Origin of the PDD - 1st Time Made Public!
It took a good deal of digging to uncover the true story behind the creation of the Pimp Daddy Destro. There's been so much mystery & hearsay surrounding this figure, that I was determined to make it my mission to learn its definitive origins. I contacted most of the fellow collectors I know who had a PDD, and asked them for their recollections about the figure. As I had pretty much expected, nobody really knew for sure what the factual story was behind this elusive figure.
For years, I had heard different things about the PDD. That it wasn’t a Hasbro authorized release. That it was a Hasbro release. That it was made by Asian factory workers who were toying with paint schemes after hours. That it was nothing but a custom. That they were made for souvenirs/gifts for an Asian factory manager’s kid’s birthday party. Etc, etc. Everyone I asked about the PDD seemed to have a different story. What the serious collectors told me is that it WAS a Hasbro authorized release, but they unfortunately didn't know much about why Hasbro created it.
I mean…the leopard print collar and legs??? C'mon! Not what you’d expect Hasbro to select for this iconic villain! Well, for the first time publicly online...here’s the story:
It all starts with a gentleman named John Boyce, who worked at Hasbro on the 1997 commemorative sets. John’s a really nice guy. I really appreciate him spending the time to talk to me about this. He started at Hasbro after art school in 1995. (A tidbit about John: he's forever immortalized in the G.I. Joe mythos, as his name, hometown, and likeness were used for the 2002 G.I. Joe character Sidetrack).
At the time of John’s arrival, Hasbro had consolidated its “Boys Toys” business and had dismantled and moved it from Pawtucket, R.I. to Cincinnati, Ohio (where Kenner was). This group in Cincinnati was Hasbro’s main Boys Toys group; working on the big properties at the time, like Jurassic Park, Star Wars, G.I. Joe and other mainline distributed toys. They also were responsible for the 12” G.I. Joes that were re-gaining popularity at the time.
Meanwhile, there was another much smaller product development group in Rhode Island called "Hasbro Direct", that still worked on some Boy's Toys products. Hasbro Direct was responsible for company-wide invention of alternate channel distribution of product (with new & smaller retailer-specific product lines). They looked for new business opportunities that other groups were unable to handle at the time. Picture this group as an elite "SWAT" team of sorts, as they really had top-notch creative marketing designers developing terrific toys for Hasbro. For instance, they were the ones responsible for the Toys R Us 3 3/4" G.I. Joe 15th Anniversary Commemorative sets, as well as many of the 12” Star Wars figures produced at the time (amongst other cool preschool, boys and girls toys.)
Vinnie D'Alleva; one of Hasbro Direct's marketing managers at the time, was a huge fan of the 3 3/4" Joes. He had worked previously on the 3 3/4" line and saw an opportunity in re-releasing the 3 3/4" figures in as commemorative editions.
John Boyce was one of the designers of this release. The samples were made up (using existing G.I. Joe body parts) and showed at the 1994 Convention. People liked what they saw, and the project was going strong. Then…news from the Orient that many of the molds desired were not available (broken, destroyed, melted down, sunk, lost, mislabeled, etc.) Yes, all those rumors you may have heard actually were true! Sad...but true.
As time was almost up, the team had to quickly think of what other molds to use. This is why what was ultimately released was the Destro version 3 mold and the Cobra Commander in body armor mold, instead of the Destro version 1 and Cobra Commander version 1!
Hasbro has always had an internal paint & modeling department. The designers would bring their designs to this department, and the figures were painted, modeled, etc. But the painters/modelers always followed the spec-sheets given to them by the designers.
On this project John worked more collaboratively with the paint department because time was of the essence and Destro needed a new paint scheme ASAP. John worked with Steve Masso (very talented hand-painter at the time) to come up with a cool new paint scheme. Steve really let loose and what resulted was...the Pimp Daddy Destro!
Steve thought he was being funny and at first painted the figure as a joke. He thought John would get a good laugh, but never thought he'd approve this wild paint scheme. On the contrary, John LOVED it! He thought it was certainly pushing it, but it was such a cool and unique take on this character.
So at this stage, the leopard paint-scheme was green-lighted for initial production testing. The figure went into production testing in Asia, and some of the production packaged samples were sent back to Hasbro to review.
According to John, upon seeing the PDD the marketing manager Vinnie D’Alleva thought the Pimp Daddy Destro looked a little too over the top and he felt the color scheme might hurt sales. So the figure was toned down. The leopard spot painted areas were changed to black, and the PDD color scheme was immediately put to a halt. What ended up in production was the version we commonly see with the black painted collar and upper legs.
According to both John Boyce and Vinnie D’Alleva, there were only a few hundred of the PDDs actually produced in the factory. The vast majority of them did not make it to the packaging stage. John's recollection reinforces the reason as to why we see more loose Pimp Daddy Destros than carded ones. John estimates that perhaps 100 packaged PDDs were accidentally shipped to the U.S.A., and actually made it to retail stores. He even recalls seeing a packaged PDD on the shelves of his local Toys R Us (validating G.I. Joe collector Captain DC's long-time claim of seeing a few on the shelves and purchasing one at Toys R Us back in 1997).
So, as the great Paul Harvey coined... “Now you know the rest of the story”.