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Army-licensed action figures, minus the firepower, target preschoolers

Jun. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Five designs are available for the Army-licensed Lil' Troops action figures, which debuted last month.
Five designs are available for the Army-licensed Lil' Troops action figures, which debuted last month. (Courtesy of Party Animal Inc.)
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They may be cute. They may be intended for ages 4 and up. They may brandish zero firepower and nothing more dangerous than a pair of binoculars.

But in keeping with toy-making tradition, don’t even think about calling them “dolls.”

Lil’ Troops, a new line of action figures geared toward the pre-GI Joe age group, debuted in Army exchanges last month and are now for sale via at least one major online retailer. Unlike their Real American Hero competition, the little fellas are licensed by the Army, according to a news release from manufacturer Party Animal Inc., with a portion of the proceeds going to morale, welfare and recreation programs.

The deal’s been in the works for about 18 months, said McKenna Lovelace Vietmeier, marketing coordinator for Party Animal — the Army provided spec sheets and the company provided prototypes, with tweaks made by Army officials to reach the final version. The company was behind the decision not to include weapons, she said, as a nod to its target age range.

“We do have a demographic that is younger,” Vietmeier said in a Monday phone interview. “We were sensitive about getting into a field ... to introduce something with weapons and violence. That’s not really our market. We really want to make it family friendly.”

So, that leaves the five action figures as:

■ The Urban Trooper, complete with scowl and hand-held radio.

■ The Desert Trooper, with decidedly non-kung-fu canteen grip.

■ The Infantryman, offering a salute while holding a flag.

■ The camo-covered Recon Scout, with sharp stare and accompanying binoculars.

■ The Rescue Pilot, angrily clenching a first-aid bag.

Party Animal also licenses similar small figures for professional sports and college football teams. Action-figure purchasers can register their products on the company’s website and earn points toward any upcoming products.

The Lil’ Troops retail for about $8 each. Vietmeier said the MWR donation is dependent on units sold and could not immediately answer questions regarding the licensing deal with the Army. Emails to Army branding offices, including the Army Trademark Licensing Program, were not immediately returned.

Regardless of the particulars, this exclusive arrangement may not last long.

“Our next one is maybe Marines, something we’ve seen some demand for,” Vietmeier said. “It might come out next summer or the following summer,” depending on licensing negotiations.

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