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One of the biggest incentives to going to the Convention this year was the fact that the first 500 convention goers got a free tour of the Hasbro offices!  Having this tour with Botcon a few years ago, I kind of knew what to expect, but I still came away with some awesome information and experiences from the Joe side.  The tour was broken up into several groups of 20 people, and we were each marched around various tour locations and given a great presentation at each stop.
I will do my best to remember what the various sections were, but please bear with me if my memory is fuzzy.  It was damn early in the morning after an equally damn late night the night before!  I will post pictures where pictures were allowed, but keep in mind, some places did not want photography.  Click on the Read the rest of this entry link below to check it all out!  Beware, this post is image intensive.

G.I. Joe Concepts and Pre-Production
Our first stop brought us to a booth where a pair of designers ran down the pre-production phase of an action figure.  They had various concept artwork, line art “inputs” and figure samples out for display and spoke to us briefly about particular characters.  Some notes from the presentation:

  • Pursuit of  Cobra Firefly’s helmet serves  dual purpose.  It allows him to have 360 degree “sonar” vision, and it also gives him a bit of character.  Designers were concerned about an over-abundance of balaclava (or masked) figures in the first assortment, so the helmet breaks up the monotony somewhat.
  • Pursuit of Cobra Zartan was designed to emulate a Mongolian desert nomad.

I didn’t hear a lot of other conversation as I was busy snapping pictures.  Check out the images below.

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G.I. Joe Figure Construction and Production
The next tour stop gave us basically the next step in the production process.  Several figures were broken down into individual components while a designer painted some parts and pieces and assembled them.  We got a great close up look of some upcoming Resolute and Pursuit of Cobra action figures as he spoke about how they achieve their articulation standards, how they design weaponry, and how the figure all comes together.

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G.I. Joe Artwork Gallery and Licensing
I’m combining these two different stops into one bucket, just because it was all done in one large room, and it all was relatively artwork based.  Our first step into the room allowed us to walk through a literal museum of G.I. Joe artwork from the 80’s.  Seeing this stuff up close was absolutely amazing.  Pure joy.  Yes, the art does look as good as you think it does.
From the gallery we went and spoke with a couple of the licensing guru’s who talked to us a bit about how the comic goes through it’s production phase, as well as the Sideshow Collectible toys.  According to Hasbro licensing, the Sideshow toys get sent to them and have to pass their rigorous testing just as any 3 3/4″ figure does.

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Intellectual Property
As we were lead through a Sesame Street set, we went and met in a room with Aaron Archer where we discussed how Intellectual Property plays a role in G.I. Joe.  The conversation ended up being mostly about G.I. Joe: Resolute, how it was created, how it shaped the “look” of G.I. Joe, and how it leads into the future of the brand.  We were also shown a very cool slideshow with many G.I. Joe: Resolute concepts that didn’t make the cut (including Training Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, as well as Pilot Destro, all in Resolute animated style).  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed during this panel, though I asked about a potential G.I. Joe: Resolute art book, and the response was pretty positive.
The Model Shop
This is where it all goes down.  We were lead deep into the bowels of the Hasbro building and got a chance to talk with a couple of the guys who actually produce the tooling and molds for the G.I. Joe line.  We learned about all new technology that allows them to produce molds in a couple of hours where it used to take overnight.  Various samples of fresh molds were hanging on pegboard, and the level of detail was astounding, even as they showed various sizes.  A head that was a mere centimeter high still retained much of the detail of one that was much larger.  We also got our first glimpse at an unfinished prototype for the G.I. Joe Howler, which unfortunately looks like it will never see the light of day.
We were then brought along to a desk where a dilligent Hasbro employee painted some of the pre-production figures, and we listened to how the colors are coded to make sure it stays consistent through every step of the production process.  Also to consider a number of paint operations and whether or not each one is cost effective.
Honestly, it felt like we really didn’t get enough time at this stop, I could have sat in there all day…and unfortunately, no pictures were allowed.
G.I. Joe Dioramas, History, and Display
The next stop was out in the large foyer area where an impressive display of action figures was arranged throughout.  Each and every single figure from every year and every country was arranged in neat rows within class cases that was truly a sight to see.  A short video played of the history of G.I. Joe, and the familiar diorama from JoeCon last year was on prominent display as well.  Not much new information here, but some pretty neat sights.

