Grandfather of G.I. Joe Don Levine Passes Away

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2003 file photo, G.I. Joe creator Don Levine holds up his original hand-carved, hand-painted G.I. Joe prototype in Providence, R.I. Levine died of cancer early Thursday, May 22, 2014 at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, said his wife, Nan. He was 86. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 30, 2003 file photo, G.I. Joe creator Don Levine holds up his original hand-carved, hand-painted G.I. Joe prototype in Providence, R.I. Levine died of cancer early Thursday, May 22, 2014 at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, said his wife, Nan. He was 86. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

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.


G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Article from the BBC

BBC News logo

It would seem that the G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary is “kind of a big deal” in the toy world– especially when coverage of the event stretches all the way across the Atlantic to the U.K.

Kim Gittleston, a business reporter for the BBC who is currently covering the New York Toy Fair, published an excellent piece yesterday entitled “How Did G.I. Joe Become the World’s Most Successful Boys’ Toy?”  It’s an excellent piece that covers the entire history of the brand, from its early beginnings to its most current state and includes quotes from noted Joe personalities like Derryl DePriestKirk Bozigian, and even friend of JBL and admin Justin Bell.  (Honestly, it’s a much better and less biased piece than the earlier AP article that ran a week ago.)

It’s good to see the G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary getting coverage both domestically and internationally. This shows that not only does the brand have reach but that there’s still life in old Joe yet!

(Thanks to Adrian Faulkner for the heads-up and congrats to Justin Bell on the quotation!)

This Week in Geektastic History – G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary

Geektastic History

Depending upon which source you use, this week marks the birthday of my favorite franchise of all time.  To commemorate the G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary, the folks at The Breaux Show have put together a short video tribute as part of their “Geektastic History” series.  Short and to the point, it’s a nice look back at 5 decades of “America’s Movable Fighting Man”!

Check back on Saturday Evening as the host of The Breaux Show will be traveling to New York City for Hasbro’s special Pre-Toy Fair Media event!  This event showcases Hasbro’s entertainment brands and their products for 2014 from Transformers to Marvel to a spotlight on the G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary!

G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary – what can fans expect in 2014?

gi joe movable fighting man

2014 marks a very special occasion for the ENTIRE G.I. Joe fandom.  Next year will mark the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe – the ORIGINAL action figure!  However, the question on many fans’ minds right now is how exactly will that milestone anniversary be acknowledged and which facets of G.I. Joe will it encompass?  After all, the G.I. Joe brand has evolved quite a bit over the past 50 years.

A quick timeline of G.I. Joe through the years:

  • America’s Movable Fighting Man: 1964 – 1969
  • The Adventure Team: 1970 – 1976
  • Super Joe: 1977 – 1978
  • A Real American Hero: 1982 – 1994
  • Sgt. Savage & His Screaming Eagles: 1994 – 1995
  • G.I. Joe Extreme: 1995 – 1997
  • G.I. Joe vs. Cobra: 2002 – 2005
  • G.I. Joe – Sigma 6: 2005 – 2007
  • G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary Collection: 2007 – 2009
  • The Movie Era (Rise/Pursuit of Cobra & Retaliation): 2009 – 2013

Now clearly, the bulk of the G.I. Joe timeline was heavily influenced by the A Real American Hero cast of characters and yet the anniversary is technically that of the original “Movable Fighting Man”.  Those initial five years were dominated by realistic representations of servicemen before Joe transitioned into the adventurer role that defined the Adventure Team years.  However, it seems that the 12″ market has transitioned from mass market to high-end with companies like Sideshow and Hot Toys taking over the market that once belonged to G.I. Joe.  Could Hasbro still celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Movable Fighting Man without the 1:6 scale?

The precedent is there– in 1994 Hasbro released a “30th Anniversary” line commemorating the original G.I. Joe offerings.  However, these figures weren’t just released in a 12″ format but instead were rendered in the then-current 3.75″ o-ring construction used for the soon-to-be completed “A Real American Hero” line.  (A 12″ anniversary line did also exist.)  Available both in action sets and in a fantastic boxed set, this line-within-a-line paid proper tribute to the past while still embracing the current reality of the market and retailer expectations.

The 1994 30th Anniversary line included:

Could such a nod to the first action figure happen again only in 1:18 generation 3 construction?  Will there be another limited release of 12″ figures as happened with the Adventure Team reissues from Walmart and Hot Topic of close to a decade ago?  No one knows at this point.  Right now, fans will just have to wait until February and the 2014 Toy Fair held in New York.  However, thanks to Pixel-Dan and ToyNewsInternational, this interview with Derryl DePriest offers a few tidbits about what is to come.

UPDATE: As we get close to the 2014 International Toy Fair there might be some news on the horizon regarding the G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary!

UPDATE: Hasbro’s official efforts have been covered in the G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Review Index!