You Don’t Have to Tickle Him if You Don’t Want To

Thanks to the beauty of licensing, there’s literally an Elmo for every season

Two decades ago, toy inventor Ron Dubren heard giggles coming from a playground. It was a bunch of kids tickling one other. Inspired, Dubren created Tickles the Chimp. Tickles didn’t make it very far, but after Tyco Preschool combined Dubren’s invention with a Sesame Street licensing deal, the toy became Tickle Me Elmo—so popular that the million units Tyco shipped to stores that December scarcely touched demand.

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This story first appeared in the Dec. 2, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.