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Batteries Included – Electric GI Joes

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Electronics are a typical part of modern toys and even the vintage GI Joes. There were only a few Classic Collection Joes which came with electronics such as the lights and motor sounds of the Five Star Jeep or the propeller-driven Sea Sled. Since the large GI Joes were so expensive to begin with, it was always a challenge to add in the electronics and keep within the established price points and box sizes.

GI Joe 40mm Grenade Machine Gunner

I believe this was the first electronic non-talker in the Classic Collection. We used the 40mm grenade launcher for a few different reasons: 1) The GI Joe Hall of Fame guns with lights and sounds showed that a weapon was economically feasible in the Bravo price point. 2) The 40mm grenade launcher was currently not in Joe’s arsenal. 3) That weapon in scale was large enough to hide a speaker and electronics.

The package has an opening for a “Try-me” feature. If you ever pressed the button, a red LED in the tip would flash as you hear it continually lob shells until you release the trigger. But I wanted more than the HOF guns or other toy guns. These electronics needed to be better as it was for Classic Collection GI Joe. After the shell lobbing sound stops, it continues with explosion sounds as if the rounds hit and the target destroyed. Then there are three variant endings. The first adds more explostions sounds as if the whole ammo depot was hit. Then there are two with voice phrases at the end, “Need more ammo!” and “Move troops forward.”

Note that the trigger is not a typical big red blemish. After discussing features with a local GI Joe Collector Club, they all agreed they liked features as long as we still made the accessory look reasonably accurate. Designing this toy was especially satisfying for me as this is one of the two times that my voice is in a GI Joe toy.

GI Joe Pearl Harbor Collection Diamond Head Lookout Invasion Alert

In the Pearl Harbor Collection, we had one figure with electronics. There was a listening station in Hawaii at Diamond Point that was not fully set up, and the staff were training on the system when the attack came. Sadly, as it was not expected, not many people believed the message thinking it was just training. A member of the design team worked closely with the Pearl Harbor Survivors on these figures to be made sure the wording of the message was correct. If memory serves, the voice is one of the survivors. The radio set was engineered to be very accurate radio and also contains a subtle button which you press to play the message.

GI Joe Vietnam Wall Memorial

This figure was created very carefully. The team all believed in what this figure represented but knew it had to be designed very tastefully. We made sure there were no real names visible as that could be amazingly insensitive. Therefore, all the words are “Greeked” in so they look like words until you examine them carefully. There was a painting which showed the soldiers of the past reaching back to the older, surviving veteran. That was the inspiration for the set, and the artist was given some compensation, although we did not use the art exactly as is. When you press the hidden button on the side, it lights up to show those lost comrades shining through. Joe is dressed in the plain clothes of jeans and an old army looking coat instead of a true uniform to fit better with the painting. We also contemplated putting Joe in a wheelchair but decided against it. The head has an extra wash of white in the hair to age him a bit. One odd note is that the hand he is reaching with is the football holding hand we only used for a few figures.

The next items are other electronic figures designed but never made it passed creating one concept model each.

GI Joe WWII Navy signals

I remember touring one of the Iowa Class Battleships when this idea came to me. (I am a sucker for those and have been on at least three out of the four). I thought it would be fun to have a real working blinker light for GI Joe to signal. We could even include the Morse Code on the box for more realistic fun. Size-wise and cost-wise it would have worked. Although the model was very rough, the plan was to offer one with a working light inside it and a working shutter to make it blink out whatever message you wanted. Sadly, this figure was a victim of statistics. The person making the first cut of decisions was more into statistics than history and noted that all the Navy figures except Navy SEALs underperformed.

GI Joe Forward Observer Electronic Missile Strike

This set was just too expensive to sell well, but it would have been SOOOOO cool. It was not as realistic in its accessories, but its play pattern was dead on. The plan was to have a Navy SEAL as a spotter for a missile strike – as shown in the various films such as “Clear and Present Danger.” There is a spotter on the ground that paints the target with a laser so a missile can be fired to hone in on the laser light and destroy the target with as little collateral damage as possible. In this case, the missiles would be made as if they were on a Naval vessel like a destroyer. The play pattern would have the child open the backpack and turn a dial which would then turn the angle on the missile launcher and possibly the angle of launch. Then there would be a button to release four separate shots of Nerf missiles. The only thing that would not have been cool about that was the price. It would have easily been a $50 item, but SOOOOO much fun! (Here kitty, kitty… fire!)

There are other GI Joes in the Classic Collection with electronics that are talkers, but those will be covered in a different post.

What is your favorite electric GI Joe?

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