Permission from BMC Toys
This summer, a young girl from Arkansas made a play for a toy company in Northeast Pennsylvania.
"My name is Vivian. I'm six years old. Why don't you make girls in the army of girls?" writes Vivian Lord at BMC Toys.
For Jeff Imel, president of BMC Toys, who makes Green Army emblematic figures, this was a worthy question, and one on which he blurred for years.
"It was a heartfelt letter," Imel told NPR. "And it reminded me that I'm a kid and I always want that toy that you can't put in a chewing machine," he said. "So I really looked up to him."
After conducting a study into what kind of search might be for young women in the Green Army, he recently decided to answer Vivian Lord's question by saying, "It happens."
Green Army Women figures will now be available by Christmas 2020 in four different military poses. Among the positions: female captain holding a pistol and binoculars and kneeling female drill, holding a bazooka ready for launch.
"The bazooka is always a favorite," said Imel.
Financing the design and development of new soldiers has always been the biggest obstacle for a toy company based in Scranton.
Imel is the only full-time employee of BMC Toys. Production is happening in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and some of it is completed overseas.
"I have to pay the sculptor. I have to pay the tooling. I have to make a down payment for the production," he said. "If he comes from China, he's been on the boat for five weeks.
" By the time you find out the cost of everything related to making an original set of plastic toy figures of this size, "he said." It starts at the cost of a modest new car. "
Imel said that he had long been embroiled in the idea of adding a set of female soldier toys to miniature toys dating back to the 1930s. everyone liked the idea, "he said budget constraints prevented the idea from becoming a reality.
A client, a retired Navy commander, reached out to look for female toys for his granddaughters, who renewed his thoughts on the female kit.
"This letter came at a time when I was thinking of entering.
But the real spark was the national attention drawn from Vivian Lord's handwritten letter sent to Imel.
"Some girls don't like pink, so can you please make army girls who look like women?" wrote the young girl. "I would play with them every day and my friends would do it!"
This may return the company financially, but hopefully, said Imel, the demand for new sellers will even come out of his books.
Some clients revert to female images, arguing that the making of women in the form of mid-century military soldiers would be a rewriting story, since women were not allowed into combat during this era.
But for Imel this criticism is based on a poor understanding of how toys work in modern society.
"The men of the plastic army are not just a toy version of soldiers in World War II movies," he said. "They exist in their own universe."
Plus, he said, toys open the imagination of children and even help them put themselves at the center of their stories.
"Every child wants to be a hero of his story," he said. "We don't have to decide who the character is. Girls should be able to relate to toys just like boys."