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TOY FAIR 2012: Hasbro – G.I. Joe

As far as I’m concerned, GI Joe was the “main event” at Hasbro’s Toy Fair presentation. After two years of blowing fans away from the sidelines with the incredible Pursuit of Cobra and 30th Anniversary lines, GI Joe is now reporting front and center with a major new movie, ready to make the jump from a toy line to a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon!

It may sound like a buzz phrase to say Joe is primed to blow up the way Transformers did, but think back to the movie trailers that played during the Superbowl, and just try to admit GI Joe: Retaliation wasn’t the coolest, most exciting looking ad of the bunch. The movie promises to deliver in all the ways Rise of Cobra fell short, from vastly improved character designs, a great cast including The Rock, Bruce Willis and Ray Stevenson, and a tone that promises just the right mix of over-the-top ninja stunts and legitimate military action. The Hasbro team’s excitement talking about this movie was infectuous– while Retaliation IS a sequel to 2008’s movie, it’s selecting the best plotlines from Rise of Cobra to follow up on… most notably the fact that Zartan is a mole masquerading as the President of the United States! This time out they wanted to tell a different kind of story, one that was more connected to the greater mythos of GI Joe, with references everywhere to all corners of the Joe-verse, from Renegades to the Marvel comic series’ ninja storyline.

But the movie itself is only the beginning of the excitement… in 2012 fans will also be treated to fifty new figures, nine vehicles and some killer Comic Con exclusives!

Much like the new movie, the Retaliation toy line will be leaner and meaner than Rise of Cobra, with less younger-skewing products, and a greater focus on toys for collectors and older kids. While the overall number of items will be dialed back from Rise, the new line (hitting shelves on May 30th) still has lots to offer Joe fans… and some store exclusives coming in back half of year.

The new figures will retain the scale and (mostly) the articulation we have come to expect from Joe, with tons of gear packed with each figure, along with actor-inspired portraits which look great across the board. Just like the movie, the toy line will highlight the fusion of ninjas and military combat, in a new fighting style created by Hasbro and Paramount called “Battle-kata.” The concept here is based on modular weapons– all Battle-kata characters have a utility vest that contains all the gear the could possibly need to fight. Their weapons are modular and can combine together in cool ways, such as pistols with detachable grips that can then plug into the hilt of a sword.

Hasbro, Paramount Pictures and director Jon Chu worked very closely on the movie and all the great new character and vehicle designs– the Hasbro team helped create many of the iconic visuals, including Cobra Commander’s new helmet (a great homage to the classic RAH design) and the HISS tank (similar to the Pursuit of Cobra/ Resolute tank, but with an open canopy)… despite this close to production approach, the first wave of figures will not be directly base on the movie, as many of these designs were created before the movie’s final choices hit the cameras.

Here’s what we’ve got to look forward to:

Wave 1 includes:
Roadblock in a tank top
Snake Eyes
Cobra Commander
Duke
Storm Shadow
Zartan (including multiple masks and a light piping feature for glowing eye effect)
a new Joe Trooper (packed with multiple helmets, accessories, gear & weapons)
a Cobra Trooper (modeled on movie colors but designed before movie look was finalized) with a brand new fabric parachute
Red Ninja (with a working zip line including a much sturdier string that will not break, unravel or tangle as easily as past Joe accessories)
Look for this wave when the line launches in late May!

Wave 2 will be more movie accurate, and should hit in July:
Battle-kata Roadblock
Firefly (with masked and unmasked Ray Stevenson portraits and a weaponized sled)
Flint (with a removable beret),
Ninja duel Snake Eyes (hyper-accurate to the movie look, and sporting rocker ankles)
Storm Shadow, in a costume inspired by ’88 camo version (is this a sign Tommy will change sides in the movie? After all, this is the costume he wore when he defected to the Joe team…)

Wave 3 is set to follow in August, including:
Joe Colton (with a fantastic Bruce Willis portrait)
Lady Jaye (featuring a new headsculpt on the Renegades Scarlet body)
Alley Viper
Cyber Ninja
Black Dragon Ninja

Wave 4 is set for September, including Kim Arashikage (they can’t call her Jinx in toy line due to property issues, although she’ll get her code name in the movie), and the Blind Master (the RZA!!). The Joe team offered the RZA, an adamant fan of martial arts, his choice of weapons to be included with his figure.

