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FOR 45 years she was a global superstar, even landing a role in hit movie Toy Story.

But this year, for the first time ever, the inspiration for thousands of little girls' dreams, Barbie, has been knocked off the Christmas top ten best-selling toys list.

And to add insult to injury, the toy world's version of royalty has been ousted by the homely Cabbage Patch Dolls and flashy Bratz - the dolls with attitude.

New toys on the block Bratz - slogan "The girls with a passion for fashion" - now share the coveted top slot with ugly '80s comeback kids, the Cabbage Patch dolls.

Barbie has dominated the market since her arrival in 1959 and Ben Green, chairman of the Toy Retailers Association (TRA) said: "We could see that Bratz with all their razzamatazz were going to have a huge impact. They are streetwise and have an edge while Barbie is more about imagination and role play.

"But it was still a surprise that Barbie didn't make the top ten."

Mattel, which makes Barbie, believes their girl will see off the Bratz upstarts and a spokesperson said: "Barbie is still the number-one brand and her range outsells the others by 2-1. Fads come and go but Barbie is an enduring brand."

While the dolls slug it out, there's a battle to be number one in boys toys and this year it's the burping, rude robot Robosapien which is taking on Tamagotchi, Power Rangers and Yu-gi-oh!

Leading chain Toys R Us is predicting a special-edition gold Robosapien will steal the crown.

Priced at pounds 89.99 - pounds 26 dearer than the black and white version at Toys R Us - it will be on shelves from Thursday.

Designed by former NASA scientist Mark Tilden, it has already been named toy of the year by world-famous toy shop Hamleys.

Robosapien has a mind-boggling 67 functions and can walk, talk, dance, do karate, break wind, rap and throw. Sadly, it can't yet cook the Christmas dinner as well.

High-street chain Woolworths reckons Video Now!, a Walkman-sized video player, will give the robot a run for its money.

The portable, child-friendly "personal video player" has already swept America where sales topped pounds 62million within six months of its launch.

It costs around pounds 69.99 and uses mini discs, which play up to 30 minutes of colour footage from children's favourite shows like Sponge Bob Squarepants, Rugrats, Jimmy Neutron, Dexter's Lab and Jackie Chan.

Made by Hasbro/Tiger Electronics, the pocket-sized Video Now! Colour measures 14cm by 12cm and has a full-colour 6cm back-lit LCD screen, built-in speaker and headphone socket.

Woolworths' spokesperson Elena Antoniou said: "Our teams are gearing up to make sure we will be fully stocked for Christmas."

Asda has a pounds 79.97 remote-control model of monster truck the Hummer H2 as its top tip. The replica includes a revving engine, working head and tail lights, three-speed gear box and a top speed of 11mph.

Built to 1:6 scale with full Hummer specifications, the blueprint was provided by General Motors. Asda's toy buyer Nathaniel Southworth said: "We are really pleased with the authenticity."

Britain's lucrative Christmas toy market is worth pounds 400million and even though high-tech toys may dominate the top of the charts, there is still plenty of room for traditional toys and old favourites.

Lego and board games like Monopoly, Cluedo and Mousetrap are enjoying a revival while new board game Hello!, based on the celebrity news magazine, is set to be a hit with grown-ups.

At around pounds 3-pounds 5, Top Trumps continues to be a favourite stocking-filler with titles from Lord Of The Rings and footballers to The Simpsons.

Also selling well is the Yu-gi-oh! Duel Disk, from pounds 25-pounds 29.99, and Power Rangers toys.

For pre-school children, there's Play-Doh, Dora the Explorer - a doll which sings - as well as the popular V-Tech V-Smile. This plug 'n' play system connects directly to the TV and has software with a huge range of characters that three-to-seven-year-olds will adore.

As the race to win the title top toy hots up, Mr Green said: "This year there's a real mix of dolls and high-tech toys for teenagers and the big kids among us."

Child psychologist Dr Jeffrey Goldstein of the National Toy Council added: "Children are more inclined to play, and will play longer, when toys are available.

"A mix of old classics and innovation appeal to children, parents and grandparents. Play is vital to family life. These are toys that stimulate play at any age."



ROBOT WARS: Robosapien; BYE-BYE DOLLY: Barbie; MONSTER: Hummer model
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 30, 2004
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