First and foremost, I want to give a nice shout out to a few folks who have emailed to kindly volunteer their time and energy to supplying content for GeneralsJoes. I’m hoping to share some more names shortly, but first and foremost is Almon. He volunteered to pitch in with content, and the first thing he sent over was a review of the G.I. Joe episode of the Netflix documentary series The Toys That Made Us.
Let’s give Almon a warm welcome and check out the review of the episode below!
For the last couple of years, those of us in the toy collecting community have been anxiously awaiting the debut of the Netflix series “The Toys That Made Us”. The four-part documentary focuses on a different toy line in each episode, and was made available for viewing on December 22nd. The first four episodes spotlight Star Wars, Barbie, Masters of the Universe, and of course, G.I. Joe. Produced by Brian Volk-Weiss and directed by Tom Stern, the G.I. Joe chapter examines the rich history of Hasbro’s preeminent franchise. While the series is rated “TV-14”, the G.I. Joe episode didn’t contain anything I had a problem with my five and nine-year-old kids watching (other episodes do contain some adult language).
A combination of interviews and dramatic reenactments, the show features a who’s who of G.I. Joe luminaries. The bulk of the interviews consist of Hasbro VIP’s like Alan Hassenfield (former Hasbro CEO), Kirk Bozigian (former product manager/VP of Boys Toys), Derryl Depriest (VP of global marketing) and Ron Rudat (former Hasbro designer). More valuable information was provided by Larry Hama (G.I. Joe comic writer), Flint Dille (writer and editor of the Sunbow G.I. Joe cartoon), Rhett Reese (co-writer of G.I. Joe Retaliation), and other “Joelebrities”.
The show began with the story of G.I. Joe’s birth in the 1960’s. Still in the celebratory aftermath of World War II, Hasbro wanted to ride the wave of America’s strong sense of patriotism and add a military-themed toy to its then small product lineup. I won’t get into the details here, but there is a bit of controversy surrounding the creation of G.I. Joe and who should be credited. It is undisputed however, that Hasbro had a great team in place who came up with excellent ideas to create a “Barbie for boys”- a highly articulated figure with tons of realistic military accessories that would provide countless hours of fun for kids. The Hasbro team provided very interesting and humorous anecdotes on the line’s inception, such as how they knew G.I. Joe couldn’t be marketed as a “doll”, resulting in the coining of the term “action figure”.
G.I. Joe’s progression and decline over the 1970’s was detailed, with Hasbro then reviving G.I. Joe for a triumphant return in the early 1980’s. As this was when most of the Hasbro interviewees worked on the line, this is when the best stories were recounted. The line had to be re-pitched to then Hasbro CEO Stephen Hassenfield, and it was impressive to hear the first-hand accounts of the passion and creativity involved in resurrecting Hasbro’s most successful property. From Steve D’Aguanno channeling General Patton in his presentation to the Hasbro board, to the team’s ingenious idea to get around toy-advertising regulations, to the development of an actual villain for the G.I. Joe team to battle, the show uncovers the fascinating decisions involved in G.I Joe’s reinstatement.
Overall, the G.I. Joe installment of “The Toys That Made Us” is very entertaining and informative. As a G.I. Joe Convention veteran, I have attended several panels narrating G.I. Joe’s history and have already heard a lot of these stories from Kirk Bozigian, Larry Hama and Derryl DePriest. That said, there was also lots of information that was new to me, and all of it was conveyed in a fun and compelling manner. This show will be enjoyable to everyone- from the casual fan to the hard-core collector.
Thanks to everyone involved in its production, G.I. Joe became a household name. “The Toys That Made Us” gathers the central figures involved in G.I. Joe’s success and allows them to recollect the stories behind the hit toy line. The biography of the original action figure is full of real-life action and drama, and “The Toys That Made Us” does a great job of sharing that story with the masses.