price and Radica, took home four. Malibu-based JAKKS Pacific, which owns Play Along, nailed two, and MGA Entertainment in Van Nuys grabbed one.
The metro area of 10 million people is a magnet for creative talent, partly because so many artist types are drawn to the movie studios, according to toy expert Stevanne Auerbach, known as Dr. Toy because she holds a Ph.D. in child development and child psychology.
``Hollywood is the big draw,'' Auerbach said. ``People come here and they expand their creative pursuits. They might start in graphics and end up in toys.''
Movie studios control many of the licenses that give toy makers the right to create toys based on on-screen characters.
``The majority of our business is licensed,'' said Genna Rosenberg, spokeswoman for JAKKS. ``So being in Los Angeles also puts us in close proximity to many of the companies we get our licenses from. It makes it very easy to work with them.''
One of the two leading toy design degree programs in the country is based in Los Angeles at Otis College of Art and Design.
That school just north of Los Angeles International Airport generates a steady source of young designers.
``A lot of design students are recruited from Otis,'' said Mattel spokeswoman Sara Rosales. Major players like Mattel also look for top-notch sculptors, hair stylists and fashion designers for their doll lines.
Aside from the studios, Los Angeles is home to many of the ports that distribute toys made abroad. The flight to Asia, where many toys are made, is not as long as from New York, another toy industry mecca.
``For a lot of the industry, it's overseas in the Orient and it's a quicker flight,'' said Silver, who published the Hot Dozen last week in conjunction with Toy Wishes Magazine, which breaks down top-rated toys into 22 categories.
Besides the seven awards that went to Los Angeles companies, Hasbro in Rhode Island won two spots on the Hot Dozen list. Lego in Denmark, Mega Bloks in Belgium, and Nintendo in Washington each took home one.
Silver and his team spend the entire year screening toys against criteria like how fun they are, if they are innovative, and the price-to-value relationship, Silver said. Youngsters also get a crack at them before the ratings come out each fall.
``We always like to say,'' said Silver, ``it's not a hot toy unless it's hot for your child.''
Here are the seven toys made in the Los Angeles area that landed on the much-desired ``Hot Dozen'' list:
Fly through the air and zip on the ground with the ultralightweight radio-controlled Fly Wheels XPV ($60), above, from JAKKS Pacific.
Bratz Forever Diamondz ($30), left, from MGA Entertainment has the fashion sense and bling to match her saucy attitude.
Barbie, below, is at her most glamorous as Princess Genevieve ($25) from Mattel, with a regal tiara and puffy rose-colored skirt that lights up.
Plug Digi Makeover (by Radica $60) into your television, snap a self-portrait with the built-in camera, and give yourself a new do.
The Kid Tough Digital Camera ($70) from Fisher-Price is oversized so little hands can grip it, and it's sturdy.
A handful of cups morphs into a fast-paced challenge when you stack and unstack them with Speed Stacks ($40), far left, from Play Along.
T.M.X. Elmo ($40) from Fisher-Price is fuzzy, red and giggles uncontrollably while beating its hands and feet on the ground.
4 photos, box
(1 -- color) Fly Wheels XPV
(2 -- color) Bratz Forever Diamondz
(3 -- color) Barbie
(4 -- color) Speed Stacks
LOS ANGELES' SIZZLING SEVEN (see text)