Cute cub Knut touches German hearts, wallets

BERLIN (AP) -- Thousands of people line up at the Berlin Zoo each day to see Knut the polar bear cub, and his button-eyed face has become inescapable for many others who live far from the capital.
Knutmania is in full swing in Germany, where the fluffy baby bear has become the latest merchandising sensation, inspiring Knut T-shirts, mugs, postcards, DVDs, keychains, candy and stuffed teddy bears that cost up to 40.
Knut shares the cover of the current issue of Vanity Fair with no less than Leonardo DiCaprio, with photos by Annie Leibovitz. He has the cover of the German edition all to himself.
Born at the zoo on Dec. 5, Knut -- who was rejected by his mother and hand-raised by zookeepers -- rose to fame last month thanks to television and newspaper pictures. Since then, he has become virtually omnipresent. So potent is his appeal that zoo attendance has roughly doubled since his debut, officials said.
The merchandising frenzy now includes a special collection by German toy maker Steiff GmbH. Since January, the company has been selling 800 Knut bears a day, said sales director Gerald Uhlich. The stuffed animals come in three sizes and cost between about 27 and 40.
Haribo, the German candy company that makes gummi bears, has created a white, marshmallow-like Knut candy that will hit grocery stores across Germany and Austria next week.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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