Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) said Tuesday it will test sales in some stores of biblical action figures whose makers say they are aimed at Christian parents who prefer their children play with Samson, David or Noah rather than with a comic book character or Bratz doll. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said the toys made by One2believe, a Valencia, Calif., company, will be offered in 425 of Wal-Mart’s 3,376 discount stores and Supercenters.
One2believe Chief Executive David Socha said his products were part of a “battle for the toy box” with dolls and figures that he said carry negative messages. “If you’re very religious, it’s a battle for your children’s minds and what they’re playing with and pretending. There are remakes out there of Satan and evil things,” Socha said.
Wal-Mart’s O’Brien said the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer believes there is demand for faith-based toys. The toy line will be on some Wal-Mart shelves starting in August, mainly in the Midwest and South but also in California and as far northeast as Pennsylvania, O’Brien said. “It is a test. It’s not a national rollout,” O’Brien said. The toys, based on biblical stories, include a 3-inch figure of Daniel in the lion’s den, a 12-inch talking Jesus doll and 13-inch Samson action figure.
Wal-Mart has always carried some faith products, mainly stationery, books and music, but this is the first line of toys with a faith theme, O’Brien said. “I think there is an interest in faith-based toys and we are testing it in our stores,” O’Brien said. It is a leap in scale for One2believe, which so far has mainly sold its figures directly to churches and ministries and through its Web site, Socha said.
(Via Ari Armstrong)
In my youth, I played with many toys at other children’s homes, but I never played with a “biblical action figures.” I was an explicit atheist from an extremely young age — around 4 or 5, when I first heard about God — so I would have been aghast at any religious toys. The simple fact is that none of the kids I grew up with were religious in that serious kind of way. Obviously, that’s no longer true.
Similarly, none of my high school classmates would have dreamed of putting off college to do missionary work in the third world in a million years. Yet, this morning in Starbucks, Paul and I overheard some high school girls talking about a classmate doing just that. They were surprised that the boy in particular would choose that, but they obviously regarded the activity as a relatively normal break between high school and college.
The anecdotes are piling up almost as fast as the Christian stores are opening their doors.