Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Joe Resurgence

Let's journey back ...

... In 1982, G.I. Joe was brought out of retirement thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign executed with military precision.

The Hasbro toyline had been defunct since the late '70s, with the American public soured on the military following the Vietnam War and the toys falling victim to rising oil prices that made 12-inch figures too expensive to manufacture. As Joe sat in retirement, Hasbro watched with envy as Star Wars toys made obscene amounts of money by trading off the emotional attachments children had to the film series' colorful characters.

Hasbro chairman and CEO Stephen D. Hassenfeld was at the helm of the company when the Joes were taken out of mothballs and reconceived for a new generation. For the first time, the Joes were given a storyline: They were good guys locked in an eternal battle with the ultimate villains, Cobra. That story transformed Joes from generic figures into an intellectual-property-driven concept. ...

It gets lost in the mists of time, but the mid-eighties saw a resurgence of TV animation because of 1) Disney getting into the TV animation game (Gummi Bears!) and 2) TOYS.

It wasn't just G.I. Joe. There was He-Man. There was She-Ra. Filmation, now a fading memory in the long history of cartoons, created hundreds of animated half-hours in support of plastic action figures that sold very well. It was noted at the time that the cartoon industry was becoming a sales tool for toy companies, but animation selling toys had been a long-term trend.

True, the cartoons usually came first, then the toys. But honestly? Whether the doll came first ... or the theatrical short, was there really that much difference?

What the tv cartoons of the eighties foretold was the total and complete marketing of product we all enjoy here in the 21st century. Today, we first get the multi-colored moments of animated entertainment on our flat screens and theater screens, then (two days later) the toys, apps, video games, lunch boxes and Christmas tree ornaments which are derived from that entertainment that we order from Amazon.

Ain't progress grand?


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