Welcome back to another installment of Disney Stuff.
Four years ago last week, I suffered one of the biggest losses in my life. One of my dearest friends passed away much too young and much too suddenly. It was a tragic moment in my circle of friends and it's one that we struggle with in our minds and hearts to this day. I’ve mentioned him and written about him here on MousePlanet many times over the years. Robert was like a brother to me and I miss him dearly and think of him often. One of the biggest things that we shared was a common love of Disney and a mutual—some may say obsessive—love of collecting. We both collected memorabilia from the New York World’s Fairs. We both loved vintage toys and cartoon stuff from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s—and our shelves and closets were always chock-full of cool collectibles.
One of the most amazing things about Rob was that he had a fantastic collection of his actual childhood toys; most of them in perfect condition, and many of them in their original boxes. Perhaps the most impressive lot was the original G.I. Joes from the 1960s still in their boxes looking barely played with. I definitely wasn’t as disciplined as a child and the original G.I. Joe’s in my household were mostly wrecked, much to my older brother’s dismay considering they were predominantly his!
Robert and his wife Paula went to Walt Disney World at least once a year, sometimes twice. I was always sure that upon their return, Robert would have a Disney trinket tucked away in his suitcase for me. One year my birthday was approaching and Robert returned home with a gift for me and it’s truly one of my favorite pieces in my Disney collection: the Mission Space G.I. Joe.
In 2004, the International G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention took up a 2-day residence at Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort. Hasbro, the makers of the world’s most famous soldier toy, was celebrating Joe’s 40th anniversary that year. To commemorate this auspicious occasion, two special full-size Disney G.I. Joe figures were created. The first one, revealed at the actual convention, was the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular G.I. Joe based on that famous attraction at what was then known as the Disney MGM Studios theme park. “Indy Joe” came complete with the famous fedora, leather jacket and whip, as well as a sarcophagus, some jewels, a torch, Indy’s green pack, and–what else–a few snakes just to properly torment him.
A month later, the Mission Space G.I. Joe, based on the Epcot attraction of the same name was released. Both figures were Theme Park Exclusives meaning they could only be purchased within the parks themselves; most notably at their respective attractions’ souvenir shops and at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney.
As you can see in the photos, Mission Space Joe came dressed in a very cool astronaut spacesuit and helmet, an oxygen backpack, hoses to connect said pack to the helmet, and nine different pieces of equipment for Joe’s mission on Mars.
The gear attached to Joe’s chest features a nice representation of the Mission Space logo…
…and the shoulder patch reads ISTC (the International Space Training Center from the ride itself).
The back of the box has the X2 rocket, the same ship you help the pilot within the attraction, blasting its way towards the red planet. There’s also quite a bit of text about mankind’s desire to conquer and explore outer space as well as a description of what G.I. Joe’s mission will be at Epcot’s International Space Training Center and beyond.
Following G.I. Joe tradition, both figures were available in Caucasian and African American versions. In the parks they were priced at $40.00. Almost a decade later they are considered rare figures but do come up for sale on the secondary markets like eBay and the like. I’ve seen them sell for between $50 and $80 on various sites in cyberspace. If you’d like to get your hands on one, be vigilant and you will more than likely be able to score your own.
If you grew up in the ’60s or ’70s, G.I. Joe was a mainstay of pop culture. This was the full-sized Joe. The one with the awesome outfits and authentic looking uniforms, the one with the cool vehicles like the army jeep and space capsule, and the one with the fuzzy hair and beard. We’re not talking about the smaller action figure versions of G.I Joe from the ’80s and ’90s. The originals were the best. It was the coolest toy of its time. Joe was, without a doubt, one of the defining toys for an entire generation of boys, especially two friends from Long Island.
Robert and I didn’t know each other when we were kids growing up in Queens and actually playing with G.I. Joe. (Or in my case, as I said before, destroying my older brother’s Joes. Sorry about that, Michael. I probably owe you a small fortune in lost eBay revenue.) However, when we did become friends as adults, Robert and I shared that great Disney-fan quality that so many of us possess- the strong sense of not wanting to let go of our childhood wonder and imagination.
It’s the reason why I can clearly picture Rob spotting this Mission Space G.I. Joe on the shelf at Epcot and knowing exactly who to bring it home to. And it’s the same reason I did the exact same type of thing for him on so many occasions. Those are some of the moments that I miss most about my friend— finding some cool toy somewhere and waiting for him to unwrap it in front of me. Or knowing that he was on his way back from Disney World and wondering what great little bit of Disney magic he was bringing back for me—just like he did on that summer birthday of mine almost a decade ago, when he unearthed the Mission Space G.I. Joe from deep within the Walt Disney World shopping bag.
Thanks, Robert. It’s been sitting on my shelf ever since—as I’m sure it will for a long time to come, always reminding me of you and always reminding me to stay young.
Thanks for reading! Click on the link below to let me hear your thoughts about this very cool Mission Space G.I. Joe, and I’ll see you next time with more of that great Disney Stuff.
(Send an email to Chris Barry)
Chris Barry lives on Long Island in New York with his wife and three kids. He has had a lifelong love of cartoons, comics and animation. Those who know him well say he has truly, "earned his Disney PhD." Chris has been involved with Television Production for 20 years and began his career working with The Muppets at Jim Henson Productions in NYC. Currently teaching TV Production to high school students, Chris has been writing about many different facets of The Walt Disney Company for several years now.