The Furby flies as suit is settled

Deal includes redesign for doll

NEW YORK — Is the Gremlin-like Furby too, well, Gremlin-like?

The answer’s a definite maybe, given the undisclosed seven-figure sum that toy conglom Hasbro has paid Warner Bros., the studio behind “Gremlins” and “Gremlins 2: The New Batch.”

Upon reaching the settlement, both sides agreed to bury the suit that was filed soon after Furby’s fall debut.

The talking plush doll that has become this holiday season’s runaway hit will reportedly get a redesign as part of the same agreement — which promises to turn the already-hard-to-find toy from Hasbro’s Tiger Electronics division into an instant collectible.

Furbish fusillade

Since October, Tiger has produced 2 million units of the highly interactive 6-1/2-inch tall character that not only belches and passes gas but “learns” as it matures, going from “Furbish” nonsense to such English phrases as “big light” when placed in the sun and “big noise” when subjected to traffic.

When asked about the settlement Tuesday, a Warner Bros. spokeswoman would not comment, but did confirm that the studio was “not currently in litigation” with Hasbro.

Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness did not return Daily Variety’s calls for comment.

Furby’s cousin Gizmo

Consumers and reporters have long noted Furby’s resemblance to Gizmo, the lovable star of the Joe Dante-helmed 1984 hit “Gremlins.” The $148 million U.S. grosser led to a 1990 sequel, also directed by Dante. “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” generated an additional $41 million in domestic box office.

A toy analyst, who asked not to be identified, believed Hasbro’s “big plans” for Furby precipitated the quick, quiet and out-of-court settlement. After all, he asked, how much brand equity can ancient-in-toy-years Gizmo reasonably claim?

A Furby Christmas

By comparison, Furby, whose suggested retail price is $30, is often sold for $130 or more in Internet auctions. Hasbro’s projected profit on the holiday hit has already passed to the $10 million mark.

Hasbro’s licensing division is naturally trying to tap into the Tiger toy’s success by building a massive tie-in campaign around the character that is expected to include both a Furby television show and a McDonald’s promotion.

“My sense is they want to dispose of any legal threats so they won’t distract from putting all the licensing pieces in place,” the toy analyst concluded.