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The Making of GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO – Cinema Scholars


By the mid-1970s, Hasbro’s 12-inch GI Joe toy series had fallen out of favor with public opinion regarding the Vietnam War, and it was canceled in 1976. Subsequently, when it Star wars Toys from Kenner became a huge hit shortly after Hasbro decided to re-evaluate the GI Joe series of toys.
Hasbro has rediscovered the toy line in many new and exciting ways. First, they updated the toy to be smaller, 3¾-inch figures, which in size corresponded to the Kenner Star Wars series. In addition, they also got a story that set “the Joes” up against the evil forces in “Cobra”.

“When GI Joe was reborn, it was reborn with a story. That story was what we call the GI Joe vs. Cobra story, which has been such a strong story, the ultimate yin and yang between GI Joe, a group of heroic defenders who opposes Cobra. ”

– Derryl DePriest, Hasbro VP of Global Brand Management

Cobra Commander and Baroness
In 1982, to coincide with the launch of the toy, Hasbro worked with Marvel Comics to create a comic book series that would accompany the toy line. Marvel Productions also had to produce animation for ads to promote the products.

1983 miniseries (The MASS Device)

Because of the popularity of the ads, Hasbro hired TV writer Ron Friedman to create a five-part miniseries.

“Hasbro sent me the shrinking action figures, but there was no story yet. I decided to create these groups of families. I created the bad family, which was Cobra, to whom I gave the battle cry, “Co-bra!” and the good family that I gave the battle cry, “Yo Joe!” … I also wanted more female characters, so I created Lady Jaye. I felt they needed more women because I knew girls who loved animation and loved superheroes. ”

– Ron Friedman

Eventually, parent groups got news about the cartoon and expressed their opinion that they did not want to kill those depicted in the show. Friedman agreed.

“I felt that when you first kill someone, it is not appropriate. We are in a universe where the evil ones get their surplus, but we do not stand by the grave. A little uplifting humor about the violence takes the curse of some of it “If it’s done with a knowing sense of humor, with the idea of ​​lightening the mood, it shows that they are not white-eyed snipers working out of a loft in Fallujah.”

– Ron Friedman

Ron Friedman
The plot of the 5-episode miniseries concerned MASS Device, a powerful substance transporter, with the powers of GI Joe and Cobra racing around the globe to acquire the three catalytic elements that power the machine.

“At the audition, I screamed, ‘Co-bra !!!’ at the top of my lungs. And I think they said, ‘Her.’ She looks like she’s willing to go to the wall. ” When you audition, they usually have a picture of what the character is going to look like. And a manuscript. There must have been something on the side that said the baroness has a European accent, for there has never been a country that sounds like the baroness. She is not Russian. She is from a place in Central Europe that cannot be named or found. I just dreamed it and I do not know how. ”

– Morgan Lofting, Baroness

The 1984 miniseries (The Revenge of Cobra)

When viewers came in and the first miniseries was a success, production began on a sequel, “The Revenge of Cobra” from the 1984s. The action for this was very similar to what was done in the past, with the 2 enemy teams racing around the world trying to locate the pieces of a weapon that could control the weather, known as The Weather Dominator.

“I felt that Joe’s would be liberal, and the Cobra people should not be. The Cobra people always shout at each other and their differences, and the differences create gaps between them. In the Joe group, the differences are indifferent. There is never a negative comment, one about the other.The only time that was was when someone failed to perform his duty adequately.Apart from that, Joes accepted their differences, they never made a problem.The differences were celebrated where the Cobras always meandered behind each other, quarreled with each other and were not there when needed. ”

– Ron Friedman

The animated series (1985-1986)

Finally, GI Joe was promoted to an entire series in 1985, with an initial order for the first season of 55 more episodes. This gave them 65 episodes including the 2 miniseries, which was the minimum requirement for syndication. Additionally, this season also had the honor of having Steve Gerber, the creator of Anden Howardand Man-Thing over at Marvel Comics, which acts as story editor.
Steve Gerber

“When people were signed up to write an episode, they were given what we called a briefing book, essentially all these characters and the vehicles – the planes and the tanks and the ships and so on. They got a loose notebook with all this material – it looked like the Manhattan phonebook.It was huge … In the beginning, what everyone wanted to do was natural … my own first script for GIJoe was a Cobra-trying-to-conquer-the-world-and-Joe-stop- the script. We got really fast away from that kind of story. It was just about, I would say, like four or five or maybe even six scripts, that we in the series started to realize how strange we could actually get with that show. . ”

– Steve Gerber

Some of these episodes included everything from King Arthur’s sword Excalibur (in an episode called “Excalibur”) to Cobra, who created his own television network called “The Wrong Stuff”.

Well, the biggest success was an episode written by Stanley Ralph Ross, which is an absolutely relentless satire on Saturday morning TV. It’s an episode called “The Wrong Stuff” where Cobra manages to disable all of Earth’s communications satellites and then puts his own satellite up there and in reality take over the television and you see Cobra’s version of pro-social programming.This is by far the funniest and strangest episode of the season.Cobra Commander has for example remade on old movies.He has changed the end of KING KONG, so the last plane comes up, and King Kong slips it down. Carl Denham and the officer, or whoever’s down at the foot of the Empire State Building, look up and the officer says to Denham, “Well, he’s got the planes.” – and Denham says, ‘Yes. You can never win if your enemy is stronger than you. ”

– Steve Gerber

Buzz Dixon replaced Gerber in the second and final season. This 30-episode season started with the introduction of the character Serpentor, which was created using DNA from many historical figures like Julius Caeser, Napolean and the Hun Attila to create the ultimate Cobra Leader.
A third season was planned but not produced because Marvel lost its license to rival animation company DiC during pre-production.

GI Joe: The Movie

GI Joe: The Movie (1987), was to be published theatrically, followed by the publication of The Transformers: The Movie (1986). But the film encountered several delays in production. As a result, the Transformers movie was released first. Due to the poor cash performance of Transformers: The Movie, GI Joe: The Movie was released on live-to-video on VHS. Subsequently, it was later divided into a 5-part miniseries for television syndication.


GI Joe: A real American hero lovingly and nostalgically remembered by the children who were fans of the series during its first run in the mid-1980s. In addition, in January 2009, IGN ranked GI Joe as number 19 on its list of the 100 best animated series.

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