Little Green Army Women Are Coming, Thanks to a 6-Year-Old Girl

tihomir_todorov/iStock via Getty Images
tihomir_todorov/iStock via Getty Images

For decades, kids have gotten a minor thrill from playing with little green plastic army men, a series of posed figures sold in bulk that can wage mass-scale operations in backyards and on bedroom floors. Recently, one 6-year-old girl from Little Rock, Arkansas wondered why there were no little green plastic army women soldiers among their ranks. So she decided to do something about it.

According to NPR, Vivian Lord wrote a letter to three different companies, including Pennsylvania’s BMC Toys, inquiring at to why there were no female versions of their Lilliputian platoon. “Some girls don’t like pink,” she wrote, “so please can you make army girls that look like women?”

It was not the first time BMC had gotten the request. In 2018, the company was contacted by JoAnn Ortloff, a retired U.S. Navy fleet master chief, who was hoping to find female soldiers for her granddaughters. After deliberation and upon receipt of the Lord letter, BMC Toys president Jeff Imel decided to move forward in contemporizing the line. Beginning in late 2020, the toys will include four female soldiers, including a captain and a woman wielding a bazooka.

A little green Army woman prototype figure is pictured
BMC Toys

Imel said the decision had to be weighed owing to the company’s small profile. He is the only full-time employee and making adjustments or additions to the toy line can potentially be prohibitively expensive. He told NPR he was encouraged after seeing the enthusiastic response Lord’s letter received in the media. BMC plans on a crowdfunding campaign in November to accept pre-orders and expand the assortment.

The little green army men date back to the 1930s, when production of the infantry moved from metal and lead to plastic. They were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2014.

[h/t NPR]

11 Scrumdiddlyumptious Roald Dahl Facts

Ronald Dumont / Getty Images
Ronald Dumont / Getty Images

A world without Roald Dahl would be a world without Oompa Loompas, Snozzcumbers, or Muggle-Wumps. And who would ever want to live in a world like that? Celebrate the author with these gloriumptious facts about the master of edgy kids' books.

1. Writing was never Roald Dahl's best subject.

Dahl held onto a school report he had written as a kid, on which his teacher noted: “I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.”

2. Making up nonsensical words was part of what Roald Dahl did best.

When writing 1982’s The BFG, Dahl created 238 new words for the book’s protagonist, which he dubbed Gobblefunk.

3. Roald Dahl's first profession was as a pilot.

And not just any pilot: Dahl was a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during World War II. And it was a plane crash near Alexandria, Egypt that actually inspired him to begin writing.

4. Roald Dahl got into some 007 kind of stuff, too.

Alongside fellow officers Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy, Dahl supplied intelligence to an MI6 organization known as the British Security Coordination.

5. Roald Dahl's first published piece was accidental.

Upon recovering from that plane crash, Dahl was reassigned to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an assistant air attaché. He was approached by author C.S. Forester, who was writing a piece for The Saturday Evening Post and looking to interview someone who had been on the frontlines of the war. Dahl offered to write some notes on his experiences, but when Forester received them he didn’t want to change a word. He submitted Dahl’s notes—originally titled “A Piece of Cake”—to his editor and on August 1, 1942, Roald Dahl officially became a published author. He was paid $1000 for the story, which had been retitled “Shot Down Over Libya” for dramatic effect.

6. Roald Dahl's first children's book was inspired by the Royal Air Force.

Published in 1942, The Gremlins was about a group of mischievous creatures who tinkered with the RAF’s planes. Though the movie rights were purchased by Walt Disney, a film version never materialized. Dahl would go on to become one of the world’s bestselling fiction authors, with more than 100 million copies of his books published in nearly 50 languages.

7. Roald Dahl read Playboy for the articles.

Or at least his own articles. While he’s best known as a children’s author, Dahl was just as prolific in the adult short story sphere. His stories were published in a range of outlets, including Collier’s, Ladies Home Journal, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Playboy, where his topics of choice included wife-swapping, promiscuity, suicide, and adultery. Several of these stories were published as part of Dahl’s Switch Bitch anthology.

8. Quentin Tarantino adapted a Roald Dahl short story for the big screen.

One of Dahl’s best-known adult short stories, “Man from the South” (a.k.a. “The Smoker”), was adapted to celluloid three times, twice as part of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (once in 1960 with Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre, and again in 1985) and a third time as the final segment in 1995’s film anthology Four Rooms, which Quentin Tarantino directed.

9. Roald Dahl's own attempts at screenwriting were not as successful.

One would think that, with his intriguing background and talent for words, Dahl’s transition from novelist to screenwriter would be an easy one ... but you would be wrong. Dahl was hired to adapt two of Ian Fleming’s novels, the James Bond novel You Only Live Once and the kid-friendly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; both scripts were completely rewritten. Dahl was also hired to adapt Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the big screen, but was replaced by David Seltzer when he couldn’t make his deadlines. Dahl was not shy about his criticisms of the finished product, noting his “disappointment” that the film (and its changed title) shifted the story’s emphasis from Charlie to Willy Wonka.

