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US toy giant FAO Schwarz casts its magic spell here

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Shaking up market: Cliona Lowry dressed as a mad scientist at the opening of US toy retailer FAO Schwarz at Arnotts in Dublin. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Shaking up market: Cliona Lowry dressed as a mad scientist at the opening of US toy retailer FAO Schwarz at Arnotts in Dublin. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Shaking up market: Cliona Lowry dressed as a mad scientist at the opening of US toy retailer FAO Schwarz at Arnotts in Dublin. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Halloween fireworks haven't even been unleashed yet, and already the Christmas wish lists are being composed.

A new generation of Santa gifting emerged yesterday when the iconic American toy store FAO Schwarz opened in Dublin.

Arnotts of Henry Street is only the second store in Europe to get an FAO, so there was quite a fanfare at breakfast time yesterday with many mid-term break children arm-wrestling their parents to go to town. They were rewarded with a musical show of Disney hits songs outside.

True to form, there was a march-past by the brand's emblem - wooden Nutcrackers - only this time they were humans in uniforms. Staff underwent musical auditions at Smock Alley followed by weeks of training in the world of toys.

Hardcore movie buffs will know of the famous toy store from the 1988 movie 'Big', where Tom Hanks played the walk-on piano keyboard.

There's one of those now in Dublin - but the whole interactive adventure has moved on a few treble and bass clefs since Hanks.

In this social media age, visitors can record their performances and send them directly to Instagram accounts.

But forget the musical legacy of Chopin and Beethoven, the only pianoforte action in the basement of Arnotts yesterday was the pitter-patter of a clutch of TV personalities trying their best to imitate Tom Hanks.

James Patrice, from RTÉ's 'Dancing With the Stars', was positively balletic on the walk-on piano while 'Love Island' winner Greg O'Shea proved he had a certain dexterity. Must be down to his rugby skills.

So what's new that Santa's helpers might need to know about?

Well, the new 'Frozen 2' Elsa fashion doll is tipped to be big and her petite-sized lilac boots, which cost €20, are apparently the juvenile equivalent of Jimmy Choos.

For sheer point of difference, the Build Your Own Race Car with remote control is going to have appeal, along with the doll adoption centre.

There are traditional toys like Lego and Playmobil and educational toys from Djeco. However, there was particular interest in a new audio system for children called Tonies. It was designed by two dads who wanted an intuitive way for kids to listen to audio content without a flickering screen.

The pair devised the Toniebox - on top of which you place petite-sized figures who do different things, from teaching and telling stories to playing your favourite music.

They have a long-distance quality too that bypasses Skype.

Parents who might have to miss out on the evening bedtime story, because of work commitments or travel, can upload 90 minutes of content so children can play the parent's voice and a personalised 'Night Night' message.

Grandparents too might see it as a new-generation way of staying in touch, and telling stories to grandchildren living hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Irish Independent