BMC Toys: Plastic Army Women Project: Update #3

Posted by Jeff Imel on

It's been just a few days since "On the Road with Steve Hartman" a weekly feature on CBS evening news, aired the story about young Vivian's "Why aren't there girl Army men?" letter, but so much has happened, it feels like it was months ago. It's funny, the more media attention you have, the more media attention you get! This past week, I've been interviewed by Kristina Shalhoup from Eyewitness News, our local CBS affiliate and Stacy Lange from Newswatch 16, our local ABC affiliate. These stories also aired on news broadcasts around the country. It's been an amazing, and somewhat surreal, experience. Every time I think the story has died down, another wave hits, and there are even more stories in progress. Special thanks to Northeastern Plastics in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for letting me use their conference room for interviews, and for making a special effort to have a plastic injection machine producing green Army soldiers for the CBS story. Here are the local news stories that aired this week:

Eyewitness News Story:

Newswatch 16 Story:

In the interview with Steve Hartman, I committed to producing a set of Plastic Army Women for Christmas 2020. I'd already decided to do it, but I'll bet Mr. Hartman could've gotten me to say it even if I hadn't (he's a really good interviewer). The CBS "On the Road with Steve Hartman" story also unveiled our original sculpture of the first figure in the set:
BMC Toys Plastic Army Women Captain Prototype Sculpture

I kept this part of the project under wraps until the story aired, so folks were surprised to see I had already taken the next step. When I commissioned the figure, I was preparing to use it to gather feedback for further development. The timeline was tight, so I was extremely lucky to find James Van Schaik, an experienced figure sculptor in Canada. He did such an amazing job with the concept, and the feedback was so positive, that the project is progressing to the next stage. This will include making a rubber mold and casting a handful of resin figures. James has already made a couple of minor refinements I requested, and we plan to have one resin model on display at the  Chicago Toy Soldier Show on September 22, 2019.

I've received so many messages of support, it's been nearly overwhelming. I’m especially surprised by the number of messages I’ve received from women who wanted a set of ‘Little Green Army Women' as kids, even back in the 1960's. Many look forward to sharing a set with their granddaughters and completing the circle of a long-lost childhood wish. I've also received some great photos from women veterans in uniform, and even more history about women in the military and in combat.

Probably the most common request has been from folks wanting to pre-order the set. I don't think the project is quite ready for pre-orders yet, but it's on my to-do list. I'm committed to develop at least 4 different figures in the set with about 24 figures in the package. My current thinking is the next figures would be standing with rifle, prone shooting rifle (maybe sniper), and kneeling firing bazooka. I think that's a good assortment for a basic set that would be the most fun and useful for 'plastic Army' play. Here are some more concept sketches by Tina Imel. These aren't final designs. For example, the figure with rifle will hold the weapon in firing position and look down the sights. Sketches like this are a great starting point to portray the general idea of what the figures might look like:
BMC Toys Plastic Army Women Concept Sketches

I'd like to expand the set further with a kneeling with rifle figure and a running pose. There have also been a good number of requests for a medic and radio operator. It might make sense to run a crowdfunding campaign as a way to accept pre-orders and help expand the number of different figures at the same time. November would be a perfect time for a crowdfunding campaign, so I'm researching this option now. Either way, the project is definitely happening, and you will be able to pre-order at some point. In the meantime, you can add your email to be notified when they're available on the product page.

Another frequent request has been for female Navy and Airforce figures. I think these would be a great future project, but for now, I'm sticking with the basic mission of making a nice quality set of 'Plastic Army Women' that will be fun and affordable toys for kids (and adults) to enjoy. If this first set is popular enough, we'll add more sets to the Plastic Army Woman collection, but one battle at a time.

An opinion that has also been mentioned a few times is that the figures should be based on contemporary soldiers rather than Cold-war era soldiers. I considered this very early on when thinking about the project, but felt that a set of contemporary soldiers should be developed as a set of men and women. Also, from a practical standpoint, it would be extremely difficult to identify the gender of small-scale soldiers in modern combat gear, so creating a set of contemporary soldier figures would be another future project. I like to think of the Plastic Army Women we're developing as an extension of the pop-culture universe of Plastic Army Men toys. Thanks to movies, video games, and a thriving community of stop motion animators, Plastic Army Men have transcended, representing real soldiers, and now they exist in their own universe. Here's a photo I took to see how the prototype figure fits in with some classic Army men figures:

BMC Toys Plastic Army Women Prototype Compatibility Test

I believe that this photo, along with all the positive feedback I’ve received so far, shows we're on the right track. I'll continue to refine the designs as the project develops in the coming weeks. I'm trying to create something that will connect with people, and I’m guided by the thinking that every kid wants to be the hero of their own story. Please continue to let me know your thoughts. I am behind on answering messages and comments, but I’ve read, and appreciate, all of them.

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As always, Tanks' for your support,

Jeff at BMC Toys

September 15, 2019:
The Scranton Times-Tribune and Wilkes Barre's Citizens Voice published this article by staff reporter Jon O'Connell: NEPA toymaker grabbed national spotlight...

September 14, 2019:
NBC Today Show ran a different version of the locally produced story: See how a 6-year-old girl's letter launched...

September 13, 2019:
NBC Evening News ran a version of the story by local Eyewitness News reporter Kristina Shalhoup:

September 12, 2019:
NPR All Things Considered: Story including interviews with JoAnn Ortloff, Fleet Master Chief (Retired), US Navy, Jeff Imel of BMC Toys, and Vivian Lord age 6:

September 11, 2019:
NowThis story by Mike Whiter: BMC Toys Creates 'Plastic Army Women' ...
CNN follow up story by David Williams: A toy company will make little green Army women....

September 10, 2019: 
NPR interview with Bobby Allyn: Her own story...
The Philadelphia Inquirer interview with Anna Orso: Little green women...
Plastics Today interview with Norbert Sparrow: Little green army . . . women

August 30, 2019: BMC Toys: Plastic Army Women Project: Update #2 (IT'S HAPPENING!)

August 9, 2019: BMC Toys: Plastic Army Women Project: Update #1

June 20, 2018: BMC Toys: Plastic Army Women Project Original Post

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  • i was at veterans event and someone told me that they had army action figures at the table – I was so excited. I get over there and what do I find? Army Men Painted Pink! This doesn’t count. I am so excited about this project and Know many women veterans will buy sets too! Can’t Wait – Thank You!!

    Gloria on
  • I think women military toy soldiers are a reasonable enough request. I look forward to seeing them become available .

    M. Barta on
  • I am a woman Army veteran who served during the Cold War and the beginning of Desert Storm. I was thrilled to see this piece on the news and the positive response to out. Women should be represented, too! My brother and I are also toy collectors, so I’ll be sure to purchase some. Thank you for listening. Thank you to Steve Hartman, NBC News, and young Vivian!

    Sharon in VA on
  • Can’t wait for these to come out, I wanted to join, but flat feet kept me out.

    Debbie on
  • I am a woman Army veteran (Lt.) who served during the Vietnam conflict in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Women were not allowed to join any other branch of the Army at that time, except the Army Nurse Corps, but they’ve come a long way since then. These figures show that women can defend themselves and their country as well as men can. I’ll be happy to buy some when they are released. I was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA. What a coincidence!!

    Sherry Hornberger on

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