Did you know that “action figures” (you know, usually those sweet toy soldiers and monsters that young boys seem to always love and admire?) did not actually exist until 1964?
Itis true. Hasbro, that famous and perhaps sometimes infamous toymaker, first came up with the term action figure in 1964 as they introduced what would become one of their most famous toys and would propel itself into action figure icon legend… the G.I. Joe. Back then, many boys would still play with dolls, in fact it was quite common and even masculine based toys were still called dolls.
However, Hasbro decided to come up with an interesting marketing angle. Instead of calling their boy dolls what they were, they came up with the name action figures to give them a more masculine brand and feel. This way they could market to boys who normally would not play with dolls. Soon, even the most anti-doll young boy found themselves with an entire drool worthy collection of Gi.I Joes.
And the rest is kind of history.
From the creation of the G.I Joe, Hasbro went on to actually license this product to other companies in various markets both domestically and internationally. This process is what actually led to Hasbro to become a total goliath in the toy industry. Still to this day, Hasbro is considered a leading toy manufacturer. Ask around, I bet you at least 80% of the time you ask someone who a famous toy manufacturer is, people will likely only be able to name Hasbro as the famed maker of toys.
The G.I Joe is not defunct either. Despite a huge trend of adults who now proactively collect discontinued lines of G.I Joes for their action figures collection, Hasbro still has companies licensing their action figures to make them in their domestic markets. For example the Japanese company Takara is still pumping out G.I Joe dolls in Japan, home of the bonsai tree.
In a kind of funny twist of events, the other popular action figure line Microman came about because of the 1970s oil crisis. It put pressure on manufacturers to be able to make the traditionally 11 ½ inches G.I Joe. So instead, Takara led the revolution of smaller sized action figures by creating the cyborg Microman with transparent plastic revealing cyborg innards included.
Later on other companies would go on to produce super successful action figures as well, such as Mattel would do in the late 1970s and 1980s with their line of Jim action heroes. This very day, boys still love action figures. There is something magical about creating an entire narrative and story in our heads while moving hunks of plastic molded into monsters and heroes.
Just something about it, I suppose!
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people in their adult age still keep these boy dolls around. There is an entire “shadow” economy based around buying and selling G.I Joes. That just goes to show you how awesome they really are.