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Stanley Weston, an inventor of the G.I. Joe action figure and a pioneer of the licensing business, died May 1 in Los Angeles, his daughter, Cindy Winebaum, announced. He was 84.
Weston was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and served in the Army shortly after the Korean War ended. When he returned home to New York, he found a job with the advertising agency McCann Erickson and enrolled in night courses for an MBA at New York University, where he had studied as an undergraduate.
Weston soon discovered a talent for the up-and-coming licensing and merchandising industry, and he struck out on his own to found Weston Merchandising.
When Mattel’s Barbie dolls were introduced in 1960, Weston realized boys were an untapped market for the doll industry after noting that many of them played with Ken dolls. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. Toy inventor Lawrence Reiner has been credited with contributing the idea of the figure’s arms and legs move and received a stake in the property. (Reiner’s daughter Jodi Reiner maintains her father contributed much more than just the movable arms and legs — and indeed conceived of the concept of G.I. Joe itself.) The runaway hit would go on to be one of the most enduring toy lines in history, spawning hit TV shows and films as well.
Weston later renamed his company Leisure Concepts, which would represent clients such as Charlie’s Angels-era Farrah Fawcett, Nintendo and the World Wrestling Federation, as well as TV shows including Alf and Welcome Back, Kotter. His other notable achievements include helping create the 1980s animated phenomenon ThunderCats.
In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson.
Weston is survived by his brother, his three children and five grandchildren.
June 12, 11 a.m. Updated to include Lawrence Reiner’s contributions in inventing the brand. More on his legacy can be found here.
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