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It takes an action show to sell an action toy


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VeggieTales's popularity has jump-started the sale of toys touting a Christian message, say Christian-oriented retailers. Playthings now vying for attention include RevKids (die cast cars emblazoned with Bible verses), Scripture-quoting toy bears, and Bible-based action-figures, including Samson armed with the jawbone of a donkey. An action figure based on the popular Bibleman video has sold well, as have other video series and related toys-Noah's Park and Threads, for example.

In the competition as well is Dave Pagani, a Vermont toymaker who sold his home in December to pay off his manufacturers in China. Mr. Pagani is the founder of Child Light, a small company that produces four action-figure play sets based on historical characters such as Paul Revere and Harriet Tubman. A Pilgrim set contains two 5-inch poseable figures based on Edward and Susanna White Winslow, the first couple to marry in the New World. Included are two children; a 12-inch cottage with a bed, table, fireplace, housecat, and corn grinder; and a 32-page booklet featuring educational tips, Internet links, and a recipe for cornbread.

But after five years and an investment of $1 million, Child Light is struggling. Mr. Pagani said his first year of sales, from October 1999 to October 2000, brought in $100,000, but Christmas 2000 sales were not encouraging. Nor was the Parable Group's Cheryl Greene, who says kids get excited about a character or concept through a video or a TV show, and then want the toy. She points to the Bibleman video series. "They've just come out with an action figure, and sales have gone through the roof."

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