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Kenner’s Steve Scout and Bob Scout – the Teenage Adventure Team Part 2

During the last week, I hope besides looking for these sets on eBay, you also learned how to tie a square knot and a bowline knot.

There was more product released for the Steve Scout line in 1975.  It was probably part of their original strategy, but they launched additional figures depicting the lower aged Cub scouts (Boy scouts are aged 11-18, and cub scouts then were about 6 to 11).  These were “Craig Cub,” and “Dave Cub” which were about an inch shorter than Steve and Bob.  

Craig Cub

These figures still had the high attention to detail on the class A uniforms which Steve Scout and Bob Scout had.

Most likely, they were sold in master cases of about six figures where one or two of the figures in the assortment would be Bob Cubs and the rest to be Craig Cubs.  This disparity of numbers was never intended as any type of racism as many of today’s politically correct people are quick to assume. Toy companies adjusted the proportions of assortments to match anticipated sales. The last thing they want is too many of one figure on a shelf.  It was not uncommon to shift the “pack-out ratios” four times a year to maximize sales. If they could sell as many Bob Scouts and Steve Scouts, they would be ecstatic.

Dave Cub

The African American figures were a good example of the best way to make diverse figures. It was common to use the original figures of whatever line, like the original GI Joe line, and only change the colors for ethnic variations. For this line, Kenner sculpted very nice heads for Bob Scout and Craig Cub to make it more fun to buy the other characters.  The GI Joe Classic Collection did this the best when the final years shipped special heads for African American, Hispanic, and Asian ethnicities. 

Year Two

It is not uncommon for the year-two product to be more innovative than the year-one product for several reasons. The first reason is timing; often, first-year products are rushed, and management does not want to spend too much time refining a product if they are not sure the line will sell. The second reason is complexity; often, the ideas for the second year products have already been created but are more complex and will take more time to develop than the schedule allows.  If they wait until the second season, they have time to refine the concepts. The final reason is an interesting one; there is a point when you have run out of ideas, so you have to dig deeper into your creativity to find a solution.  In year two or three, you also know your lin, and characters are already introduced, so there is more freedom creativity to expand.  The 1975 year of Steve Scout is a great example. They released just three new adventures, but they are some of the best product released.

Balloon Race to Devil’s Canyon

While I have never seen hot air balloons in conjunction with scouting, I am sure it happens somewhere (maybe they made a wrong turn at Albuquerque.)  It is a great set anyway. It comes with a large 15” diameter balloon that is captured inside a net.  Hanging from the net is the observer’s-basket/gondola designed to hold two scouts. But how do you play with such a large bottom heavy set? The designers created a hook to hang on a door or other tall location which the balloon can dangle from. Attached to the top of the balloon is a string and pully to make it rise as the scout pulls it up pretending it is taking off.  At the top, it detaches from the vertical assent to glide down a diagonal line in a graceful descent to the ground.

Escape from Eagle Mountain

Yes, this is VERY similar, and most likely inspired by the “GI Joe Adventure Team Sky Hawk.” This hang glider was also made like a kite with a polyethelyne plastic and spanned a respectable 30” long and 30” wide.  Instead of the awkward way Joe sat in his hang glider, the scouts could sit in comfort on the equivalent of a hanging patio chair.  You could still toss this vehicle so your scouts can catch some updrafts and get some good gliding.

Porta-Power Rescue Cycle

This set is my favorite Steve Scout set, not for its scouting quality, but its ingenuity.  The set was built around a large backpack that holds 2 “C-batteries.”  Yes, “AA” batteries would have been better and were already in use by Mattel in the 1967 Captain Lazer, but Kenner always had very high quality/reliability rates.  I suspect “AAs” versions would not pass the battery life test for the toy.  It does not take much power to run lights, but when running motor driven vehicles, that power drains quickly.  Parents then were much more annoyed to keep buying batteries for toys than they are now.

The power pack would snap into the Rescue Cycle to drive that vehicle with the figure. The backpack could also be carried by any Scout or Cub to then activate a drill, a searchlight, and a power saw.

My favorite application of this technology is in Billy Blastoff by Eldon in the mid-1960s, where AA batteries fit into his backpack, and he had the motor inside his body.  Then whatever vehicle you placed him in could be less expensive and run off of the figure’s motor.  You could also attach small accessories like light up TVs or other small accessories into the figure.  I never saw these as a child, but Topper expanded the line with underwater versions, snow versions, and constructions versions.  Very cool – but I digress.

