The wireless road warriors from Tomy have put cell phones in the drivers’ seat with these tiny remote control cars that can zip along in response to signals from infrared-equipped handsets. Licensed by Disney, Putica (petite car), comes in three classic Disney cartoon character designs from the 40s and 50s: Susie the hot rod, steam engine Casey Jr. and Pedro the plane. Overseas readers may not recognize these anthropomorphic mechanicals from the past, but these are by no means obscure for Japanese consumers. Regional marketing of secondary and even obscure characters from old Disney cartoons have become a huge spin-off industry here. Susie, the little blue hot rod, has her own line of character goods. These hot-rods are priced at a mere 1680 yen. To synch controls with most mobile phones, drivers can download a free software application from the online Tomy Putica website.
Purring along to put-put sounds from the handset speakers, buttons on the touch pad control movement, honk the horn or put the vehicles through their funky paces in ?eDance Mode?f. Push Omikuji mode (fortune telling) and the handset displays your luck rating for the day. (What this has to do with remote control vehicles, even we can?ft explain.) Each mobile mecha’ comes with its own special telephone strap to match. It also has a separate controller but linking to the mobile phone gives drivers more movement options.
The company calls this niche Desktop Entertainment and unlike ChoroQ models from Takara Putica is targeted towards young women buyers, teenagers in particular. Like other toy makers Tomy is anxious to break out of the shrinking juvenile toy market to reach young adults through console and mobile game contents and spin-off character goods. Pretax profit for fiscal 2004 slumped by 24 percent for Tomy and group sales rose a bare 1 percent. The company will partner with rival toy maker Takara and mobile content developer Index on March 1st, 2006 to form Takara Tomy K.K.
Takara, which had kept firmly in the black for several years, lost over 7 billion yen in sales between fiscal 2003 and ?f04. Numbers are down not only in Japan. With no transpacific hits ringing up sales, both toy makers lost ground in the North American market last fiscal year. Toymakers hope placing ever-present mobile phones firmly in the creative mix will help steer Japanese profits back into the black.
– Gail Nakada