Consider this supposition:
Cost factors aside…What if, as a kid, your original GIjOE 5-Star Jeep had been a fully RC product, complete with motion and sound effects, a remotely rotating and elevating gun with remotely fired rocket shells and an animatronic driver and gunner that actually moved, looked around, etc. Would such high-tech, “hands-off” enhancements have made it a better toy?
Your gut reaction might be to say, “Heck yeah!” But let’s think it about it for moment. Would such a radically enhanced Jeep have been as much fun to play with? OR…would such a “superior” product have lessened the need for Andy and George’s mutual “imaginative interaction,” thereby making them mere operators of a toy with a predictable series of mechanized movements? Hmm…
Make Room for Daddy! “Backyard Battles” aren’t just for kids anymore.
Is it time for aging GIjOE fans to finally get up off their knees and stop playing down in the dirt? For some, the answer would be a resounding, “YES.” To such fans, recent advancements in RC technologies have opened up a whole new world of 1:6 scale collecting, customization and “play” possibilities.
By contrast, many “old-school” Joeheads continue to assert their belief that the more things a toy can do by itself, the less “hands-on” it becomes, and the lower actual play-value it possesses. According to this perspective, “Simpler…is Better!”
But regardless of your collecting preferences, it’s undeniable that 1:6 scale action figures and their vehicles have come a LONG way since the time when Hasbro’s 5-Star Jeep and its working spotlight, firing rocket shells, and (delightfully annoying) “Moto Rev” sound made it a “state-of-the-art” toy.
Cue “Old Codger” voice here…
“Back in MY day…Before we had all these new high-tech ‘gizmos,’ kids had to use their IMAGINATIONS —and Saturday morning cartoons— to fill the hours. We played OUTSIDE, right down on the ground, like a bunch’a little monkeys! In the rain, snow, water or MUD. We didn’t care. We knew how to have FUN with our toys; ESPECIALLY with our GIjOEs!
We thought nuthin’ of pushing our Jeeps and MSVs around on our hands and knees for HOURS. Heck, half the fun was making our own sound effects like “Vrroom! Bang!” and “POW!” We used rulers, rubber bands and rocks to make catapults, and if we had any, lit REAL smoke bombs and firecrackers! We didn’t need no fancy ‘RC toys’ to have fun. We just made it up. And we LIKED it!”
Our “Old Codger’s” dialogue is, of course, all made up. But his viewpoint is actually shared by many. Regardless, times and toys are always changing, and as the children of the past turn into today’s adults, a growing number of them now seek to improve and enhance the detail level of toys they previously believed to be perfect. They’re known of course, as “customizers.”
We’ve profiled many of these talented individuals in previous articles, and at the top of this fortunate group are the ones who are technologically (and financially) able to upscale their 1:6 scale products with advanced RC capabilities. With built-in digital sound effects, cameras, movable, recoiling and sometimes firing(!) weaponry, smoke-makers, powerful motors and drive-trains, their creations are QUITE amazing. A quick search of YouTube revealed hundreds of 1:6 scale RC, but these three videos demonstrate the advancements we’re discussing:
Video #1: Animatronic 1:6 Scale Action Figures w/RC Tank
In this first video by Wolfinger13, a German animatronic tank crew scans their surroundings for targets before firing off a shot into the woods. Absolutely real-looking and convincing. The crew moves, the turret rotates, the gun fires (with smoke and sound effect!), and the tank RUMBLES away at the end. Watch after the cannon-shot is fired. It seems as if the two crewman exchange a few words before driving away. So cool!
Video #2: Animatronic Figures w/RC Motorcycle & Sidecar
In this second video, Wolfinger13’s has built an outstanding, fully RC, 1:6 scale Zundapp KS50 WW2 Motorcycle with a scratch-built wooden sidecar and 2(!) animatronic Dragon figures. We’ve seen other WW2 RC motorcycles, but none with animatronic figures and sound effects added. With the camera mounted on a tripod, and no human hands visible, the officer and his driver take a few laps around the patio, interact with each other, and just seem so REAL. Superb work!
Video #3: The “Mercury Joe” Flights
Let’s not forget GIjOE pilots, astronauts and their assorted air and spacecraft. When I was but a wee lad of 7 years, I received a brand-new, bright blue, IRWIN Panther Jet for Christmas. I remember pushing that big blue bird across my living room floor, its built-in noise-maker going “click-click-click.” For a 7-year old, that was pretty high-tech. And the next Christmas, I received my first GijOE Space Capsule. Come on! What could be cooler than that? Such great toys!
But now, over 40 years later, my viewpoint is altered somewhat by adulthood, and in this third video, we’ll discover what happens when an RC model-rocketry experts mounts a heavily customized GIjOE Space Capsule onto to the top of 1:6 scale Mercury Redstone rocket. His resulting “Mercury Joe” missions have become legend with fans, and all been captured on video. Here’s one of the best…
What does the future hold for the way fans play with GIjOEs?
We don’t have a crystal ball, but clearly, the evolving interests of many adult GIjOE collectors, combined with an increasing consumption of sophisticated RC technology, seems to indicate that many future 1:6 scale “Backyard Battles” will be waged from the comfort of Dad’s lawn or easy chair. It may be time for some Joeheads to get up off their hands and knees, after all!
Bottom Line: How you choose to play with GIjOEs is up to you. But we wonder: How far will technology take our 12″ heroes? You have only to look at real-world developments in RC drone technology and miniaturization to conceive of a possible future scenario like the one depicted in the fantasy film, “Small Soldiers” (see trailer below). But that couldn’t REALLY happen. Right? Hmm…