The inaugural HASCON, Hasbro’s Premiere FANmily™ Event, took place in Providence, RI September 8 – 10. In addition to featuring G.I, Joe, the event focus on many of Hasbro’s top properties and partner brands, including My Little Pony, Nerf, Transformers, Star Wars, Marvel, Magic the Gathering, Monopoly, and more! Although I could discuss the entire event and all of the great activities that took place, let’s talk Joe and the experience around the brand!
Hasbro’s Derryl DePriest, V.P. of Marketing, wanted the G.I. Joe activity around HASCON to focus on the 35th Anniversary of the launch of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and set out to create a lineup of experiences (including a special premiere evening dinner) that would delight the longtime fan. Once plans for G.I. Joe started to come into focus, Derryl reached out to me to see if I was interested in helping out…needless to say I jumped at the chance!
One of the first things we decided on was that this event would focus heavily on the past creators who worked on G.I. Joe – the “G.I. Joe Legends” – and we set about recruiting the 24 that formed the heart of all G.I. Joe activity at HASCON.
Most of the events related to G.I. Joe occurred Friday, September 8th. Prior to the panels that started at 2:30 that afternoon, G.I. Joe fans started to arrive to the G.I. Joe Brand Experience area where they could have a photo op with a giant replica of the 1985 Snake Eyes packaging or the 1964 Action Soldier box. Several props from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation movie were also featured in this area and included items such as Firefly’s motorcycle and attire for Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, and Firefly.
The G.I. Joe area contained several display cases filled with pre-production and some production products showcasing milestones of G.I. Joe history. In one display, fans were able to see original package paintings of characters such as Storm Shadow and Breaker and of vehicles and playsets such as the Defiant Space Vehicle Launch Complex and the 1983 Headquarters. It’s truly amazing to see the amount of detail that went into these paintings! Besides these amazing paintings being shown, there were two cases full of artifacts from the ARAH time period including the entire 1982 production line accompanied with images of the original concept art by Ron Rudat and Wayne Luther. The remainder of these two cases featured Paintmasters and vehicle models that were pulled from the archives. The third and final case featured several 12” figures ranging from the 1960s and 1970s, including pre-production and prototype figures and even the original 16mm Toy Fair sales film. Last, but not least, behind the entire G.I. Joe display, was a huge backdrop of the 1983 Headquarters featured!
The G.I. Joe panels started with “The Art of G.I. Joe,” with Derryl introducing Legends Doug Hart and Bob Lavoie, former Hasbro illustrators who worked on the package illustrations for G.I. Joe brand in the 1980s and 1990s. Along with examples of both men’s work, Derryl had open dialogue with both Doug and Bob about their styles as well as Hector Garrido’s influence on the styling of the G.I. Joe packaging from its inception in 1982. Doug shared scans of many of his B&W model photos, often featuring Hasbro employees, that were used when creating the paintings. Thankfully Doug saved all his reference photos, as the insight into his process was amazing (and often hilarious!).
At 3:30, it was time for the first of two panels that I moderated “- Creating the World of G.I. Joe Vehicles & Playsets” featuring first-hand stories from the Legends behind some of our favorite Joe vehicles and sets. Each Legend discussed a different topic and what each of Hasbro’s process stages entailed in the process of creation. “Creating the World of G.I. Joe Characters” followed as Legends involved in the figure creation came to the stage and walked the crowd through the process. Although there were some similarities, each process had distinctive steps to making a successful product. One of the most exciting aspects was the team dynamic amongst those on stage: jokes were being made and you truly got the sense of the warmth and affection that the team had for one other…I really got the sense that we were witnessing something special that day!
After the panels, there was a small period of time where people traveled to the Renaissance hotel for the VIP dinner event which featured the G.I. Joe Legends, dinner, additional panels, and special guest speaker, Alan Hassenfeld, former chairman and CEO of Hasbro Toys. The evening started with both fans and Legends mingling amongst one another while having drinks. Shortly after, everyone was asked to join in the ballroom where Derryl kicked off the night with a warm and welcoming speech to the fans and Legends. Following this, Alan Hassenfeld took the stage and shared his memories about G.I. Joe as a young man and well into his years as CEO of Hasbro. Alan also shared several stories about his father Merrill and brother Stephen, who also shared the role of CEO prior to Alan taking on the position following Stephen’s passing in 1989.
Following Alan’s memories, a presentation of quotes and old photos of the Legends were shown during the dinner. Throughout the dinner you could hear chuckles amongst the Legends laughing at either themselves or images of their former co-workers. After dinner, Ron Rudat, Roger Avery, Bill Culbertson, Kirk Hindman, and Greg Berndtson took the stage and had an open discussion about what it was like to work on G.I. Joe: ARAH the first few years. Images of the original concepts and sculpts were shown in the background while the Legends discussed their memories from this time period.
Once the Legends were done discussing the first few years and fielding a few questions from the crowd, Chris Mowry from IDW Publishing came to the stage and hinted about potential future projects focusing on the original packaging artwork, similar to the special art portfolio that was offered as a HASCON exclusive.
The evening ended with a presentation of art that were either provided or were from Hasbro’s archives. Each designer was given the opportunity to speak and share some memories or stories behind their creations.
Although the official events were over on Friday for G.I. Joe, several Legends offered to come down to the main experience area from 10am – Noon on Saturday and meet fans who may not have been able to make it to Fridays events. Attendees of HASCON could obtain free bio cards from the Legends as well as an exclusive proof card of Snake Eyes featuring all 24 Legends on the back. Fans were able to get these items signed by the different Legends that were present! Following this period of time, several legends grabbed a bite to eat at Murphy’s Deli and then proceeded to a tour of Hasbro at 2pm. It was a unique experience to watch the Legends walk through the “old hallways” and reminisce with one another.
In conclusion, I want to thank Derryl and all the Hasbro staff for creating a truly unique experience for everyone who attended this event. I am honored and humble to have been part of this inaugural event. Like myself, those who attended will cherish this experience for the years to come. My hopes are that HASCON will continue and there continues to be a focus on recognizing the Joe brand in the years to come!
And now you know….and knowing is half the battle! YoJoe!
*This article was featured in the November 2017 G.I. Joe Collector's Club magazine.
The Full Force is a fancast that focuses on the world of Action Force, G.I. Joe and a number of related brands. We are into our fifth series now, with news, figure reviews, features like from the vault, hilarious mail call fun and in-depth discussion.
One of the most memorable moments for many fans of HASCON were the panels held during the day and in the evening at the VIP event. Chris McLeod of The Full Force fancast fortunately recorded these panels and has given me permission to share them here! If you haven't checked out his fancast, you can keep find it on Podbean, iTunes, and Stitcher.