GI JOE: THE ORIGINAL CROCODILE HUNTER
In 1969 when sales of war toys were waning, one of GI Joe’s new assignments was to go up the river into the Mouth of Doom. This early mission was shown in the sales brochures to advertise Joe’s new mandate. Hasbro even put this quintessential set as one of the images on the military footlocker that became the Adventure Locker.
This first set included a khaki jungle coat, short pants, socks, short boots, fabric belt, heat-sealed sheath and machete which were similar to the Australian Jungle Fighter. The original military canteen with fabric cover was also repurposed for this set. Then Hasbro added in many new tooled parts which would be reused across many sets for many years including a pith helmet, hunting rifle with scope and a multipurpose gearbox. Specific to this set was a molded wooden raft, a pole and a medium sized alligator crocodile about six inches long.
The concept of Joe pitted against a wild animal to capture or save it, would be a reoccurring theme across the next few years of GI Joe.
When Hasbro released the Classic Collection GI Joe, they reintroduced the concept of Joe as a Crocodile hunter. It first came in the Adventure Team accessory set of the same name – Mouth of Doom. This set had a ton of great gear crammed into a small box. It has the key visual pith helmet and machete but also included a backpack, entrenching tool, shotgun, and pole with a loop to capture the much larger crocodile; about eight inches long. (Action Man was tired of wrestling with it, so he let Joe give it a try.)
GI Joe crossed paths with a crocodile one more time, in the AT Secret of the Savage Swamp. Joe’s uniform was remarkably similar by including a khaki shirt, short pants, socks, and short boots. He had a web belt, but this one held a holster for his .45 pistol. His old fashioned pith helmet was replaced with a modern boonie hat. Fortunately, he was issued a longer pole with a noose as this croc was truly formidable measuring to seventeen inches long (that is eight and a half feet in real life).
On a side note, it was the only set that was assorted with a female figure. It is a shame the run did not last a little longer. GI Jane could have supported a Secret Mission to Spy Island, Skydived into danger, fought with the Jaws of death or many other female empowering situations.
If we look behind the curtain to other toys shown but never shipped, there was another figure presented which could have held his own in a battle like this. I am of course referring to Steve Irwin – the Crocodile Hunter.
WB Toys had the rights to the license and showed the product at New York Toy Fair. Sadly, none of it shipped. In addition to small figures, about five inches tall were the 1/6th scale large versions. I had the privilege of making the presentation samples of Steve and Terri Irwin. Steve was to ship with a large molded croc. Terri Irwin was targeted more for girls with a cute, soft goods koala that could clip and hold onto the doll or the child’s finger.
No matter what size they were, if the set contained a croc, it was always something we could sink our teeth into!
What is your favorite adventure animal set?
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