Rhino Entertainment and Kenner Products have joined forces to create a new toy that will appeal to small children and baby boomers by reimagining the dancing bears from the back of the Grateful Dead’s History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear’s Choice) as zombies. Kenner, who has produced the popular Care Bears, for the past 30 years, will offer a line of animatronic, multi-colored, zombie bears in time for the holiday season known as the Walking Grateful Dead.
The toys will march slowly across the floor, attracted by movement, while playing Grateful Dead songs, with altered lyrics. For example, instead of “Uncle John’s Band,” the bears play “Uncle John’s Brain.” Other revised songs in the Walking Grateful Dead set list include: “Johnny Taste Good,” “Munchin’,“Let Me Bite Your Eyes Away,” and “The Zombies Never Stopped.”
So far, product testing has proven the Walking Grateful Dead to be a winner. “Toddlers just squeal with delight as they run from the lumbering zombie bears,” said Karen Pardeau, Manager of Product Testing at Kenner. “And it’s so cute to see them giggle when the bears corner them and gnaw on their little hands and toes.”
Some Deadheads have expressed disdain for the idea. “I think Jerry Garcia would roll over in his grave if he ever saw walking orange teddy bear in ripped tie-dye t-shirt marching across the linoleum with a decaying veggie burrito while it played bastardized versions of his songs,” said Skylark Sunshine, 57, a realtor and tarot consultant in Tuscon, Arizona.
Other fans, seem to be okay with it. “You know, Teletubbies really creeped me out and they sold well and small children really seemed to be engaged with them,” said Mindy Mohan, 42, Editor of Toy Chest, an industry that reviews and rates educational toys and maternity bras. “How different are Teletubbies from zombie Care Bears?”
Holiday sales will be the true indicator of whether Rhino and Kenner are onto a hit. Meanwhile, Atkinson Film-Art of Canada is already producing the toy’s first animated special for television, No Place to to Run from the Walking Grateful Dead on the Festival Circuit.