Action Man commercial from the 80’s
Action Man is an action figure boys’ toy launched in Britain in 1966 by Palitoy as a licensed copy of Hasbro’s American “moveable fighting man”: G.I. Joe.
Action Man was originally produced and sold in the United Kingdom and Australia by Palitoy Ltd of Coalville, Leicestershire from 1966 until 1984 (Palitoy also offered sub-licenses to various toy manufacturers in various markets).
The figure and accessories was originally based on the Hasbro (US) 1964 G.I. Joe figure (for 1966–1969 production). Hasbro’s GI Joe figure was patented in 1966. Even the specific method of attaching the appendages was patented as a “Connection For Use In Toy Figures” The first Action Man figures were Action Soldier, Action Sailor and Action Pilot. All were available in the four original hair colors: Blonde, Auburn, Brown and Black. They were accompanied by outfits depicting the participants of the Second World War.
Action Man was subsequently reintroduced in 1993, based on the GI Joe Hall of Fame figure of that time.
Palitoy (from 1968 to 1980, a British subsidiary of General Mills) was the UK licensee for Hasbro Industries. Palitoy grew out of a plastics firm established by Alfred Edward Pallett in 1909 and went on to become one of Britain’s leading toy manufacturers until its ultimate closure in 1984.
In the early years Action Man competed with the entirely British Tommy Gunn by Pedigree Toys who were the producers of the Sindy doll. The Tommy Gunn figure copied aspects of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, released two years earlier in the United States. Regardless, Tommy Gunn was generally regarded as a higher quality in terms of equipment and accuracy of accessories, especially since the Action Man of the sixties was little more than a re-packaged G.I. Joe. However, he was ultimately unable to compete with Action Man and was discontinued in 1968. In the late sixties and early seventies many other companies produced competition for Action Man, but all were of the cheap blow-moulded variety, which produces thin-walled components lacking the articulation and sturdiness of the Palitoy components, which utilized more costly Injection and Rotational moulding processes.
Action Man was then developed with primarily British themes from 1970-onwards; military, adventurers, and sportsman, as Palitoy wanted to distinguish their product line from the U.S. counterpart. (Bill) William A.G. Pugh was the head of Action Man’s product development at Palitoy, and can be credited with the development of innovations to the product line which included the flocked hair, gripping hands, and later “Eagle Eyes” which all crossed over to the GI Joe line, and by extension to that of other Hasbro licensees.
One series that truly set Palitoy’s line apart from Hasbro’s was the “Ceremonials”. Although Hasbro had a set of Cadet ceremonial outfits, they did not match the scope and range of the British versions, which also included a horse of the Life Guards with full ceremonial regalia as an optional set. The non-military was also covered with adventurous elements such as mountain rescue, Arctic exploration, scuba and deep sea diving. One outfit was only available through the Action Man stars scheme; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and accompanying mastiff dog). In the G.I. Joe lineup, this outfit was sold with figure in a variety of configurations through Hasbro Canada.
Info gleaned from Wikipedia