Long before their 1995 spy mission in Pixar’s animated hit movie Toy Story, little green army men inspired hours of make-believe war-play for children.
Made of hard molded plastic, little green army men first appeared in the 1930s, thanks to the Bergen Toy and Novelty Company. These monochromatic toy soldiers were direct descendants of their metal forebears of previous centuries. Each soldier typically stood two to four inches tall in one of a variety of actions poses, modeled after soldiers in the mid-20th century United States military.
The plastics manufacturing boom of the 1950s meant that these toys could be produced for pennies a piece, and they were sold in bulk by a variety of toy companies. Toy companies also created playsets around them which depicted famous historical battles. The low price point also made them easy to replace – a hit with both parents and kids alike.
Little green army men are still produced today and continue to be popular with children, collectors, and diorama makers. As a testament to their ability to inspire creativity and imagination, little green army men were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2014.