Despite our natural disdain for chain stores, it's hard to ignore the new, Gigantor-size Toys 'R' Us in Times Square. What kid is not going to want to wait on the Disney-long line for the Ferris wheel? Upstairs, a twenty-foot-high Tyrannosaurus rex greets customers with unpredictable roars and moving limbs, head, and eyes. The lower level has multiple stations for kids to test out the X-Box, Gameboy Advance, and Playstation II. Back on the T. rex level, Barbie's Dollhouse is Shangri-La for girly girls. If a snack is in order, Pepsi World has your basic unhealthy treats as well as life-size cardboard cutouts of Britney Spears and race-car driver Jeff Gordon for photo ops.
121 Second Avenue
Lower-tech but far more interesting is Toy Tokyo, a one-and-a-half-year-old East Village shop reached by climbing a bruised set of red-and-black stairs. The place is stocked with collectibles: all types of twelve-inch dolls, including Samurai guys, Indiana Jones, Kobe Bryant, and Stallone; hand-painted porcelain miniatures of the Simpsons, Smurfs, and the Pink Panther ($40-$400); Transformers; Muppets; and key chains with aliens and other Japanese animated characters ($1.50-$10). Toy Tokyo also has do-it-yourself dolls. Customers have a choice of body, head, clothing, and accessories to make their own superhero.