10. Roald Dahl made an important contribution to the field of neurosurgery.

In 1960, Dahl’s four-month-old son Theo’s carriage was struck by a cab driver in New York City, leaving the child suffering from hydrocephalus, a condition that increases fluid in the brain. Dahl became very actively involved in his son’s recovery, and contacted toymaker Stanley Wade for help. Together with Theo’s neurosurgeon, Kenneth Till, the trio developed a shunt that helped to alleviate the condition. It became known as the Wade-Dahl-Till valve.

11. Even in death, Roald Dahl's sense of humor was evident.

Roald Dahl passed away from a blood disease on November 23, 1990 at the age of 74. Per his request, he was buried with all of his favorite things: snooker cues, a bottle of Burgundy, chocolate, HB pencils, and a power saw.

7 Things You Might Not Know About the Game Simon

debaird, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Introduced in 1978, Simon represented an evolution in tabletop gaming. Not exactly a board game but not quite a video game, it straddled the line between the past and future of recreational diversions. To play the game, users must memorize a series of tones and lights on the four-button surface, then repeat them in order. As the patterns grow more complex, the game becomes more challenging. (Or frustrating, depending on one’s perspective.) Simon was a hit upon release and has remained a pop culture fixture for over 40 years. For more on the game’s history, keep reading.

1. Simon was invented by Ralph Baer, the “Father of Video Games.”

In the 1960s, German refugee and former World War II Army intelligence officer Ralph Baer was a military engineering contractor who decided to moonlight as a video games pioneer. Baer visualized a system that could be connected to a television to play games on the screen. In 1971, Baer and his employer, Sanders Associates, filed for and later received the first-ever video game patent. The system would become the Magnavox Odyssey, which went on sale in 1972.

Years later, Baer would have another idea. Working as an independent consultant for the toy firm Marvin Glass and Associates, Baer was drawn to an Atari arcade game called Touch Me. He and Marvin Glass employee Howard Morrison had seen it at a trade show in 1976. While they liked the premise—players had to repeat a musical sequence—they felt the execution was lacking and the sounds were unpleasant. Using Touch Me as a jumping-off point, they decided to try and craft a better version. (It was only fitting, as Atari had taken a cue from the Magnavox Odyssey to create their arcade hit Pong.) Along with programmer Lenny Cope, Baer and Morrison worked for nearly two years on a handheld version originally titled Follow Me that had four buttons. Crucially, the four tones they selected were much more pleasant to the ear. Baer selected the four notes played by a bugle. Milton Bradley licensed the idea, and Simon (named after the children’s game Simon Says) was released in 1978.

2. Simon was the hottest toy of the 1978 holiday season.

Making a splashy debut at the trendy Studio 54 nightclub in New York on May 15, 1978, Simon quickly made an impression with adults and found itself hastily added to many holiday wish lists. That winter, several stores reported a Simon shortage and long lines of people hoping to get a crack at a new shipment. One store sold through 1000 of them in just five days. Milton Bradley ultimately put Simon on allocation, meaning that stores received only a portion of their orders until they could ramp up production to meet demand.

3. Simon was very expensive for its time.

Simon originally had a retail price of $25, which amounts to about $92 in today’s dollars. Unlike video game systems, Simon could only do one thing. But people were enamored with computer-based diversions, with many pointing to the novelty of the microprocessor chip as a key reason the game was so popular. (Just a few years prior, the chips had mainly been used for handheld calculators.) The original Simon was also big, taking up considerable space on a tabletop and devouring multiple D batteries.

4. Simon got a sales boost from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The year before Simon went on sale, director Steven Spielberg released Close Encounters of the Third Kind, starring Richard Dreyfuss as a man who establishes a relationship with extraterrestrial life. During the finale, the aliens communicate using musical notes and lights on their spaceship. Though there was no connection between the movie and the game, the popularity of Close Encounters helped raise awareness for Simon, which exhibited a similar pattern. More than 10 million copies were sold by the end of 1982.

5. Simon led to a lot of knock-offs.

Milton Bradley found that there was no shortage of devices looking to capitalize on the Simon phenomenon. A device called Einstein was rectangular instead of circular but had a similar layout. Atari, which produced the Touch Me arcade game Baer and Morrison used as inspiration, released that same game in a handheld version. Among the knock-offs, only Tiger Electronics had a subtle sense of humor about taking obvious inspiration from Simon. They titled their octagon-shaped device Copycat. According to Baer, none of them took off because their noises lacked the charm of the four-note bugle.

6. Simon inspired a Queen album cover.

The musical toy had fans in Queen, the rock band led by Freddie Mercury. For their 1982 album, Hot Space, the band seemed to take inspiration from the design of Simon for the cover, which features the four bandmates in a four-colored grid.

7. There’s a touch-free Simon.

Since its inception, Simon has seen a variety of spin-offs hit the market. In 1979, Milton Bradley released Super Simon, with four buttons on each side of a rectangular device that pitted players against one another in a timed contest. Simon Stix with drumsticks followed; Simon Swipe offered touch-based interaction. The most intriguing might be Simon Air, a vertical Simon iteration released by Hasbro—which bought Milton Bradley—that allows players to wave over the colored sections with their hands. Another version, Simon Optix, uses a headset to flash colors before the user's eyes. Players can then use their hands to replicate the pattern.

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