It was a 6-year-old girl from Arkansas who voiced the obvious when she asked a creator of the little green plastic Army men so many of us grew up playing with, “Why do you not make girl Army men?”
The child, named Vivian Lord, was inspired to write a letter to BMC Toys to ask about the female versions of the popular figurine toys because she has a friend with a mother who serves in the U.S. Army.
Earlier this month, the green plastic women soldiers she inspired debuted at the Chicago Toy Soldier Show in Schaumburg, Illinois.
The journey started when Vivian and her mother went on Google to look for women toy soldiers but were only able to find pink ones — and they were still men. Since Vivian couldn’t stop talking about the lack, mom Brittany Lord encouraged her daughter to write toy companies about the subject.
“Some girls don’t like pink, so please can you make army girls that look like women?” Vivian’s letter read, according to USA Today. “I would play with them every day and my friends would to!”
BMC Toys president Jeff Imel was the toymaker who responded. He told NPR he had been wondering the same thing for several years and knew there was demand for it. However, making them would be very expensive. He is the Pennsylvania company’s only full-time employee and the costs for producing a new item would come out of his pocket.
He looked into it and was able to come up with a way to get the project moving. He gave Vivian an answer: “It’s happening,” NPR reports.
Here are the sketches Imel revealed on the toy company’s blog:
Kudos to Vivian for putting all this into motion with her letter!
Imel found a Canadian sculptor, James Van Schaik, to create the look of the new green plastic soldiers on a tight timeline.
The green plastic U.S. Army women figurines will come in four poses. A set that includes 24 figures will be on store shelves by Christmas 2020.
“What’s been really surprising to me is how many women have contacted me since Vivian’s story aired on national television to say they wish they had little Green Army Women when they were children back in the ’60s,” Imel said to NPR.
Here’s what the woman soldier looks like mixed in with some of the already-existing male figurines:
The original green army men toys date back to the 1930s. In 2011, TIME Magazine named them as one of the All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys.
There has been some criticism of the idea to make female versions because the toy is based on a time when women weren’t allowed in the military. But Imel says that’s an old-fashioned criticism.
“The plastic army men are not just a toy version of soldiers in World War II movies,” he said to NPR. “They exist in their own universe.”
As for young Vivian? She’s very excited, and can’t wait to get her hands on a set when they come out.
“It made me so happy,” she told Today. “I might just get the boy army men out of the way and just play with the girls.”
We’re so excited for this new take on the classic green Army toy!