Stanley Weston became a toy industry legend for his early contributions to the G.I. Joe brand and a storied career in toy licensing.
Born Stanley Alan Weinstein on April 1, 1933 in New York City.
Died May 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Weston graduated from New York University in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and advertising.
He spent the following two years stationed in Hawaii while serving in the Army.
Weston returned to New York City and found a junior position with McCann-Erickson Advertising. He worked to build his own mail-order business, Quality House, on the side.
In 1960, he began working with an agency responsible for licensing television shows, movies, athletes, and celebrities such as Twiggy.
Weston struck out on his own later that year to establish Weston Merchandising Corporation. His early clients included MGM Studios and Universal Studios, for whom he licensed characters such as Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, and The Wolf Man.
A Big Deal
Weston became interested in the toy industry through his friendship with Elliot Handler, founder of Mattel.
Inspired by his time in the Army and his readings about military service, Weston came up with the idea of an “outfitted action figure” and pitched the idea to Donald Levine, a product development executive at Hassenfeld Bros. (now known as Hasbro).
Weston and Hassenfeld Bros. agreed on a payment of $100,000 USD for Weston’s ideas, which developed into the G.I. Joe brand, released in 1964.
The years that followed saw Weston file a lawsuit against the toy company, claiming he wasn’t duly credited for the invention of G.I. Joe. The suit also claimed the rights to G.I. Joe were to be returned to Weston or his estate in 2020. No contract stating those terms was located by either party.
In Popular Culture
Weston’s licensing work went on to include projects involving Nintendo, Farrah Fawcett, Star Wars, the World Wrestling Federation, Nintendo, Alf, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Welcome Back, Kotter.
He was also involved in the creation of the ThunderCats animated series in the 1980s.
Weston was inducted into the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame in its inaugural year (1989).
Since its creation, the G.I. Joe brand has evolved comics, live-action movies, animated series, and other forms of children’s entertainment.
G.I. Joe continues to earn fans and inspire collections of vintage and contemporary toys and accessories.