Category Archives: Toys and Toy Art

Russ Heath – Vindicator model sheet

FutureForce2_TEASE

Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster did a great job putting together two books of G.I. Joe animation model sheets – must-own for Joe art fans.  (A parent was browsing in the “Action” section of my comic book store, pulled from the shelf volume 1 of G.I. Joe Field Manual, and sort of thought it was a coloring book.  I would have spoken up, but it was clear from their casual browsing that they weren’t that interested, and I didn’t want to come across as an aggressive sales person.)  Animation model sheets started out in black and white, and that’s mostly how they were seen by many of the artists who worked on the shows.

FutureForce2_1Or in this case, commercials, since animated Battle Force 2000 only appeared in G.I. Joe advertising.  And I should say that artists tended to see photocopies of them in very-actual black and white.  Rarer is seeing the original art, here, pencil on paper, dark grey on off-white.  Russ Heath, who’s gotten some attention here at A Real American Book, drew today’s post:  Three views of the “Vindicator” hovercraft.    FutureForce2_2This is before Hasbro settled on the name “Battle Force 2000,” when the line was still “Future Force.”  (I’ve seen some Hasbro paperwork with “Future Force” on it.)  What makes these interesting is that they are early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts.  I’m not sure why, and it’s hard to tell from the ad since that only has four seconds of animation.  To my eyes, these models are clearly drawn from photos of toys (or toy mock-ups) or drawn from objects Heath had in front of him.  So maybe that’s it, maybe they’re referenced from mock-ups.  Not sure how that would have helped the animators, as they’d still need the final model sheets.

FutureForce2_3

Perhaps of note, or not, is that these three drawings weren’t done on the same day.  The top one is dated 9-9-86, the middle one is four days earlier, and the lower one ten days after.  That may not mean anything, as Heath had stacks of drawings to do for any Joe commercial or episode, and was working for multiple productions at any one time.  The other “Future Force” vehicle drawings I have are dated between August 5 and September 19.  That’s a big range for what was all going to appear together in one ad, but maybe it was a package deal — several ads and all their materials (script, boards, designs, sound) going overseas at the same time.  This is all conjecture.

But going back to “early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts,” you might be hoping for a side-by-side.  So here’s an excerpt from Sorenson and Forster’s book on the left (pg 125), with the comparable pencil drawing on the right.

FutureForce2_2compareSo today we have our usual kind of mystery — discrepancies in design — with some dates and guesses.  Makes you wonder.

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Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade test shot

Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade test shot

Some characters I have simply no attachment to.  That goes for the entirety of the 1994 Mortal Kombat line, and for several reasons:  1) I wasn’t a fan of fighting games.  2) Even if I was, I gravitated towards the drawn style of a Street Fighter II over the photo-realism a Mortal Kombat or Pit Fighter.  3) These aren’t great representations of the characters since they involve so many re-used G.I. Joe parts.  4) Oh, they’re not even in the G.I. Joe line. Continue reading

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Kurt Groen’s Cobra Zombie

Kurt Groen 1990 G.I. Joe Cobra Zombie pencil detail

Hey, all.  Sorry for the delay.  End of school and store events.  But, hey, G.I. Joe!
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Toy Trade News – Feb 1982

Toy Trade News, 17 Feb 1982

This industry publication is a fun time capsule because it was published after G.I. Joe debuted at Toy Fair 1982, but before the product really started hitting shelves.

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Merrill Hassenfeld Obituary, 1979

Merrill Hassenfeld obit detail

Here’s an item that’s a little different than the art artifacts I usually show…  Continue reading

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1992 Duke alternate colors

Detail of 1992 G.I. Joe Duke art by Kurt Groen in alternate colors

Here’s Kurt Groen’s presentation art (marker over photocopy, not paint) for 1992 Duke in green, brown, and black, as opposed to the beige and red that made it to market.

1992 G.I. Joe Duke art by Kurt Groen in alternate colors

What other colors might that trash can have been?

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Star Brigade Cobra Commander by Ron Rudat

Star Brigade Cobra Commander detail, drawn by Ron Rudat, colored just for this blog by Tim Finn

While Ron Rudat is best known for designing the G.I. Joe figure line (and a few vehicles) from 1981 to about 1987 (for the ’82 to about-the-’88 lines), what’s less well known is that he continued to contribute after that.  Case in point, Star Bridgade Cobra Commander.  Remember when Cobra Commander was an astronaut?  You don’t?  Oh, that’s because you perhaps stopped paying attention to the Real American Hero line before its end in 1994.  Well, to catch you up, those final two years had a bunch of favorites (Duke, Roadblock, Destro) in astro-gear.  And some aliens.  (A topic for another day).  Anyhoo, full disclosure, I added the color above.  Today’s art is a black and white photocopy. Continue reading

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Rock & Roll Hasbro development sketch

Detail, internal Hasbro pencil sketch design of 1989 Rock & Roll by Bart Sears and Ron Rudat

As I’ve noted here, when R&D was concepting a G.I. Joe figure, that character would go through quite a process.  A multitude of pencil sketches, input from other members of R&D, line reviews for higher ups, and even a rendered, full-color painting, all before sculpting commenced.  As fun as it is to see proposed designs of toys that didn’t make it, it’s also fun to peak behind the curtain on favorites that did.  Like ’89 Rock & Roll here. Continue reading

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G.I. Joe commercials – 1987 Effie award winner

Effie Award 1987 catalog partial cover

No doubt you’re familiar with the Academy Awards, given to films and film artists, planners, and scientists.  Or the Emmys, given for television, or the Grammys and Tonys, for recorded music and Broadway theatre.  You’ve maybe heard of the Clios, which we think of as the Oscars of advertising, but that category is more broadly defined on the Clio website as “advertising, design, interactive and communications.”  And there are the Effies, for “marketing communications” — given to marketers by the marketing industry.

G.I. Joe won a silver Effie in 1987. Continue reading

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1993 Leatherneck test shot

Test shot of GI Joe 1993 Leatherneck figure

While I was glad to see my favorite Joe Marine, the ’86 Leatherneck, get an update in ’93, I wasn’t thrilled by the color scheme.  It’s interesting, but it doesn’t say “Marine” to me.  But it’s unfair of me to want that since this update isn’t a Marine, or just a Marine, but an Infantry/Training Specialist and Marine Drill Sergeant.  And maybe such a person would wear burnt ochre, yellow, and teal.  So while the G.I. Joe line was moving back towards realism in the Battle Corps subset in ’93 and ’94, that wasn’t a guarantee that Leatherneck, one of the more realistic-looking figures of the ’80s, was going to stay realistic.  To be clear, though, I do like the design, just not the color choices.  My first reactions are the words “giraffe” and “banana,” and I’d only want to have that for some fanciful Jungle-Viper.

Which is why I was so struck by this test shot. Continue reading

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