By Maxwell Murphy
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Mattel Inc. (MAT) offered a sneak peek at its 2011 toy line-up on Wednesday, which featured big news for the iconic Barbie doll, an overhaul of its recently lackluster Hot Wheels cars and a toy dog that emits gross noises.
Mattel's new lineup comes as the toy maker has benefited from sales of merchandise tied to the film "Toy Story 3," and resilience in its iconic Barbie dolls. However, its Fisher-Price younger-kids division was slumping even before a recent toy recall and its Hot Wheels and Matchbox car categories have lagged.
Hot Wheels will launch products designed to recapture the minds and dollars of boys of any age. For bigger kids, novelties include a race track that can build upwards along any wall using clips designed by 3M Co. (MMM) to prevent marring the painted or wall-papered surface.
It also will sell for the first time a car with an embedded video camera that will allow 12 minutes of video recording. The car can attach to bicycle helmets and skateboards, providing users the ability to film themselves doing their own, real-world, life-sized stunts.
To engage kids from 3 to 5 years old, Mattel will launch a Hot Wheels-themed version of its Fisher Price unit's Trio build-it-yourself sets of bricks, sticks and panels.
After a star turn in the animated "Toy Story 3" last year, the Ken doll, lately a bachelor, is making a full-out press to win back his on-again-off-again gal pal of 50 years, Barbie. As part of a Valentine's Day promotion, Ken will deliver a special cupcake from famous New York bakery Magnolia designed to win her back.
To complement the story line, Mattel is introducing a new, talking Ken doll, complete with a hairdo modeled after teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, and on Valentine's Day will begin selling a Barbie and Ken doll set, which will retail for $5 for a limited time.
Mattel has also designed Barbie hair that can be fed into any inkjet printer and customized with any number of designs, providing personalized clip-on hair for both Barbie and her owner.
For its third quarter, Mattel reported worldwide sales grew 2%, with a 6% rise for Barbie that offset a 3% decline for Hot Wheels and a 10% drop in core Fisher Price sales. On Sept. 30, the last day of the third quarter, federal safety regulators said Fisher Price would recall 10 million Fisher Price products sold in the U.S., including tricycles and high chairs.
Perhaps most shocking toy is a new plaything designed to capitalize on the popular gross-out craze. The Tough Talkin' Dirty Dog, complete with plastic slobber, mucus-filled nostrils and rude sound effects. It will retail for around $80 when released in the fall.
Mattel expects to have fully functioning versions of most of these toys, rather than the prototypes on display Wednesday, at the toy fair held in New York City next month.
Mattel's Fisher Price kids brand is also introducing new a new toy based on Thomas & Friends, the popular children's series starring a locomotive, as well as an iPod case meant for infants and a Rock Star Mickey animatronic, music-playing Mickey Mouse toy.
Also set for release this year are new toys for the second season of its popular Sing-a-ma-jigs singing plush dolls and Monster High dolls with zombies-and-vampires-meet-high-school themes.
Shares of Mattel closed Wednesday down 2 cents at $23.83.
-By Maxwell Murphy, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2171; email@example.com