GI Jane – Part 2: the Abandoned Missions
A recap for those who came in late…
1967 GI Nurse,
1997 GI Joe Classic Collection GI Jane US Army Helicopter Pilot.
1998 GI Jane US 82nd Airborne.
1999 GI Jane Vietnam Nurse
2000 Trouble at Coyote Crossing (concept model only)
2003 GI Joe Adventure Team Secret of the Savage Swamp in 2003
Before we talk about that exceedingly cool Jane on horseback, a few readers of “Part 1” reminded me of a few things (Thank you all!). One I never knew about or totally forgot about, is the GI Joe Collector Club Special Convention Figure AVG Nurse. It was an option the year the club released the Flying Tigers set. This is personally weird for me to not know or remember since I was working with Brian for Hasbro on the Flying Tigers figures at that time. The nurse figure uses the Classic Collection Jane body with the Vietnam Nurse head. The uniform is very close to the vintage GI Nurse and it looks like it was the same gear as used with the Vietnam Nurse, which looks close to the original GI Nurse. It is a great full circle. I will keep an eye out for that figure.
Schildkröt in Germany also made a few female figures to go with Joe. They were part of the Action Team with the name Action Girls and had specific names such as Super Peggy and Super Sandy.
There was also a Native American Action Girl named Shalaly.
The construction of these figures was just like the last version of the 1/6th scale Joes with shiny polystyrene bodies that were sonic welded or glued together instead of the robust polypropylene early Joes. Whatever plastic they used for the joint connectors, I am not able to determine as most of those have disintegrated over time. Some collectors refer to those bodies as “exploding Joes” since you barely need to touch them before they fall apart. I had Super Sandy in box. Nice looking figure. They had pretty faces, good hair and nicely sculpted bodies. However… she fell apart in the unopened box so I traded her off. If I ever obtain better detail on these figures and their distinct line of accessories in the future, they would make a good full post.
Note: In interviews, Hasbro representatives have explained, “high prices and changing markets were the reasons why the original GI Joe line was discontinued”. However, why would anyone buy more of these when they were suddenly changed to such terrible quality? I heard it was Palitoy that developed that new construction and that Hasbro chose to go with the cheaper body – I am not sure if that is the full truth. However, whoever made that short sited decision, in my mind, is one of people who put a stake in Joe’s coffin. The old Joe could be tossed high in the air to land on concrete repeatedly for an hour and only loose a finger (I know because I was young and did not have the money for a parachute). One fun thing about making this comment is that it will stay in print and not be whitewashed away like some of my notes in the GI Joe Collector Club magazine, which were occasionally adjusted by Hasbro before publication. (I do understand, they have an image to maintain) Not that I would ever be intentionally mean, but I am happy to point out poor decisions from any toy company or even in my own design work.
There was yet another female figure by Hasbro in the Action Man line, which was designed in the UK. Natalie, was a character prominent on the AM cartoon and part of his team. The figure has a unique tooled body with a sculpted hair and looks nice. The articulation is limited but to make up for it, she has a fun spring loaded kicking action. She is a good sturdy figure that will not fall apart.
Shifting gears, around 2001, there were some changes happening in the girl’s toy market. The female flanker to Mattel’ He-Man, Princess of Power, had sold well but her time had come and gone. There was a real push in the Toy Industry to create female brands to empower girls. Princess Gwenevere and Jewel Riders was one line. There was also a fully articulated 1/6th scale fashion/action figure that launched into Target in the late 90’s. It was positioned to empower girls with great sporting and action accessories but I cannot remember the name of the product line. The exemplary designs were the work of one of the ex-Mattel designers. Unfortunately, it had one fatal flaw; the face was designed with a smirk and not sculpted well. They showed a revised head sculpting to customers at New York Toy Fair but the damage to sales was already done. Young girls are extremely sensitive to aesthetics and the face did not overcome the play value.
