Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Lukas. Lukas Wonders, “How are action figures made?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Lukas!
When you have free time, what type of toys do you like to play with? Do you prefer sporting goods, such as balls and bats? Perhaps you're more of a racing fan and you reach for the miniature cars and trucks?
If you're like many kids, you may reach for your collection of miniature people. They look just like your favorite superheroes and movie characters. They stand several inches tall and move about in realistic ways. You know what we're talking about: action figures!
Whether it's Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider Man, or the cast of the latest Star Wars movie, action figures fly off the shelves of toy stores and into the anxious hands of kids and toy collectors alike. But how did we become so fascinated by playing with miniature moving models of movie characters and superheroes?
If you enjoy action figures, then there's one person you need to thank: Barbie. That's right! That perky doll that appeared in 1959 became an instant — and longstanding — success with children all over the world.
Barbie's popularity as a girl's doll led toy manufacturers to try to come up with something that would be just as popular with boys. A man named Stan Weston did just that. His idea: a soldier doll with a variety of military uniforms and accessories, like weapons, tanks, and vehicles.
Weston sold his idea to toy manufacturer Hasbro for $100,000 at the 1963 Toy Fair. In 1964, the G.I. Joe "action figure" made its debut. The original G.I. Joe action figure featured 21 moving parts and stood 12 inches tall.
G.I. Joe originally had uniforms that represented the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. As the toy grew in popularity, it was produced for other nations around the world with uniforms representing their armed forces.
G.I. Joe remains a popular action figure today. He was even inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2004. According to a poll conducted by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, G.I. Joe was voted the most popular toy of the last century.
Most modern action figures are much smaller than 12 inches tall. The switch to smaller action figures occurred in the 1970s when the worldwide oil crisis restricted supplies of raw materials, forcing manufacturers to scale down action figures to approximately 3.75 inches. The first smaller action figures to gain mass popularity were the Star Wars action figures made by Kenner Products that hit store shelves in 1976.
Today, action figures can be found in all sorts of varieties. From popular characters in cartoons, television shows, and movies to sports stars, musicians, and even politicians, action figures are as popular as ever with both kids and collectors. Some collectible action figures can even be worth thousands of dollars!