Entertainment News

  • 7 February 2014, 0:17

GI Joe Celebrates 50 Years In Uniform

The 50th birthday of GI Joe - the world's first action figure - is being celebrated by collectors and the toymaker that introduced it just before the US plunged itself into the Vietnam War.

Hasbro Inc first introduced the "movable fighting man" at the annual toy fair in New York City in early 1964.

Since then, GI Joe has undergone many changes, some the result of shifts in public sentiment for military-themed toys, others dictated by the marketplace.

"Joe stood for everything that was meant to be good: fighting evil, doing what's right for people," said Alan Hassenfeld, the 65-year-old former Hasbro CEO, whose father, Merrill, oversaw GI Joe's development in 1963.

Don Levine, who is often referred to as the "father" of GI Joe, led the team that came up with the 11 1/2in (29cm) articulated figure with 21 moving parts.

It was the company's military veteran employees who decided to outfit the toy in the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, with such accessories as guns, helmets and vehicles.

"Most boys in the 60s had a father or a relative who was or had been in the military," said Patricia Hogan, curator at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, home to the National Toy Hall of Fame.

"Once you've bought Joe, you need to buy all the accessories and play sets and add-ons, which was great for business."

GI Joe hit the shelves in time for the 1964 Christmas shopping season and soon became a big seller at $4 (£2.45) apiece.

It remained popular until the late 1960s, as opposition to the Vietnam War intensified and parents shied away from military-related toys.

Hasbro countered in the 1970s by introducing "Adventure Team" GI Joes that played down the military connection, outfitting the toy with scuba gear to save the oceans and explorer's clothing for discovering mummies.

In the early 1980s, Hasbro shrank Joe to 3 3/4in (9.5cm), the same size as figures made popular by Star Wars.

Over the decades, the action figure has spawned comic books, cartoons, two movies starring Channing Tatum, and a GI Joe Collector's Club and its annual convention - GIJoeCon - held in Dallas in April.

Hasbro said it intends to announce details of its 50th anniversary plans during this year's fair in New York on February 16.

GI Joe was elected into Toy Hall of Fame in 2004, six years after Barbie was enshrined.

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