Wave 5 will feature some off-screen figures, and should hit stores in October. Of note here are a Pursuit of Cobra-ish Crimson Guard update, including a label sheet full of different insignias to indicate ranks, a new vest and all-new headsculpt (the colors on final will be corrected, black with silver visor… but the silver mask may be a variant).
The series also includes a new update of the classic Night Viper!

Ninja showdown sets will be battle-themed three-packs which will further round out the Joe and Cobra teams. Wave 1 is scheduled for the beginning of the line in May, with two sets: Snake Eyes, a Red Ninja (includes the classic Slice mask), and Storm Shadow, and a Joe set including a military accurate Beachhead, Kamakura and Night ops Roadblock

Wave 2 of the showdown sets will follow in September, including the following:
NIGHT OPS TEAM: Agent Mouse (the Joe team’s sniper), Night ops Snake Eyes and Sgt. Airborne (repainted from his Pursuit version)
COBRA INVASION TEAM: Firefly in grey (a brand new sculpt, done to look like the original RAH figure), Storm Shadow (movie accurate costume) and the Cobra invasion trooper (a variant of wave 1 trooper)

Alpha vehicles will be the first of three vehicle classes in the line, and will include three motorcycles with drivers… look out for bikes including Snake Eyes, Firefly and Flint. Like many drivers in the Retaliation series, these figures will have limited articulation to keep cost down and keep figures attached to bikes better. Expect them to have 5 points of articulation, and permanently spread legs like the old Biker Scout from Star Wars.

Bravo vehicles will also return for the movie line, with two waves available…
Wave 1 includes the Fangboat with Swamp Viper and the Ninja Commando 4×4 with Snake Eyes. Wave Two should follow in July featuring the movie-accurate Tread Ripper tank with Clutch.

The new larger scale vehicles will be in the Delta class. Look out for two waves and a total of three vehicles, including an all-new Ghost Hawk 2 with Duke, the new movie-style HISS tank with cobra commander, and the Ninja Combat Cruiser with Night Fox.
These vehicles will include customized stickers to modify and personalize each vehicle, which is a great army-building feature from 2011’s Sky Striker being used again to great effect here.

Hasbro is very aware of fan outcry at the reduced articulation seen in both the vehicle drivers and the first series of single figures. I had the chance to talk with the design manager, and the response was they had to limit the articulation from the drivers to allow figures to be included with vehicle and keep it cost-effective. While there are surely some nitpicky collectors who would prefer no drivers to ones with limited poseability, five points of articulation is a decent compromise in the face of rising production costs, especially in that the driver’s heads will feature the same ball neck as other modern figures, making for very easy head swaps onto better bodies. Some of the single figures in wave 1 will also feature articulation cuts, such as Roablock’s single knees and Cobra Commander’s lack of ankles. This was due to the short lead time the Joe team had to develop these figures, and articulation was only sacrificed where the team felt it wasn’t imperative– someone like Roadblock is a heavy gunner so doesn’t necessarily need to be as poseable as a ninja like Snake Eyes. However the battle-kata Roadblock in wave 2, who is more combat-oriented, will have full articulation instead.

In addition to the 3.75″ line, there will also be a pair of 10″ Ninja Commandos, featuring sounds and quick draw weapon action based on the Battle-kata theme. In this format we will see Snake Eyes and his student, Roadblock.

Play action items will include masks of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, as well as a very cool Blade of Justice, capturing the look of the Arashikage sword.

The team also revealed officially their 2012 Comic Con exclusives, including Kim Arashikage (Jinx) in a red gi and mask inspired by her 80’s look, as well as a variant in white with no mask and a new portrait of her movie likeness.

The show-stopper, though, is the second in the set of Cobra/ Decepticon crossover vehicles… much like last Summer’s Starscream Sky Striker, this year we get an exclusive HISS tank that looks like Shockwave… including his signature cannon!
The concept of this item is Destro striking a deal with the Decepticons, trading Energon cubes for cash, and so the set also includes Destro in purple, wearing the Decepticons insignia, a BAT assistant colored like Devastator, 3.75″ scale Energon cubes (available for the first time ever in this scale), a suitcase full of money for Destro… and a Joe-scaled Soundwave as a boom box, which includes three removable tapes! The team is looking at adding a peg to the back of Soundwave so he can be worn as a backpack as well!

It seems like everything I see about the new Joe movie just gets me more excited, and that feeling was cranked up to eleven at Toy Fair… I cannot wait to check out the movie– and this awesome toy line– as soon as humanly possible!

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