I have a theory, for the UK at least. I can even lay the blame. A few weeks ago was the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie and it got me thinking back to my blissfully idyllic childhood full of Action Men (GI Joe for the Americans amongst us), plastic soldiers and guns. Toys that contributed to a consuming interest in military history and a job at Osprey.
But all this was about to end. Around 1983, my younger brother started buying a set of figures called Action Force, a fictional and futuristic elite fighting force. I took one look at the bright red enemy soldiers and said “Hang on, these are German Stormtroopers painted red, with their faces covered up and a laser rifle”. Little did I realise what it signalled. 24 years later and I am traipsing through toyshops with my son, surrounded by a variety of space and superhero action figures with not a soldier in sight. Warlord and Victor are gone and wizards rule.
So who is to blame for this catastrophic chain of events? When I realised that this insignificant moment was a major cultural shift I got curious and looked up Action Force and discovered this:
The Action Force range was born in August 1982 as a product of the combination of the ideas behind Palitoy's (a major UK toy company) two major product lines, the 12” tall Action Man Range, and the 3¾” Star Wars figures. Action Man sales were dropping and the massive success of the Star Wars line prompted Palitoy to produce a new range of small Action Men. This new range was called 'Action Force'. (Thanks to http://www.actionforce.org, although the site now seems to be down.)
So when everyone else this week is celebrating Star Wars, take a moment and think about what it replaced.
So that's my theory. Star Wars is to blame. What's yours?