February 2009 (17.02) issue
By Daniel Roth
During the 20 months that Fisher-Price spent developing the innards and software of its latest animatronic Elmo, engineers gave the project the code name Elmo Live. And sure enough, they made him more animate than ever: He moves his mouth in time with the stories he tells, shivers when he gets scared, and has a fit when he sneezes.
When they were finally able to test the doll on children, they were struck by how immediately the kids blocked out all other stimuli in the room and began interacting with Elmo. "It was as if Elmo were part of their family," says Gina Sirard, Fisher-Price VP of marketing. "To a child, he really is alive."
So the code name stuck, and over the past few months legions of $60 Elmo Live dolls have joined families everywhere. Some are certainly doomed to join previous Elmos in a new pastime: robotic-toy torture. YouTube is full of videos of idiots dousing Elmo with gas, setting him on fire, and laughing as his red fur turns to charcoal and he writhes in a painful dance. (more)