Donald Levine Developer of ‘G.I. Joe’ Passes Away


donald levine

Donald Levine, developer for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe figures, an intimate part of most American households, passed away at the age of 86. Levine, known for his work on the popular action figure, lost his fight against cancer on Thursday at Rhode Island, just around the time he was to be celebrating his 60 years of marriage to Nan Levine.

Levine, developed the first action figure in the world by heading Hasbro’s R&D team. Stan Weston created the figure according to Hasbro, but it was Levine who took it to the American public. The  team who worked with Levine designed the 11.6 inch figure with movable parts, mimicking live action. As most of the staff at Hasbro were military veterans, the decision to design the outfit of the figures in the likes of the armed forces was natural. Most of the figures also included the outfits of naval marines and Airmen and were accessorized with additions like  vehicles, guns and helmets.

The inspiration behind the G.I. Joe figure, Levine said, came to him after he decided to honor war veterans. The U.S. Army enlisted Levine as a soldier in Korea, giving him the inspiration he needed to develop the figure. Sold at $4, in 1964, the G.I Joe figure that moved, became a huge seller during the Christmas season of 1964. G.I Joe retained its popularity until the late 1960s, but the public’s disapproval of the Vietnam war caused a dip in the sales. Parents kept their children away from the military -themed toys in a move to oppose the war. Innovative work in the 1970s, led the executives at Hasbro to include hair that was life like and the kung-fu stance to the toy itself. They also included scuba diving gear and explorer themed outfit to diversify the range.

On hearing that Donald Levine, the creator and developer of ‘G.I. Joe’ had passed away, Hasbro issued a statement that shared their condolences over the death of an American icon. They called him a profound influence on the toy industry and credited his team for developing the concept of the G.I. Joe action figure range. They also acknowledged that his work with the toys, changed the way kids played with toys. He also saw the development of the brand he helped create and turned the G.I. Joe figures into an American classic. The G.I. Joe brand has been extended with comics, movies, cartoons, a Collector’s Club, and an annual convention in April, the GIJoeCon held in Dallas. Alan Hassenfeld described Levine as an asset at Hasbro and a hard worker. He reiterated that Stan Weston created the figure, but it was Levine and his team that made the idea something bigger.

Donald Levine, who died of cancer at Rhode Island’s Home & Hospice Care, is survived by his spouse of 59 years Nan Levine, children and grandchildren. The funeral service for the developer of the G.I. Joe brand, Donald Levine, will be held on Sunday morning at Providence’s Temple Beth-El.

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan

International Business Times
USA Today

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