The largest action figure playset ever created!
This Toy Spotlight focuses on a true action figure icon, and an item that sits atop the wish lists of many collectors. When Hasbro re-booted their GI Joe line in 1982, the one significant change it made was to shrink the figures down to a more economical 3.75 inch size. In addition to being cheaper to produce, it also gave Hasbro the flexibility to create a ton of amazing vehicles and playsets for their new sized figures. The smaller size allowed Hasbro to get really creative in putting together a cohesive GI Joe world, complete with all the bells and whistles. So, in 1985, Hasbro took a big gamble and released the largest action figure playset EVER created. Without further ado, I present Hasbro’s U.S.S Flagg Aircraft Carrier Playset from 1985.
They say that you can’t keep a good man down, so GI Joe made his triumphant return to toy shelves everywhere in 1982. The best part about the smaller sized figures, was that it opened the door for a ton of great vehicles, playsets and accessories. The older 12 inch figures had vehicles and limited playsets as well, but they were a bit clunky with not a lot of detail. The new 3.75 inch size allowed Hasbro to dive deep into just about everything the military had to offer, including tanks, jeeps, bikes, jets, helicopters, personnel carriers, and ships. Hasbro was testing the waters (no pun intended) with each new wave of Joe products, with more detail and grander scale each year. With all the new Joe figures and accessories, there was an big need for large scale playsets, and those playsets show the biggest evolution of the entire Joe line. Hasbro’s first released playset was a very standard and plain cardboard set called the Missile Command Headquarters in 1982. This was followed by the extremely cool GI Joe Headquarters Command Center in 1983, and none in 1984.
By the year 1985, GI Joe was firmly established as one the top selling toy lines in the entire world, and riding a massive wave of popularity. Hasbro could now afford to take a few chances with different types of ideas and get creative. One of those big ideas (no puns intended) was the U.S.S Flagg (CVN-99). It was proposed the year prior, and got the green light after the Joe line posted massive sales numbers in 1984. The Flagg was a traditional aircraft carrier, modeled after the real life, U.S.S. Nimitz. Hasbro knew they had to make the carrier big because of the already large sized vehicles that would be on it, such as the Skystriker jet. If it was built to true scale with the rest of the Joe figures and vehicles, the Flagg would’ve been nearly 65 feet long and 13 feet wide. As amazing as that sounds, it just wasn’t going to happen. The final size of the U.S.S Flagg ended up being 7 feet and 6 inches long, just over 3 feet wide, and almost 3 feet tall. That may not be 65 feet, but it was still absolutely HUGE for an action figure playset at the time, or any time for that matter. In fact, it would be the largest item ever created for any action figure line, and remains so to this day.
When the U.S.S Flagg hit the toy shelves, it retailed for $109.99. That’s a steep price to pay for a playset in today’s world, so you can imagine how that felt in 1985. For obvious reasons, the Flagg was produced in more limited quantities than other GI joe vehicles and accessories of the time. Any child who grew up in the 1980’s immediately wanted this, as soon as we saw it in the store catalogs. This was, without a doubt, one of the most iconic toys of the entire GI Joe line. At first glance, the box for the U.S.S Flagg was huge. Once you dumped all the pieces out, and took a glance at the mini novel instructions, you instantly knew that your work was cut out for you to put this thing together. The main deck came in four large plate pieces, that fit onto the main bow support. If you go by the instructions, you will have to assemble several other pieces before you get to putting the main deck together. To say this thing had a lot of small pieces for assembly would be a MASSIVE understatement. I’m very sure that many parents back in the 80’s struggled to put this together. This assembly can be a bit overwhelming, but just focus on the ultimate prize of seeing the Flagg in all of its glory, sitting on your dining room table!
When completely assembled, the U.S.S Flagg really comes to life, with all of its detailed pieces and features. The ship came with a two-piece vehicle, which was a tow vehicle and fuel trailer. It also included multiple radar dishes, missile launchers, cannons, an elevator deck, arrestor cables, and an admiral’s launch ship. One of the more awesome features of the Flagg was the electronic public address system. This was basically a bullhorn hooked up to a speaker, that allowed kids to speak into it and have their voice projected around the room, just like being on board the ship. The PA system also played various battle sounds to simulate those classic fights with Cobra. The commander of this incredible ship was Vice-Admiral Keel-Haul, who was included with the Flagg. Even though the U.S.S Flagg was featured in both, the comics and animated series, Keel-Haul never was. This ship also later inspired the Joe figure of General Flagg, released in 1992, who was the son of the original commander of the U.S.S Flagg.
Hasbro’s U.S.S Flagg Aircraft Carrier was a tough sell back in 1985, but is highly coveted nowadays by GI Joe fans around the world. I would guess that it sits near the top of any Joe collectors “Holy Grail List”. The problem is, this item doesn’t come up for sale very often in its original box, and will cost a small fortune when it does. Even loose and incomplete versions of the Flagg go for big dollars on the secondary market. With all due respect to Kenner’s Star Wars line, Hasbro really set the bar when it came to vehicles and playsets for 3.75 inch figures. They created an incredible world for their figures to play in, and brought lots of fun to their GI Joe line. In a business abound with new innovations and creativity, it can be difficult to stand out and truly move the needle, but that’s exactly what Hasbro did with the U.S.S. Flagg. It wasn’t just a huge playset, it was a game changer. No one had ever seen anything like this before, and to be honest, I highly doubt anyone would ever try again. This was absolute joy, stuffed into a massive box, and anyone who was/is lucky enough to own one of these, must have really done something good in their life.
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