Pastor And Film Animator Get Bible Heroes Into Toy Market
Dec. 19, 1986
HOUSTON (AP) _ David and Goliath fought in biblical times, but they now are joining forces to compete with ''Rambo'' and other modern-day toys for children's attention and parents' money.
The ''Heroes of the Kingdom'' don't tote laser guns or transform themselves into other beings. Instead they are small, authentically clad replicas of Bible figures whose stories are narrated by accompanying books and cassete tapes.
Such biblical entries into the toy market have come amid a rash of war and weapons playthings accenting violence.
The alternative toys resulted from the persistence of a Fort Worth pastor and in another case, from a Los Angeles film animator.
Joe Barbera of Los Angeles, head of Hanna-Barbera Productions and producer of such series as Huckleberry Hound and the Flintstones, had tried in vain for years to get a series about Bible characters on television.
Rebuffed, he's now distributing his animated ''Great Adventure'' series through Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish agencies for home videos, with 400,000 reported sold so far at $19.95 for the six-part series.
Running about 30 minutes each, they're about Noah, Moses, David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah, Daniel and the lions' den, Joshua and the walls of Jerrico.
In Texas, a Fort Worth pastor and counselor, the Rev. Michael Riggins, after talking one night with his two sons about their ''Star Wars'' toys, carved for them some toy figures of Jesus, David and Goliath.
For two years, he unsuccessfuly carried the figures around in a shoe box showing them to prospective investors for manufacture.
Finally, in March 1984, Wee Win Toys and Accessories Inc. of Houston, began producing the ''Heroes of the Kingdom'' toys, later adding a line of stuffed animals with names like ''Righteous Racoon'' and ''Born Again Bunny.''
They offer an alternative to the ''mysticism and violence'' attributed to the characters of some toys on the market, said Zed Daniels, vice president and advertising director.
Children can act out the biblical battle with David and his giant foe Goliath while listening to the cassette or reading the book. The toys, Daniels said, give children a chance to learn about the Bible and provide them with wholesome fun.
''You don't have to be dull to be decent,'' he said.
Besides David and Goliath, children can play with Jonah and the Whale, Samson and Delilah, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Moses and Pharaoh, and Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.
The David and Goliath and Jonah and the Whale sets are the most popular, and sell for $19.95 each. David comes armed with a slingshot and Jonah really fits inside the whale's mouth.
Although the story involves some violence - David slays Goliath - Daniels says the tale is more about faith in God.
''Most of the violence in the Bible had a function and an end,'' he said, adding that he is bothered by ''violence for just violence's sake.''
The company has added other toys and accessories to the line and now has about 150 products. The ''Prince of Peace'' stuffed animals are another popular line.
They don't talk or come with adoption papers, but they do have religious names such as ''Guardian Angel Bear'' and ''Heavenly Hound'' and they have a patch sewn on their stomachs bearing a Bible verse number.
A game called ''Generosity'' that teaches biblical values will soon be available as an alternative to capitalistic games like ''Monopoly,'' Daniels said.
The toymaker also manufactures several stuffed animals without religious themes, but Daniels says all the toys provide ''good wholesome fun.''
''Parents are looking for back-to-basic wholesome toys,'' Daniels said. ''We put Godly toys in the hands of kids to replace evil toys that are leading kids away from God.''
At one Children's Palace store in Houston, a shipment of the ''Heroes of the Kingdom'' toys sold out before the real Christmas rush even began, said store manager Adrian Moczgemba. A shipment ususally contains between 24 and 48 toys.
''They were in and out,'' Moczgemba said.
Although the company wants to help teach Christian values, Daniels said it also is intent on turning a profit.
Sales for the first fiscal year, ending March 1985, topped $1.5 million and grew to almost $3 million in fiscal 1986, Daniels said.
''We are a business, we're not a ministry,'' he said. ''But we do have a very important function.''
End Adv Fri PMs Dec. 19