Donald Levine, the Hasbro toy company executive credited as having developed the world’s first action figure by creating GI Joe, died last week at the age of 86.
He died of cancer early on Thursday at the Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, his wife said. They had been about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Levine shepherded the iconic action figure through design and development as Hasbro’s head of research and development.
He and his team came up with a 29.2cm articulated figure with 21 moving parts and since Hasbro’s employees included many military veterans, it was decided that the toy would be outfitted in the uniforms of the US Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, as well as feature accessories such as guns, helmets and vehicles.
Levine, who served in the Korean War, said he got the idea for toy as a way to honor veterans.
GI Joe hit the shelves in time for the 1964 Christmas shopping season and soon became a big seller at US$4 apiece.
GI Joe remained popular until the late 1960s, when opposition to the Vietnam War intensified and parents shied away from military toys. Hasbro countered in 1970 with “Adventure Team” GI Joes that downplayed the military theme. Into the 1970s, the figures boasted “lifelike hair” and “kung-fu grip,” and wore scuba gear to save the oceans and explorer’s clothing for discovering mummies.
Over the decades, GI Joe has spawned comic books, cartoons, two movies starring Channing Tatum and a GI Joe Collector’s Club, which holds an annual convention — GIJoeCon — in Dallas, Texas, every April.
Levine’s funeral was to be held yesterday morning at Temple Beth-El in Providence. He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.