When I worked at Hasbro, I worked with a variety of people across all departments. One of my colleagues that I spent a fair amount of time discussing Action figures with was Vinnie D’Alleva. Its now been about a dozen years since I left. I tracked down Vinnie and he was kind enough to agree to a short interview.
1. For our readers, I’d like you to introduce yourself. What titles did you have at Hasbro and when did you work there?
Vinnie D’Alleva: Worked my way from Product Manager/Boys Toys to VP Hasbro Direct.
2. A number of our readers would love to work at a toy company. I heard a rumor that you wrote a research paper/thesis on GIJoe, which got you into the company. Can you shed some light on this story?
Well, you have some of the story correct – when I went I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, I had to complete a thesis project. I chose Transforming Robots. In my final presentation, I compared 2 very different product lines (Hasbro’s Transformers and Bandai’s Godaiken Force) and then presented my own. I graduated with Honors because of it. Later on, when I was working in Chicago for Monogram/Revell (my first job out of college), I was recruited to go to Hasbro for an interview. Maybe it was because of my experience from Monogram/Revell or my passion for toys, but my project from College certainly helped me to get that first job at Hasbro working on Transformers.
3. Sticking with GIJoe for a moment, many people who worked on Boys Toys became used as models for GIJoe figures. Do you have a GIJoe whose face is modeled after you? If so, who is it?
I was moved onto the G.I.Joe product line in 1991. Once I was working on the line for a year or so, the Design group decided to sculpt my face on an action figure (this is an “honor” that no one tells you about – you are chosen, you can’t lobby for it). They ended up sculpting me on the Cobra Eco-Warriors leader (Cesspool), with a big jagged scar down my face! To this day, I’m very proud of that honor!
(picture credit to: www.YoJoe.com)
4. When I knew you at Hasbro, you became in charge of a group called "New Ventures". Can you explain its mission?
In 1994, I moved over to the New Ventures Group (later called Hasbro Direct). Its mission was to develop the non-core categories that surround the merchandising of large brands of toys (ie: die-cast vehicles, battery operated vehicles, accessory sets, road race sets, roleplay toys, etc.). One of the areas we developed while I was there, was the Collectible category for Boys Toys. We developed a plethora of 12” figures (fully articulated with removable clothing and accessories, as well as other types of action figures for nearly all of Hasbro’s brand.
5. Hasbro’s JLA line. How did you decide Kenner’s Total Justice line was ripe for the "New Venture" process?
When Kenner came out with their Total Justice line, it was meant to be a revival of the classic Justice League of America line up of characters from the DC Comic of the same name, but with a modern twist. That line lasted 2 years before lack of interest by consumers caused it to be dropped. Right after that decision was made, DC Comics decided to relaunch their Justice League title under the banner of JLA. When that happened, we at Hasbro Direct worked with DC to acquire the rights to develop an expanded list of characters in action figure form.
Superman Blue is TJ Superman with a head swap from a Superman Man of Steel Superman figure.
Due to the fact that we were charged with developing various Exclusives for different retailers, the JLA product was ear-marked for KB Toys – it allowed for a consistent flow of different assortments of characters throughout the year. To enhance the collectability of the characters and to tie them directly into the comic book, we developed a unique display stand (packed with every figure) and a miniature replica of a related JLA comic book cover to cut out on the back of the package. Once you took your figure out of the package, you would cut out the miniature comic book cover and insert it into the stand to create a backdrop for your figure.
Martian Manhunter was TJ Superman with a new head and a new cape.
Since this line was exclusively developed for KB Toys, we could only afford a small amount of new molds to develop the figures to insure the project was profitable. We developed a few new heads, and other body parts so that we could mix ‘n match them to form new characters.
Flash legs, torso + Black Lightning arms + a new head = Impulse!
We developed several waves of figures over the years but only developed one completely new figure, which was Wonder Woman.
- Vinnie D’Alleva.
JLA Wonder Woman.
My thanks to Vinnie for taking the time to do this and letting us know a little more about the behind the scenes at toy companies. -Erik.
(All Total Justice and JLA figure pictures credit to ToyOtter.com)