Tag Archives: G.I. Joe toy development

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

5 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

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

1 Comment

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Unproduced Cobra sketch

detail of unproduced G.I. Joe Cobra character, probably from the late 1980s

Here’s an unproduced Cobra I don’t know anything about. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Battle Force 2000 Blocker sketch

GI Joe Battle Force 2000 Blocker Color detailYikes, has it been a month since my apology?  Here’s another:  Sorry!  Movie review coming soon.  Honest.

Dipping my toe back in the blog pool, here’s Blocker as a just-about final design, before he was “Blocker” (one of Hasbro’s least inspired codenames), when Battle Force 2000 was still “Future Force.”  Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Unproduced G.I. Joe Vehicle – Borer

G.I. Joe Unproduced Borer by Andrei Koribanics close-upAndrei Koribanics freelanced for Hasbro in the mid-1980s.  Besides today’s Borer art, I’ve also come across a figure concept by him (that may end up in Chapter 14 of my book) and the presentation painting of Sgt. Slaughter’s Renegades (in Chapter 6).  Leaky Suit Brigade has a tiny interview with Koribanics, and should have a longer one up at some point. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Cobra Night Raven designs by Steve Reiss

Cobra Night Raven by Steve Reiss tease image for Tim Finn's G.I. Joe blog

Steve Reiss attended CCS, the College for Creative Studies, before it had that name, back when it was called Society of Arts & Crafts in Detroit.  It had long been a school with a reputation for vehicle design.  After Reiss joined Hasbro in 1985 he was soon designing G.I. Joe vehicles, like the stunning 1986 Cobra Night Raven, based on Lockheed’s also-stunning SR-71 “Blackbird.”  For your reference, here’s the real thing:

SR-71 NASA photo by Judson Brohmer as comparison to Steve Reiss G.I. Joe Cobra Night Raven toy for Hasbro    And here are Steve Reiss’ six pages of designs, the basis for a rough, three-dimensional model.

Cobra Night Raven design pg 1 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

Cobra Night Raven design pg 2 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

Cobra Night Raven design pg 3 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

Cobra Night Raven design pg 4 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

For play value, Reiss added a one-person drone that latched onto the top of the larger jet:

Cobra Night Raven design pg 5 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

And here’s the parts breakdown.

Cobra Night Raven design pg 6 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

The final toy is black with opaque red accents, and the clear red cockpit windows are a lovely, extra detail.  The Night Raven is also quite long, and I recall always needing two hands to support it.  It’s one of the most attractive products in the entire Real American Hero product line — elegant, sleek, and aggressive.

11 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Unproduced: Towed Artillery Missile System

Unproduced G.I. Joe vehicle concept, TAMS, 1984

Sorry for the delay in posting.  School starts and trips accrue in September.  To get back into it and take a break from “The Rotten Egg” and my exciting internship today we’ve got Rich Rossi’s color rendering of a vehicle concept, the Towed Artillery Missile System, which I’ll call the TAMS for short.  In all honesty I don’t know anything about it, so we’ll play the reasonable assumption game.

Concept art for Unproduced G.I. Joe vehicle, TAMS, 1984

Drawn in ’84, it would have been pitched for ’86 or ’87.  But often concepts would get shot down, only to resurface later, or inspire a later idea.  In 1988 a different vehicle showed up, the similarly monikered RPV, or Remote Pilot Vehicle — boy did the names not flow for these two.

G.I. Joe RPV vehicle 1988 catalog scan

I don’t wish to draw a straight line between them, that one inspired the other, but it’s safe to say they both filled a specific price point, play pattern, and concept.  But notably the TAMS seats no driver and carries no figure, even by precarious foot peg.  And to further differentiate it from the RPV, by ’88 scale, detailing, and concepts were getting exaggerated and moving away from strict military realism.  The structure of the TAMS more resembles the detailing on earlier vehicles like the FLAK and the ASP, shown here.

G.I. Joe catalog scan details FLAK and ASP

There’s a stronger sense of parts and bolts and hardware, whereas the late ’80s styling smoothed out edges and surfaces.  Since these catalog scans aren’t too enlightening, here are links to much nicer photos of each, from the fine folks at yojoe: the FLAK, the ASP, and the RPV.

One thing’s for sure — Real American Hero had no shortage of small artillery accessories.  These were great for populating a small-scale battlefield with variety, even if they weren’t as much fun as “regular” vehicles like Jeeps and tanks, or as story-driving as a headquarters playset.

6 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Eco-Warriors Pirate Oil Baron

Unproduced Eco-Warriors Pirate Oil Baron detail by Kurt Groen

Before Cesspool became the lead villain for Cobra’s half of the 1991 Eco-Warriors subset, Kurt Groen pitched this unnamed character, a pirate oil baron.

