The first little green army men hit the toy market in 1938, just before the start of the Second World War. The cheap, two-inch-high plastic toys became an instant hit, and they’ve been fighting kids’ imaginary wars ever since.
Now, after more than 80 years, some little green army women are poised to shatter the plastic ceiling and join the men on the toy battlefield, thanks to the efforts of one six-year-old girl.
BMC Toys says it’s preparing to roll out a specially designed line of female plastic soldiers in response to a little girl’s call for representation. The Scranton, Pa.-based company has been slowly developing the plan since 2018, but it’s accelerated that plan in response to a letter from six-year-old Vivian Lord.
“Why do you not make girl army men?” Vivian asked the company in a letter sent earlier this summer. “My friend’s mom is in the army, too!”
Vivian, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., says she sent the letter after noticing there wasn’t a single woman among her entire army of plastic soldiers.
“We did some research and we found a guy that was making army men, and we sent a letter to him,” she told NBC News.
That guy was Jeff Imel, owner of BMC Toys, who floated the idea of making female soldiers in a blog post in 2018.
He shared Vivian’s letter about the subject in August, and the response has been so strong that he’s now moving forward with plans to design and produce the female figures.
“Every kid wants to be the hero of their own story,” Imel told NBC News.
Imel has been flooded with requests to discuss his planned army women since he shared Vivian’s letter in a blog post.
He says he’s been working with artists and military experts to create a line of female characters that are in line with the classic army men toys. He’s also been trying to scrape together enough money to pay for the designs.
“To do a new set of figures like this, it’s about the cost of a modest car,” he told CNN.
Imel has already hired a sculptor to produce a female captain figure. He’s hoping to add female versions of the other classic soldier designs, including the bazooka trooper, in the future. He told CNN he plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support his efforts in November.
Time Magazine ranked plastic army men at No. 13 on its list of the best toys of all time in 2011. The simple plastic figurines have been around for over eight decades, but they’ve been slow to keep up with modern times.
The U.S. started allowing women to serve as full-time members of the army in 1948, but it’s taken over 70 years for the plastic army to match reality.
Many people have flooded BMC Toys’ Facebook page with praise for the move.
“Absolutely thrilled with this project!” user Sarah Stevick wrote. “I am a retired Army veteran who joined as a ! Will be ordering several sets — one for my military collection and also for my grandkids!”
Several people said they’d be buying sets for every kid they know.
“It’s about time!” said Brenda Quitter.
Paul Zubritzky applauded the company for taking a chance in a comment on BMC Toys’ blog page.
“This is the best thing to happen to plastic toy figures since Toy Story,” he wrote.
BMC Toys hopes to release its female army soldiers sometime in late 2020, just in time for Christmas.
Vivian plans to be one of the first kids to send them into battle.
“I might just get the boy army men out of the way and just play with the girls,” she said.Follow @JoshKElliott
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