Merchandising and Catalogs

One of the fun parts of this line was all the comics that were included with each adventure.  These were clearly inspired by the GI Joe Adventure Team comics, but they are still fun.  What kid does not want to read an adventure?  This approach to selling the adventure still worked when we saved the cost of the extra booklets but added the adventures to the backs of the Classic Collection Adventures of GI Joe figures.

In the category of, “Mistakes Happen,” some of the comics had names that did not match the product.

“Rescue Patrol on Crystal Glacier” came in the package labeled “Avalanche on Blizzard Ridge Adventure” but it was obviously the same adventure story they were telling.  In addition, the “Excitement at High Adventure Scout Base” was also noted as “Wilderness Base at Rocky Rapids” in some locations. Most likely, the comic was sent to be designed by an outside vendor, and the packaging designer never gave the updated name to that vendor once the Marketing Department changed its mind on the final name.  Then there was no time to change the comic without missing the shipping window. This type of mistake happens more than you would expect.

It was also fun that Kenner decided to use the comic approach to advertise the Steve Scout line.  There were several different versions of this, but it was fun to see while reading an Avengers comic book (and not far from the comic book panel ads showing the Hulk defeating aliens for trying to steal all of earth’s Twinkies.)

Kenner also made a big push to TV advertise this line.  Not every toy line gets advertised as the cost has been escalating since the 1960s.  According to the catalog, they were going to offer some creative point of purchase displays showing a scout camping scene under a clear dome.  I can say with years of authority, that just because it shows up in a catalog, does not mean it ever hit the shelves.  Kenner used to call this “Strategy of Show.” If they did not show a big playset for a new action figure line, the toy buyers would not trust that the company was truly supporting the line. Consequently, many playsets were presented at New York Toy Fair that only existed in that one model.  There was a playset created for the small Indiana Jones action figure line.  (Someone found that model and sold it, but they did it either ignorantly or unscrupulously as the Star Wars Tattooine playset.)

Typically, finished toys are not ready to photograph before a toy catalog needs to be shot and printed.  So it is always interesting to see rough models of figures.  These make great treats for collectors when those extremely rare models surface.  It is also funny to see how they update the catalogs with the new information.  For year two of the Kenner High Adventure Base, they photographically added in Dave Cub to the top of the tower.  It is also shown that way on the photograph of the box, but I do not have any proof they made a new package for 1975.

Something new I just learned from what of our avid readers was the additional promotional figure for the line.  There was a mail-in offer for “Bill Scout” which was a Steve Scout repainted to be blond. He also wore a class B uniform which consisted of shorts, a T-shirt and oddly enough, shoes instead of boots. If I did not already have WAY too many toys, I would start hunting for this figure.

Sadly, all good things come to an end.  According to my boss at Mattel, who designed the initial product and sold the concept into Kenner, the line was a mismatch. At that time, children started on non-preschool toys, fashion dolls, and action figures, much later.  The Barbie line core consumers in 1974 were 6 to 8-year-olds.  By the year 1994, that fell to 2 to 6 years old.  So, boys were by then playing with action figures at about 5 years old.  At 6 years old, you could be a cub scout.  So the play pattern was too close to the age where the kids who were excited about these adventures, could join cub scouts or boy scouts and do the adventures themselves.  From the original sales pitch to the retailers, Kenner pronounced, “There are over 56,000,000 former members of the Boy Scouts of America who are potential customers.”  But these potential customers either were scouts already or were in the past.  Playing Scouts would never be as much fun as being a scout (I can say from experience.) So Steve Scout was never the successful toy line and competition to GI Joe that Kenner hoped it would be.

When part one of this discussion was published, some people took my title question too seriously. I know a tie-in was not intended, but some people were offended.  The question was planned to spark fun discussion about the comparisons and to look at something old in a new way. Regardless, the Kenner Scout figures did interact with the GI Joe Adventure Team in MY backyard adventures. 

I hope my article will inspire more collectors to hunt for another classic toy “Steve Scout.”

What is your favorite Steve Scout Adventure?

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  1. That was an awesome read! (though… now I’m kinda curious about that Indiana Jones playset, and how it was turned into a Star Wars playset… what did it look like???)

    • I was very curious when I heard that story also. I trust the source I heard this from but it was made in the years when I was still at Mattel and not Kenner yet, so I am just as curious as you are. If I ever find out though – I will post it.

      • Were you at Mattel during the “He-Man” years? Is it true, that when naming the figures, you had to drink four shots first, as no figure was named while sober? (I heard that rumor a while back, and when I asked some of the guys at Comic Con, they laughed, and said “absolutely”, but they may have been joking… but then you see the names of the various characters, and well… maybe?)

    • Thanks Tim. Hey I am planning a post about space figures and particularly their ray guns. I remember how much you always loved the space side of Joe.