With all of that in mind, the current design director of GI Joe at that time suggested, “Why not leverage the current success of GI Joe with the fact that Barbie’s crown was just starting to tilt off her head, and position GI Jane as a fashion/action figure. I loved the idea and was the perfect person to try to make it happen by combining my Joe experience with my fashion doll experience. Therefore, I was assigned the task to take the ideal from that premise to create designs and positioning. I knew it would not work for girls sell just a doll in fatigues (even though the Barbie versions like that were some of their best-selling specials). It had to combine the action and heroism of Joe but not ignoring basic girl play-patterns of nurturing and clothing changes. Using that thinking, I reasoned that “rescuing was extreme nurturing”. The official positioning was “GI Jane is the only Action-Rescue figure for girls that provides adventure nurturing/rescue with the key play patterns of dolls. The new Jane would a have new beautifully sculpted heads made for hair rooting and a modified torso so she would look like a female figure under all the layers of soft goods clothing. Below are the descriptions used in the presentation:
Fire Rescue “Firefighter Jane heads into a burning building to rescue a baby. She emerges from the building with the infant wrapped in an old blanket to protect it from the smoke and fire. On the day the baby is released to come home from the hospital, Jane is invited to the homecoming party. She brings a colorful gift box with a new blanket and takes the opportunity to play with the baby.” (This cleverly gave Jane a baby if a child wanted to play mommy/baby with Jane or play fire fighter).
Firefighting accessories include coat, helmet, pants w/suspenders, boots, breathing mask, portable oxygen, and baby with smoke scarred blanket. Homecoming accessories include t-shirt that becomes a party dress, belt, shoes, sunglasses, gift box and old blanket reverses to new blanket.
Water Rescue “Coast Guard Rescue Diver Jane dives into the water to save a dolphin. Jane frees the struggling dolphin from the tuna net before it drowns. Later Jane is having a beach party when her dolphin friend shows up to say, “Thanks” and play a few rounds of water volleyball.” (This figure combined typical beach fashion play with the heroism of Joe).
Diving gear includes wet suit, hood, fins, diving vest, mask, snorkel, net and dolphin. Beach gear includes 2-piece swimsuit, beach towel, ice chest, water bottle, dolphin snack, beach ball, tuna net that becomes volleyball net and net stands which float and can extend to full size.
Winter Rescue “Vacationers become lost in the mountains due to an unexpected blizzard. Jane searches and her husky dog partner sniffs until they are found. Jane calls in a helicopter for emergency pickup. Once they are in safe hands, Jane has fun snowboarding down the mountains with her faithful fluffy friend following.” (This figure leveraged sports and had a pet. Toys with pets are always best sellers.)
Search gear includes dog, parka, ski pants, boots, snowshoes, communication headset, shovel, ice axe, rope, binoculars and backpack. Snowboarding gear includes snowboard, boot clips, goggles, wide winter headband and parka that reverses to a sport coat.
Mounted Horse Patrol “Mounted Police Officer Jane adopts a horse from an animal shelter and trains it as her new partner for patrolling streets and keeping the peace. In her off hours, she and her horse become champion jumpers.”
Horse gear includes horse, saddle, saddlebags, bridle, girth, martingale, reflective stockings and blanket. Police gear includes riding breeches, shirt, ties, riding boots, spurs, helmet, radio, gear belt, pistol and club. Horse show accessories include jumping fence, trophy, coat, dressage hat, stockings and police blanket that reverses to show colors. (Girls and horses – need I say more?)
Given the short time frame I had to produce this proposal, this was the only figure I was able totally able to research. A meeting was arranged with a female mounted officer from the Cincinnati police. I was also able to take by my young daughter to meet a true empowered woman and help her see the range of choices that were ahead of her.
Marx collectors, take note of the horse. I do not recall how this ended up in my collection (but was sacrificed for this noble job); that horse is not a Marx Thunderbolt with mane and tail glued to it. I believe it was a horse used for the Sindy fashion doll in the UK. However, the sculpting is almost identical to Thunderbolt and there was no mane sculpted onto it. It is possible it could have been one of the old horse tools from Marx when they produced in England and was adapted to have rooted hair. It is not the Palitoy Action Man horse.
While we are talking Marx, we should take a moment to note that the Marx Jane West was really the first 1/6th scale female/action figure. Marx also released the Girl from U.N.C.L.E to my collection which I hope to add to my collection someday – even a reissue would be nice. Marx was ahead of its time combining fashion and action; however, those figures had long come and gone – only to be remembered by the unique few of us.
To end the cliff-hanger, the models were presented in the Pawtucket office but the decision was made to stop the project. The cost of these would be expensive on the shelf and there was no good way around that. Hasbro had also been burned a few times on fashion dolls such as Jem and Maxi so they were unwilling to gamble on another at that time. It was a shame this did not happen but I still consider it some of my best work and I hope you will see the merit in it.
What is your 1/6th scale female doll?