Children's Television

2nd December 1994 at 00:00
More regular than school assemblies, they leap around, high-kicking and hand-chopping, fighting the evils of Rita Repulsa, Empress of Evil also know as the Sub-Space Viper arch enemy of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Brought daily to children by GMTV at 7.40am, sandwiched between breakfast and the school run, go, go Power Rangers: spandex-clad Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, Zack (and, occasionally, Tommy the loner) will start the day by setting the world to rights.

They have this country's children in a granite grip far beyond anyone's expectations. They have overtaken the Turtles by strides. First shown by GMTV at Easter and then throughout the lows of the summer schedules, they clocked 70 per cent of the young audience. Morphenomenal is the buzzword.

More phenomenal is the story of the marketing and merchandising. This is the time of year when many a television character leaps from the screen to the toy store shelves for our children to have and to hold.

But it doesn't always happen that way. If you have already tramped the high streets in search of Mighty Morphin Power Ranger action figures, you'll know just what I mean. There, in the Argos catalogue, you can see them in glorious colour with a yellow sticker appended: "Sorry: out of stock".

"Unprecedented," says Rosie Bayles, marketing manager of Bandai UK (who also imported the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle toys). "In the first period we shipped twice as much merchandise as we did for Turtles at their height and it just vanished. It's considered quite a phenomenon."

Bandai took the unprecedented step of running a counter-commercial on TV, apologising to its young customers for the lack of availability of Power Ranger action figures and promising that they were doing all they could to rectify matters.

Blame it on the China Quota, not so much an evil plot hatched by Rita Repulsa as a piece of EC legislation which dictates a limit on the numbers of toys imported from China. Bandai had to rethink and bring in to play 17 factories in places as far flung as Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand. Now Bandai is airfreighting stocks into Britain rather than shipping, in an effort to deliver the goods. Come, come, Power Rangers.

But if spandex ballet is not what parents have in mind for their smaller children this Christmas, there's Noddy (Wednesdays 3.45, BBC1) and The Animals of Farthing Wood (Thursdays 4.05, BBC1). The magic of Colin Dann's Animals of Farthing Wood books was beautifully translated to animated television and was one of 1994's major successes. Spend the Christmas holiday in White Deer Park with The Animals of Farthing Wood (4): The Challenge of Winter and (5): Friends and Enemies (83 minutes and 79 minutes respectively, each for Pounds 9. 99).

Pingu, Barney, the Little Polar Bear and Fireman Sam all party together in a compilation, BBC Children's Christmas Cracker (73 minutes for Pounds 9. 99) based on series which have done well in the autumn schedules this year. For these, BBC Video can almost be forgiven for committing Mr Blobby to cassette at Pounds 10.99 for 70 minutes.

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