Unproduced Eco-Warriors Pirate Oil Baron pencil art by Kurt Groen

I’m not sure what he’s dropping, something with a Joe logo — a pouch?  Spirit’s ponytail?  Later, when Groen colored this, he added a backpack with an oil-shooting weapon, looking ahead to the water-squirting weapons that each Eco-Warrior came packaged with.

3 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Hit & Run’s almost-1995 transformation

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run action figure photo by Tim Finn

In 1988 Hasbro released a stunning G.I. Joe figure called Hit & Run.  Here’s a not-professional photo by me for context.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run toy photo by Tim Finn

No flesh tone, just green and black camo all over — his hands, his face, and his clothing.  Fun fact:  Hit & Run is [EDIT: one of] the only Joe[s] with whites-of-his-eyes.  All other figures 1982-1994 are flesh tone plastic with a paint detail in black, brown, blonde, or red for eyebrows and retina.  [EDIT: Two others have whites-of-eyes].

Here’s his turnaround, drawn by Mark Pennington, with machine gun, duffle bag (taking the place of a backpack), and accessories.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run figure sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run weapon sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run bag sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run accessories sculpt input Mark Pennington

Many Joe fans know that Real American Hero ended in 1994, and the planned 1995 line was scrapped, although images of package artwork and product samples have circulated.  Did you know Hit & Run was destined, in a way, for a return?

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run Hasbro memo as stealth figure for 1995

Indeed!  According to this memo from Greg Berndtson, Hit & Run, whose figure was never recolored or re-released, was going to be re-used for the ’95 line as the Stealth Tank Driver!  REVELATION.  Here’s his turnaround.

G.I. Joe 1995 Stealth Tank driver, sculpt input reused from 1988 Hit & Run, Mark Pennington

You’ll note it’s just a photocopy of Hit & Run’s, although a few specs have changed, which I have highlighted for clarity.  This looks to be early enough in the process that our new tank driver doesn’t yet have a codename, or if he does, as of June ’94 that’s happening in Marketing and Legal and the R&D guys don’t have the final name.

So what would he have looked like?  Kurt Groen’s breakdown tells us, even if it doesn’t show us:

G.I. Joe 1995 Stealth Tank driver color breakdown

Using these codes as a guide, I’ve taken the liberty of coloring that sculpt input myself.  So here for the first time ever is what the unnamed Phantom X5-3 Stealth Tank driver would have looked like:

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run as unproduced 1995 vehicle driver

I’ve taken a small liberty here.  For clarity I used a dark grey rather than black, and I’m approximating “LT YELLOW GRN.”  “IVY,” as well, but that’s less up to guessing.  After the sidetracks and excesses of ’91 – ’93, the ’94 line was getting back to basics and ’95 would have only continued the trend.  That it never happened has always been a little sad, although the Real American Hero line certainly surpassed all expectations by lasting twelve years.  I hope you’ve enjoy this look behind the curtain at what may have been.

Fun fact:  Hit & Run is the only Joe [EDIT: one of only two] with an ampersand in his name that doesn’t denote an animal companion.  Law & Order was Law, the MP, and his K-9, Order.  Spearhead and Max is the point man named Spearhead and his bobcat, Max.  Well, that’s the word “and” rather than an ampersand, but you get my drift.  Hit & Run is this guy’s whole name, ampersand-ed idiom and all.

[EDIT: Thanks to Tolan, who caught my two errors, as noted in the comments below.  -Tim]

11 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Zartan’s Chameleon

…And we’re back.  Sorry for the radio silence.  Thanks to visitors who keep clicking over here.

Today’s post features Zartan’s swamp skier, the Chameleon.  No one ever called it by name in the TV show, and offhand I don’t recall it appearing in the comic, though if it did, it would have been around issue #25, and I don’t think anyone called it by name.  Here’s Wayne Luther’s design art for it, dated September 13, 1983.

Zartan's Chameleon 3 drawing by Wayne Luther

Here also is a photocopy of a photocopy of an early sample of the Chameleon.  That figure looks like the HISS Driver, but I’m unsure.

Zartan Chameleon 4 photocopyWhy the HISS Driver, you ask?  This photo must predate any production samples of Zartan back from China, and likely any handmade samples, so for reference, any figure was placed on the vehicle.  HISS Driver debuted a year before Zartan, so one was on hand.  (Or whoever it is.)  These photos were sent to the TV producers, writers, and artists, and probably also the Marvel offices for comic book reference.

The water cannon was used in episode #6 of G.I. Joe, but I don’t recall ever “using” it when I played with my G.I. Joe action figures.  As the Chameleon was not a robust construction, and was always falling apart, I stopped including it in my G.I. Joe games soon after getting it.

There were two TV ads for Zartan and the Chameleon.  One for issue #25, all animation.  Here’s the toy one, which uses some of that animation:

2 Comments

Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art