Why Were Children’s Action Figures Halved In Size During The Late 20th Century?
Answer: Oil Shortages
When you’ve long since grown up and you return to the things of your childhood, you often find yourself amazed at how small the things are when you recall them being so much larger. Elementary school hallways look tiny, the old tree you used to climb doesn’t look quite so tall, and toys seem small in your hands.
If you grew up playing with toys before the 1970s, there’s one thing that might throw your size-divergent nostalgia off: action figures. Today it’s standard for actions figures to be around 4″ tall; a size that is easily engulfed by an adult’s hand but still fairly large to the children that play with them. Whether you’re playing today with G.I. Joe, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Batman you’ll be playing with figures under six inches in height.
Children who grew up in the 1960s playing with G.I. Joe, America’s Movable Fighting Man, however, had a totally different experience. Back then it was standard for action figures to stand a towering 11 1/2″ tall and pack clothing and accessories of equal scale. When the 1970s Oil Crisis put a sizeable dent in the global oil trade and sent barrels of crude oil skyrocketing in price, it also made it prohibitively expensive to keep cranking out thousands of nearly foot-tall action figures. Takara (still under license by Hasbro) reduced the size of the G.I. Joe-based Henshin Cyborg-1 line (later known as the Microman line) to save money, other manufacturers followed, and the action figure shrunk to less than half its original size almost overnight.