PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Donald Levine, the Hasbro toy company executive credited as the father of G.I. Joe for developing the world’s first action figure, has died. He was 86.
He died of cancer early Thursday at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, his wife, Nan, said. They were just about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Levine shepherded the toy through design and development as Hasbro’s head of research and development. He and his team came up with an 11.5-inch (29.2-centimetre) articulated figure with 21 moving parts, and since the company’s employees included many military veterans, it was decided to outfit the toy in the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, with such accessories as guns, helmets and vehicles.
Levine, who served in the Army in Korea, said he got the idea for the movable figure as a way to honour veterans.
G.I. Joe hit the shelves in time for the 1964 Christmas shopping season and soon became a big seller at $4 apiece.
It remained popular until the late 1960s, as opposition to the Vietnam War intensified and parents shied away from military-related toys. Hasbro countered in 1970 by introducing “Adventure Team” G.I. Joes that played down the military connection. Into the ’70s, G.I. Joes featured “lifelike hair” and “kung-fu grip” and were outfitted with scuba gear to save the oceans and explorer’s clothing for discovering mummies.
Over the decades, G.I. Joe has spawned comic books, cartoons, two movies starring Channing Tatum, and a G.I. Joe Collector’s Club and its annual convention — GIJoeCon — held in Dallas in April.
Levine’s funeral will be held Sunday morning at Temple Beth-El in Providence. He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.