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Hal’s Pals May Have Very Limited Appeal, Toy Analyst Says

June 4, 1986 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mattel Inc. says it hopes a new line of disabled dolls called Hal’s Pals will promote self-respect among handicapped children and encourage sensitivity by others, but at least one toy analyst disagrees.

″I’m sure the idea is well-intentioned and it will be tastefully executed, but I doubt that this product is going to be a hit with children who tend to be very cruel when it comes to disabilities,″ said Paul Valentine, a toy- industry analyst with Standard & Poor’s Corp.

In addition, Valentine said: ″Handicapped children already feel different. I doubt that they would want to feel even more different, to have a doll specially geared to them that is not part of the mass culture.″

The analyst added: ″They could serve as a useful emotional development tool for handicapped children but as a toy, I would think the response would be fairly limited, even among those children.″

Mattel, which introduced the line Tuesday, declined to project sales on the dolls, which it called an effort to help disabled children develop a positive self-image and teach able-bodied ones not to be prejudiced toward handicaps.

But Susan Smith, a marketing director for the company said: ″Our initial approach is to focus our marketing efforts on the special audiences to whom this kind of product is particularly meaningful.

″Our long-term goal is to reach the broadest possible audience. We believe Hal’s Pals are really mainstream toys and not just for kids with disabilities.″

Any profits from the line - a ski instructor and amputee called ″Hal″ and his variously impaired but active ″Pals″ - will go to organizations that help disabled children, the nation’s second-largest toy maker said.

The line consists of seven 19-inch, soft-sculptured dolls.

Besides Hal, who lacks a left leg, there is a ballerina wearing hearing aids, a boy in a gray warmup suit in a wheelchair, and a dressed-up girl with leg braces and canes. The fifth disabled doll, a black girl, is visually impaired and comes with a red-tipped cane and guide puppy.

The two other dolls, a preppy boy and a Madonna lookalike, do not feature specific disabilities. However, they can be bought with the various accessories, such as the wheelchair, so that they can be customized for a particular child.

Hal’s Pals look a bit like Coleco Industries Inc.’s Cabbage Patch dolls.

The disabled ones will sell for $44.95, the plain ones for $39.95, Mattel said.

Susan Anderson, the dolls’ creator, named the dolls after her friend Hal O’Leary, director and founder of the Winter Park Handicapped Sports and Recreation Program west of Denver.

Mattel has formed a separate not-for profit company called For Challenged Kids By Mattel Inc. to produce and market the dolls and donate the profits.

For Challenged Kids plans to sell the dolls through mail-order. It will be mailing order forms at the end of this month to people such as pediatricians, physical therapists and educators, and to a general audience.

For Challenged Kids has set up a toll-free number, 1-800-227-3800. The address is 5959 Triumph Street, Commerce, Calif., 90840.

Mattel, based in Hawthorne, Calif., is the nation’s second-largest toy maker behind Hasbro Inc.