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Furby sits on display during the Toy Fair in New York Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. A new version of Furby, from Hasbro Inc., debutted at Dream Toys 2012.

Some may consider this good news. Others might recoil in horror, suggesting we trigger the emergency alert system and put the National Guard on notice.

Either way, there's no denying it: The Furby is back.

Lest you forget, the original Furby was a fuzzy interactive robotic pet, the hottest must-have toy of the late 1990s. More than 40 million sold back then, and they've been widely loved and/or mocked through the years.

Furby sits on display during the Toy Fair in New York Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. A new version of Furby, from Hasbro Inc., debutted at Dream Toys 2012.
Furby sits on display during the Toy Fair in New York Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. A new version of Furby, from Hasbro Inc., debutted at Dream Toys 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

And now, just in time for the holidays, Furbys have regrouped and massed for attack. In Hasbro's 2012 Furby reboot, the seemingly harmless puffball looks pretty much the same -- a monstrous Frankenstein-style mash-up with the ears of the Mogwai critters from the "Gremlins" movies, the furry bodies of neon Ewoks and the beak of Mr. Owl from the Tootsie Pop commercials. The new Furbys -- on "hot toy" lists at Toys R Us and Target -- are slightly bigger with liquid crystal eyes, "unpredictable" reactions and an accompanying Furby smartphone app in which you can feed them hamburgers or ice cream and they'll make yummy noises or roll their eyes when they're too full. They can also interact with others of their species, no doubt facilitating their evil plot for world domination.


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Oh, and they now cost more than twice as much: $54.

"Furby is a toy that generates a very black-or-white response," said Dave Banks, GeekDad blogger on Wired.com who listed the upgraded Furby on his 2012 holiday gift guide. "Some people absolutely love it, spending hours interacting with it and teaching it behavior and language. Others see Furby as evidence of a physical manifestation of evil and want to douse it in gasoline and burn it with cleansing fire.

"If you've spent any real time with Furby, there's not a lot of in between," he said.

Indeed, there are Furby fan clubs, but also "Furby Must Die!" websites. Furbys could always dance to music and even speak in their own language, "Furbish," gradually picking up English words from their owners. To the consternation of parents everywhere, the original version had no "off" button -- and they still don't -- so you had to stuff them in a closet for a while to get them to shut up. They were so chatty that, in 1999, Furbys were reportedly banned by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the Pentagon, based on the fear that the dolls would mimic top-secret discussions. Manufacturers insisted to The Washington Post that "Furby is not a spy."

National security risks aside, toy industry experts say Furby's original success stemmed from two factors: nothing like it had ever been done, and it was about $25. Those things have changed.

"Fast-forward 14 years, I think the new Furby has challenges," said Sean McGowan, longtime toy industry analyst for Needham on Wall Street. "Obviously, something like it has been done before, and nearly $60 is a lot of money for a toy. Retailers seem to be supporting it pretty well, but consumers may balk."

Other retro toys are getting a 21st-century upgrade, too. There are new versions of Twister, more elaborate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, and a new crop of Cabbage Patch Kids. The Toy Retailers Association calls this classic toy comeback, "nostalgia with a twist."

At Time Tunnel Toys in San Jose, which buys, sells and trades vintage toys and collectibles, Joe Castro says they have two vintage Furbys in the original packages. "They do not have a high collector value," he said, adding that Furbys definitely needed an upgrade. "Now almost all toys have some form of electronics or computers in them -- children now expect toys to interact with them since they play with iPhones, iPads and video games almost exclusively."

Looking at the toys for the 2012 holiday season, "I'd guess there are pretty good odds that Furby ends up being one of the most popular," Banks said. "We'll have to see. I'm just looking forward to taking one apart!"