For “at least 3 years”, Jeff Imel, President of VictoryBuy Inc., a family owned and operated online retailer of Plastic Army Men and other classic toys, had been “kicking around the idea for a set of little green female toy soldiers.” Friends and family loved the concept, but realizing a new original set of figures would be a big undertaking, Jeff put it “on the back burner”. It took an email from a woman who is a retired U.S. Navy Fleet Master Chief, followed by a handwritten letter from a 6-year-old girl named Vivian for Jeff to fast-track his original mission. Now pre-orders for his Plastic Army Women set start next month.
Produced by BMC Toys, which is part of VictoryBuy Inc., the new Plastic Army Women set will feature 24 scale figures (54mm) in 5 classic poses: Captain, Bazooka, Standing Rifle, Kneeling Rifle, Prone Sniper. These female combat toy soldiers will mirror the classic style of the Plastic Army Men from the WW2-Cold War era, enabling them to, as Jeff noted on the BMC Toys blog, “blend in with existing figures from a variety of manufacturers and look like what the average person thinks of as ‘little green army men’ that just happen to be women.”
Artist Tina Imel drew the concept sketches that were used in developing the look of the women soldiers, consulting with several “female service members” in the process. Designed as “fun and affordable toys for kids (and adults) to enjoy”, the Plastic Army Women figs are “intended to be an extension of the generic ‘Army Men’ universe of pop-culture rather than historically accurate hobby models.”
In June 2018, as Jeff’s idea was on a very low and slow mind simmer, it was an email the company received from JoAnn Ortloff, Fleet Master Chief (Retired), U.S. Navy, that started wheels turning. According to Jeff’s second Plastic Army Women project update, “She was looking for female toy soldiers for her granddaughters, and made a compelling case for why Plastic Army Women should be produced.” He continued, “I spent a good chunk of a weekend putting together the basics for the project, set up an email list, wrote a blog post, and got some art made to illustrate the idea.” But, in reality, Jeff’s schedule and budget for 2018 were full, so on the back burner the idea remained.
Fast forward to early August 2019, when Jeff received this letter from a 6-year-old girl named Vivian who wrote, “Why do you not make girl army men? My friends mom is in the army too!!”
With that the Plastic Army Women Project was officially on. In just the last 60 days so much work has gone into making this idea a reality – sketching, sculpting, prototyping, resin casting – that BMC Toys will be ready to start taking pre-orders this November, with the sets scheduled to arrive in Fall 2020.
Last month, in his third Plastic Army Women Project update on the BMC Toys site, Jeff shared, “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.”
It was not lost on us that each of Jeff’s update posts about the Plastic Army Women Project have received many comments from women, comments like this one: “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.” – Sherry Hornberger
In an email interview, Jeff told WYSK, “I’m very grateful and humbled by the response to the BMC Toys Plastic Army Women Project. The media attention has been beyond belief, and the messages I’ve received from people have been overwhelmingly positive.” He added, “The outpouring of support has deepened my resolve to produce the best version of the Plastic Army Women figures I possibly can.”
Now that this mission is well under way, Jeff is already getting frequent requests for Plastic Women Navy and Air Force figures. His response, “If this first set is popular enough, we’ll add more sets to the Plastic Army Women collection, but one battle at a time.”
All images and sketches, as well as Vivian’s note, are published on Women You Should Know with the express permission of Jeff Imel, President of VictoryBuy Inc., BMC Toys