Thanks for joining me!
We all have our favorite toys. Toys are how we first explored this world. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our favorite toys helped to shape us into the adults we are now. You may have played with toy balls very early and become a professional ball player, a little league coach or a life-long baseball fan. Some people make a decision to “Turn away from child-ish things” which is still an influence from a toy.
Kids and their toys are the focus of my life. My professional work for the last three decades has been designing, developing and marketing children’s products. When not engaged in raising my own kids, much of my free time is spent as a youth leader working with children. Typically, I am teaching them something while they think they are only playing a game.
Nothing defines a child more than their toys or games. Therefore, since toys are SO impactful – let’s talk toys!
My favorite toys starting at about three years of age were Hasbro’s GI Joe, Ideal’s Captain Action Phantom and the Marx Nobel Knights. Through holidays, yard sales, thrift shops and older siblings, I amassed quite a hall of 1/6th scale figures. Sure little green army men were a blast to mow down with rocks and the little Disneykins characters were fun to recreate the films, but with dressable action figures, creativity could soar.
While some kids would only play war with a GI Joe or Superheroes with a Captain Action, to me, these were all just actors in my company. If I had just watched The Three Musketeers and wanted the fun to continue, I would take the swords from the Marx Knights, add feathers to Johnny West’s hat and cut an old fabric scrap to make a tabard so GI Joe could now become a musketeer.
Yes, Barbie was part of the company also. She was often the damsel in distress that was in need of rescue. Before you judge me through modern eyes as a misogynist–keep in mind that in the time when I was a kid, heroes were people like Errol Flynn, John Wayne and Tyrone Powers–not Alan Alda. However, I happy to have Lara Croft joining in the action as a recent addition.
In the days before I knew anything about plastics, injection molding tools and sprues, I would spend hours thinking things like, “If Marx just took the head of the Viking Oden and took his fur chest covering and then added Captain Maddox’s body and hat; it would make a great mountain man.” At the time, I had no idea they ever made Daniel Boone and was thrilled when they released the Scout Jed Gibson creating most of what I imagined.
As I grew older, costuming action figures gave way to creating full sized costumes. I started making any costume for any excuse and planned to do that professionally. However, fate (more accurately described as “God pulling strings”), intervened to provide a summer design intern job at Mattel toys where I stayed for ten years. I was still doing costumes, but they were just small again. People actually paid me to do what I used to do for fun (Feel free to let the song “Nice Work if You Can get it” play through your head).
During the Mattel years, my biggest adventure was starting the entire “Disney Classics” fashion doll line. For the very first time, this line united all the classic Disney dolls for an evergreen line of fashion dolls to be refreshed with every rerelease (expect a separate article just on that story some day). Due to its strong success, the next year Disney Consumer Products launched this positioning across all their categories under the banner of “Disney Princesses”. Other notable items during my Mattel years were the Davy Crocket Doll and the very first Stacie doll in the Barbie line.
Later while working for Hasbro/Kenner, I was fortunate to work on fashion dolls for Prince of Egypt, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and several Star WarsPrincess Leia and Padme Amidala figures.
However, the “living the dream” fun came during the five years I had working on the Classic Collection GI Joe line and the hundreds of Joes I developed. Sitting on the floor of my office finding the right helmet, sewing a new bomb disposal uniform or hand making a working anti-ship mine that really exploded, was just like being a kid again.
If I wrote this properly, I have teased you to want to hear more of these stories. If so, check back in and tell your friends. This only works if people continue to want to hear the stories. The goal is to provide weekly articles about toys and Toy Industry insights with heavy emphasis on 1/6th scale action figures.
What was your first or favorite 1/6th scale figure and do you still have it?