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Digital Concepts
While the G.I. Joe video game certainly was not very warmly received, there was also a stop on the tour to talk about Joe’s foray into the digital realm.  Although many fans didn’t like the end result, we heard a nice speech about how much work goes into creating a video game, from the music to the design models, and the presenter even spoke with pride about creating Helix and Sgt. Flash, which both made it to toy form.
Most interesting was a slideshow outlining a lot of the video game concepts, complete with nice little designer notes about what was wrong with the piece or what might need some tweaking prior to use in the game itself.  Pictures can be found below.

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DeCommisioned – Every G.I. Joe fan’s heartbreak
The last stop on the tour was a presentation with John Warden and Richard Woodhouse, where they proceeded to tear out all of our hearts and stomp them into bloody chunks right on the floor at our feet.  They gave us a rundown of some of the various toys that ended up not getting past the design stage, and it was a miserable thing to behold.
No, pictures were not allowed.
A brief rundown is as follows…there may be some that I forgot:

  • PoC Hiss Tank Driver – The driver initially slated for the upcoming HISS Tank was bulky, crammed with cybernetics, and generally looked bad ass.  From what I could tell, it was mostly new tooling.
  • PoC Clutch – Like the Hiss Tank driver, this figure was slated for an upcoming Bravo vehicle…the VAMP.  But like the Hiss Driver, the new tooling didn’t cost out, so the figure got cut and we got the repaint/frankenstein Clutch.
  • COBRA Stinger – A repaint of the upcoming Bravo PoC VAMP with Stinger colors
  • RoC Howler – Initially seen briefly in pink in the model shop, this one was in full silver colors and crammed with special play features.  An integrated handle, lights and sounds, and the machine gun sound even overheats, then starts clicking with the “ammo” runs dry.  Tons of pegs on the running boards, lots of flip out panels.  Probably would have been considered the best vehicle in the Rise of Cobra line.  Wah.
  • RoC Payload – The slated pilot for the RoC Howler, he had a nice assortment of new tooling and would have been a great addition.
  • RoC Zarana – I don’t quite recall where Zarana was going to fall in release schedule, I only recall that the figure was mind-blowingly awesome.  Of course she was.  Everything that doesn’t get released always is.
  • RoC Sandstorm w/ Star-Viper – The Night Raven repaint we saw last year is finally confirmed as cancelled.  In interesting news, though, they do report that packaged samples were shipped out at some point, so those folks with Chinese contacts might want to keep their eyes (and fingers) on the pulse.
  • PoC City Strike Scarlett – We’ve seen images of her.  They just confirmed that she is, indeed, never being released.
  • PoC Ripcord Sub-Arctic Diver – This one really breaks my heart.  Not because it’s Ripcord.  Not because it was a diver.  Because they were also planning to pay homage to Sigma 6 Snake Eyes with this figure.  Apparently John Warden had worked a Sigma 6 SE (with ports and all!) into the figure to resemble the Sigma 6 commando.  On top of all that was the most realistic and intricate dry dive suits ever done in 3 3/4″ scale with a ton of accessories.  John actually spent some time with some Navy schmuck to get all the details just right.
  • Robot Rebellion Scarlett – Scarlett as seen before she got her Sigma Suit in the Sigma 6 cartoon.  I had to fight myself not to storm the table and steal her.
  • Robot Rebellion Destro – Same as above.  An awesome 3 3/4″ representation (in o-ring goodness) of Destro how he appeared in the Sigma 6 cartoon and toyline.
  • Robot Rebellion “Overlord” – While they didn’t specify which Overlord this was, by the looks of the figure it was this guy right here.
  • Robot Rebellion Machete’s Motorcycle – While the Dreadnok himself was missing in action at the seminar, his motorcycle was there in full effect, looking like it just stepped out of the animated series.

Was that it?  Someone else chime in if there were others.  They went through them so quick, I’m not sure I got it all jotted down in my notebook.
And that was pretty much that.  It was a fantastic tour.  Along with all of this, we also got free reign of the Hasbro employee boutique ($2.00 Joe figures!) and some awesome face time with the designers and producers of our favorite toys.  It was a pure pleasure, hopefully I get a chance to do it again some time!