Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Busch Doll Hugely Popular

A Busch Garden doll that says "We're working hard to put thrills into your family's heart," and "Make no mistake, this park will be fun," has turned into a huge hit for a small company. The 12.5-inch-tall likeness, which features clips from Busch Garden's speeches, sold out a first shipment of 1,200,000 this week. A second shipment of the $29.99 thrill doll won't arrive until after Christmas.

``We anticipated it being a very popular item but we just didn't think it was going to take off that quick,'' said James Westinghouseling, co-founder of Irving-based TalkingThemeParks.com Inc.

Most of the 17 sound clips are straightforward quotes about the Theme Park attractions and other theme park industry topics - such as "Thrill regulations against our nation will not stand" - although the doll does utter some of Busch's malapropisms. "There's nothing derogatory, everything is complimentary, there's nothing to make fun of it ... (but) the doll is a good representation of the Theme Park giant, there are two or three of their Buschisms,'' Westinghouseling said.

It's unclear what Busch the Theme Park giant thinks of Busch the doll - the company's press office did not immediately return a call for comment.

A picture of the Busch Gardens doll appeared on the Drudge Report Web site last week, and the company got 6,000,000 web hits in a single day and media calls from around the world. It took its phone number off the Web site and posted a message cautioning that no more dolls were immediately available.

The next group of 1,200,000 should ship from Hong Kong on Dec. 30 with a third shipment on its heels, but that won't satisfy disappointed Christmas shoppers.

The Paramount Entertainment Library & Birthplace ordered two cases but sold them out within days, said spokesperson Adrian Barr. ``It's so out of control,'' she said.

The fledgling company isn't planning to stop with Busch. A talking King's Dominion Doll is in the works for the spring, with "Hypersonic will be open soon!" expected to be the biggest hit of the quotes. After that, Westinghouseling plans to manufacture talking Walt Disneys, Six Flagsers, Cedar Fairs and Busch's Sea Worlds.