Top 25 "It" products of all time: #4 --Tickle Me Elmo

Since I was not allowed to watch TV while growing up, I was never a fan of shows like Sesame Street. Therefor I didn't get all the hoopla about the Tickle Me Elmo toy when it hit stores during the holidays in 1996. Seriously folks: It was a stuffed animal that giggled thanks to a microchip.

But that didn't stop people from beating each other up -- literally -- for one of these hard-to-find critters. It got so crazy that people were selling them for thousands of dollars because parents were willing to pay anything to please their children. The toy only cost $29.99.

The enormous demand for Tickle Me Elmo spawned 13 generations of interactive Elmo plush toys, according to Reyne Rice, a toy trend specialist at the Toy Industry Association. There was the Rock 'n Roll Elmo, the Chicken Dance Elmo, and the Hokey Pokey Elmo.

For the upcoming holiday season, Fisher-Price is selling Elmo hands. Kids can don furry red paws to tickle people with -- and the hands will also emit Elmo's infectious giggle. Tickle Me Elmo also spurred others to create similar special features plush toys for kids 18 months and older, says Rice. "The next couple of years, there were a slew of products for that marketplace. For kids at that age, to see products that talked to them, it's like magic."More importantly, it made Elmo a break-out star. He has his own mini-show within Sesame Street, in which he explores a specific topic of the day. Flash forward 10 years after the first Tickle Me Elmo was released: One of the first words my daughter learned to say was Elmo.

She became a fan when my husband brought home the DVD, Elmo's World: What Makes You Happy. Fortunately, by the time she got old enough to ask for specific toys, she had outgrown her Elmo stage. She still sleeps with a small Elmo, but she's now into fairies and princesses. Thanks a lot, Disney!

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