It is with great sadness that JBL reports that G.I. Joe creator Don Levine passed away on May 22, 2014. He was 86 years old.
He served as Hasbro’s head of Research & Development in the 1960’s and led the team that designed the 21 part 1:6 action figure that revolutionized the ways boys played. This figure, which honored the many veterans working at the company at the time, was dubbed “G.I. Joe” and made its debut at the New York Toy Fair in February 1964. The figures debuted in time for the Christmas season later that year with a price tag of $4 each.
Countless children since 1964 have been impacted the efforts of Don’s team. The G.I. Joe brand changed with the times, transforming from a military toy line to a series of global adventurers before changing to the more recent 4″ scale. Levine, a former veteran of the Korean War, thought of the figure as a way to honor veterans.
Former Hasbro Inc. chief executive officer Alan Hassenfeld remembered Levine as “a wonderful, wonderful asset at Hasbro for many years.”
“He was a great teacher and mentor of mine,” said Hassenfeld, whose father was head of the company 50 years ago when G.I. Joe was introduced.
Hassenfeld said Levine did not originate the idea of G.I. Joe, which came from Stan Weston. ”My dad loved the idea, and Don and his team took the concept and made it into something even bigger.”
“Don was a special, special human being,” Hassenfeld said. “It’s a huge loss for the toy industry.”
Don is survived by his wife, three children, and four grandchildren.
Thank you Don, both for your service to your country and to your contribution to the imaginations of children everywhere. You will be missed.