Obituary- “Father” of G.I. Joe, Don Levine, Passes Away
May 25, 2014

Don Levine, Hasbro exec who helped develop GI Joe as world’s 1st action figure, dies

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) –– Donald Levine, the Hasbro 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, said his wife, Nan. 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 11½-inch 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 moveable figure as a way to honor veterans.

G.I. Joe hit the shelves in time for the 1964 Christmas shopping season and soon became a big seller at $4 apiece.

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“Don Levine and his team took it from a good concept to a great concept,” said Alan Hassenfeld, Hasbro’s former CEO whose father, Merrill, oversaw G.I. Joe’s development when he ran the company.

G.I. Joe remained popular until the late 1960s, as opposition to Vietnam 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.

Hasbro said in a statement that Levine’s “influence on the toy industry was profound” as his team developed the concept of an action figure.

“His work forever changed the way kids play with toys, and in particular helped birth the G.I. Joe brand which has been a part of the American fabric for 50 years,” the company said.

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.

Daniel Pickett
Daniel “Julius Marx” Pickett has been around toys his whole life. The first line he ever collected was Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Heroes line back in the 70s. He has been surrounded by collectables ever since. In 1999 he was confounded by a lack of information and news about some of his favorite toy lines he was collecting. Since he couldn’t find the information he decided to pursue it himself thinking other people might also be interested in the same news. He started writing a weekly column on the toy industry and action figure for a toy news site and in a years time he tripled the sites daily traffic with his updates, reviews and product features. He built relationships with every major toy manufacturer and many sculptors, painters and mold makers. He grew his hobby into a world wide expertise that the industry has embraced. In 2004 he teamed up with his toy buddy Jason “ToyOtter” Geyer and they created their own website www.ActionFigureInsider.com. Daniel has been quoted in both industry and mass media press outlets. Over the years Daniel and AFi have been sought out as experts in the field. Daniel was regularly featured on “Attack of the Show” on the G4 network as the primary contributor to their “Mint On Card” segment, and our front page has been linked to from USA Today’s “Pop Candy” Blog twice. Daniel’s content has also been featured on MSNBC.com, Time.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, CNN.com, AssociatedPress.com Wired.com, Fark.com, Boing-Boing, Gizmodo.com, Ain’t It Cool News, the Official Star Wars blog, Geekologie, G4, CNet and Toy Fare magazine, among many others. He has consulted on toy lines, books, documentaries and TV shows. But all of that really just sounds snooty and “tootin’ his own horn” – the long and short of it is that Daniel loves toys and he LOVES talking about them.
Read other articles by Daniel Pickett.

 

 

 

3 Comments »

  • hugh says:

    I’m not actually a GI JOE collector, but it is safe to say that his work had a profound impact on the hobby. Kudos, sir.

  • demoncat_4 says:

    sad to see a big gun of the toy industry has now gone on to give god his own personal set of gijoe figures. rip levine you legacy will never be forgotten when a kid picks up a joe figure. sympathy to his friends and family for their loss

  • Ron says:

    Sad news, but all of us who enjoy “action figures” owe him a substantial debt of gratitude. Thank you Don Levine for making my world that much more fun and joyful. You’ll always be a hero.

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