Palitoy (from 1968, a British subsidiary of General Mills) was the UK licensee for Hasbro Industries.
Palitoy grew out of a plastics firm established by Alfred Edward Pallett in 1909 and went on to become one of Britain's leading toy manufacturers
until its ultimate closure in 1984.
In 1964 Sales Director Hal Belton brought back from the States a new toy called G I Joe to give, as a present, to his grandson.
When he realised that it was well received by his grandson he "borrowed" the toy and presented it to the General Manager Miles Fletcher.
Miles and his Production Director Brian Wybrow made contact with Hasbro at the New York toy fair the next year. Samples were acquired from Hasbro and marketing research was carried out
Palitoy employees were given samples to take home for their children to test. The controversy at the time was " should boys be playing with a doll". Palitoy (as Hasbro before) ignored these concerns and the word "doll" was banned when discussing the new toy.
A name was needed and Gee Advertising was commissioned to come up with some ideas. A list was passed around the company (as remembered by Stuart Moore, designer of the successful Tiny Tears) for people to cast their preference.
One name remembered was "Ace 21" because the manikin had 21 separate components. Both Peter Watson, of Gees, and Les Cooke, Palitoy Brand Manager (later to become Managing Director), claim authorship of the name Action Man
but it was Sales Manager Harry Trowell who suggested the name to Miles Fletcher over lunch at the local pub, the Fox and Goose.
The name was really staring everyone in the face; Hasbro had previously called their boxed figures Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot and Action Marine.
However Miles' decision to go with the name Action Man was the stoke of genius behind the concept because it allowed Action Man, not only to be a military hero, but also to venture into adventure, exploration, sport and even into outer space
everywhere where there was "action". Eventually after lengthy negotiation a licensing deal to produce the toy using Hasbro tooling and Far East sourcing was agreed in late 1965
just prior to the launch at the British Toy Fair in January 1966.
In the early years Action Man competed with the entirely British Tommy Gunn by Pedigree Toys who were the producers of the Sindy doll
The Tommy Gunn figure copied aspects of Hasbro's G.I. Joe, released two years earlier in the United States. Regardless, Tommy Gunn was generally regarded as a higher quality in terms of equipment and accuracy of accessories
especially since the Action Man of the 1960s was little more than a re-packaged G.I. Joe. However, he was ultimately unable to compete with Action Man and was discontinued in 1968. In the late 1960s and early 1970s many other companies produced competition for Action Man
but all were of the cheap blow-moulded variety, which produces thin-walled components lacking the articulation and sturdiness of the Palitoy components, which utilised more costly Injection and Rotational moulding processes.
Action Man was then developed with primarily British themes from 1970 onwards: military, adventurers, and sportsman, as Palitoy wanted to distinguish their product line from the U.S. counterpart
(Bill) William A.G. Pugh was the head of Action Man's product development at Palitoy, and can be credited with the development of innovations to the product line which included the flocked hair and gripping hands
which crossed over to the G.I. Joe line. Hasbro realising that adding a new feature to the manikin helped to maintain sales developed the Eagle Eyes which was adopted by Palitoy for Action Man
and by extension to that of other Hasbro licensees.
One series that truly set Palitoy's line apart from Hasbro's was the "Ceremonials". Although Hasbro had a set of Cadet ceremonial outfits, they did not match the scope and range of the British versions, which also included a horse of the Life Guards with full ceremonial regalia as an optional set.
The non-military was also covered with adventurous elements such as mountain rescue, Arctic exploration, scuba and deep sea diving. One outfit was only available through the Action Man stars scheme; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and accompanying mastiff dog). In the G.I. Joe lineup, this outfit was sold with figure in a variety of configurations through Hasbro Canada.
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