The “50 Adventures of GIjOE” Remembered

A screen shot from the TV commercial that would launch the ambitious "50 Adventures" concept.

A Grand, Master Plan Interrupted

In the early 1970s, there were BIG plans ahead for GIjOE. America’s “Movable Action Hero” was to remain the flagship toy line that promised to carry Hasbro FAR into the future, using the same “razor and blades” marketing concept that had made Mattel’s Barbie Doll so successful.

However, the Vietnam War dampened parental enthusiasm for “war toys,” and the decision was made to reinvent Joe as an Adventurer. A brilliant decision, that if successful would assure the success of the GIjOE line well into the future.

To launch their new marketing strategy, Hasbro aired this TV COMMERCIAL, announcing its ambitious “50 Adventures of GIjOE” concept for the first time. Three of the fifty proposed adventures were named in this spot, including “Sandstorm Survival,” the “Secret Mission to Spy Island” and the “Devil in the Deep.”

The commercial opens with a thrilling pan-over view of the GIjOE vehicle and equipment sets being introduced that year. What an exciting visual! It looked like the ultimate vintage AT Joe display. Sort of like a toy store with nothing but GIjOEs in it. Everything is on display, all set-up, and you could try out the various sets “hands on.” It would have been every little boy’s dream at that time, and Hasbro knew it. VERY powerful imagery.

A screen shot of the never produced "Space-a-Matic" set. One of the "50" that were not to be.

Of course, we all know how this chapter of the GIjOE saga ended. An Arab Oil Embargo would reduce the size of plastic toys until Joe became a mere shadow of his former self. Plans for future “50” sets, like the exotic  “Space-a-Matic” were shelved forever. Fate had played its hand and collectors lost. But whenever we take a moment to rewatch these old commercials, the “50 Adventures” concept can live again!

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3 thoughts on “The “50 Adventures of GIjOE” Remembered

  1. GIJOEBILL says:

    Oil embargo my butt. If that was really the case, then why did Mattel continue to produce Barbie??? Not buying that excuse Hasbro. They just gave up.

    Great commercial. The voice over,the music. Takes you back to Saturday morning.

  2. kneonknight says:

    I’m with Bill, it wasn’t the Oil embargo that stymied Joe. Great Britain and Japan were also targeted by OPEC, yet the late 70s and early 80s were some of the best years for Palitoy’s Action Man and Takara’s Combat Joe.

    The real reason for Joe’s demise was poor planning by the marketing and development teams. They used a “scattergun” approach, and tried to capture the interest of superhero and science fiction fans with two badly conceived entries-Mike Power, the Atomic Man (who was a blatant rip off of “the Six Million Dollar Man”) and Bullet Man, the Human Bullet (who may or may not have been based on an old comic book character).

    These two figures would be the start of a tend that continues to plague G.I. Joe to this day, namely the personalization of the figures and the use of flashy, gimmicky features, both of which severely limit the utility of the toy.

    Bullet Man, no matter how he was dressed, would still be Bullet Man-the silver arms and hands were a dead giveaway that even Clark Kent’s magic glasses couldn’t disguise, and homophobic parents of the time were probably put off by his costume and eye makeup, both of which would have looked much better on Barbie.

    As for Mike Power, even the dullest of children would have realized that having only one atomic powered leg would not allow you to run faster than anyone else, but would have been excellent for a skateboard or scooter. So, quite naturally, Hasbro equipped him with a hand copter.

    Worst of all, these guys showed up as full fledged members of the Adventure Team with very little in the way of introduction or backstory. Die-hard Joe fans didn’t care much for them, and they certainly didn’t capture the imagination of all the sci-fi or superhero crowd. In their unclouded wisdom, children saw them for what they were-pale imitations of both G.I. Joe and the other characters they tried to mimic.

    In the end, Hasbro did, as Bill pointed out, simply “give up” on our 12″ pal. But G.I. Joe hadn’t failed Hasbro, it was quite the opposite. Hasbro failed Joe, and his fans, by trying to force him into roles that had already been filled and had no place for him.

  3. kneonknight says:

    Here’s a thought-wouldn’t the “Space-a-matic” vehicle with an astronaut Joe make an Awesome 50th anniversary set?

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