This is another post on the origins of our favorite toy series. It’s a breakdown of some of the original documents the Air Raiders creator, Steve Reiss, shared with me including the original back story and vehicle concepts. Here are previous installments:
Origins of Air Raiders, Part 1
Origins of Air Raiders, Part 2
Origins of Air Raiders, Part 3
Origins of Air Raiders, Part 4
In this installment, I asked Steve about some of the details provided in the previous origins posts AND we uncover two of the GREATEST Air Raiders mysteries so be sure to check this out!
Airlandia: On the Product Idea Form (Part 2), you submitted the Air Raiders (or Air Masters) along with Greg Rogers. Was he a fellow designer?
Steve Reiss: Greg Rogers was a Design Director who worked for me BUT he played no role in Air Raiders. I had his name on the form to show him the proper procedure for starting a new concept input thru the Design Dept. He left Hasbro shortly after this period.
Airlandia: Also on that form, you have two vehicle descriptions called the Sail-Air and Tank-Air. Did you ever do a visual design for those vehicles?
Steve Reiss: There were no designs for the other vehicles when I conceived of and submitted the Air Masters concept. This was a verbal description to flesh the concept out for Marketing.
Airlandia: The Tank-Air mentions that it would have come with injection mold figures. Does that mean they would not have had any articulation and would have been more like Green Army Men?
Steve Reiss: Oh no, the basic figures were ALL articulated. The main difference when figures were in the level of decoration and that was dictated by costs, as was everything in the toy business then, and now.
Airlandia: The villains are called Wind Demons (Part 3) and are described as bat-like with nauseatingly organic vehicles. Did you get a chance to do any designs for either these creatures or the vehicles they drove?
Steve Reiss: Sadly, no, I was not able to show visualizations for the Wind Demons. I was trying to set the stage for the two design signatures, the Airmasters and the bad guys. Making one hard edged and mechanical and the other organic was the fastest way to differentiate the two forces, at least in concept form.
Airlandia: Did you have any input on choosing artists, like using Paul Alexander as the illustrator who did the big battle scene poster art?
Steve Reiss: Paul Alexander was a fantastic sci fi/fantasy illustrator from back then and he did many sci-fi book covers that I was inspired by. Loose, loose style, no hard edges, not tight assed work like my own art! All package art was handled by the Art Dept. (Matt) so we in RD never played any role in reviewing portfolios much less choosing the artist.
Airlandia: Any idea what happened to the original art used for the posters and packaging?
Steve Reiss: As for the final resting place of original art, sadly, it’s safe to bet that it may have wound up in a dumpster. I know that I got a piece pf original GI Joe art by walking past the dumpster and doing some diving myself. I got my Slipstream GI Joe portrait by dumpster diving, as well as my Raven art.
Airlandia: Why didn’t Air Raiders have a cartoon like many other Hasbro properties in the ’80s?
Steve Reiss: Air Raiders WAS going to have cartoon show, as all of Hasbro’s toy lines usually used to get some kid interest going. The REAL problem about the line and why it never really took off was this:
An inventor group came in with an action figure line that featured holograms. Admittedly, the hologram concept was interesting. The word had come to us that a competitor, Tonka Toys, had also started developing a line featuring holograms, we had no more info than that. So Hasbro management decided that we HAD to develop the Visionaries line to counter Tonka while AR was still being developed in house. I voiced my concern about the two lines at every opportunity.
I had to engage a designer on the outside to develop the concept since we were double booked in-house; GI Joe, Transformer, Air Raiders and other more known quantities.
Griffin/Bacall was involved in the Air Raiders show but somewhere after the first year’s production of Air Raiders toys, the management decided to kill Air Raiders in favor of the the Visionaries. By that time, Air Raiders was predicted to perform in the 30 million dollar sales range. That was, believe it or not, NOT considered to be worth the trouble and production costs vs the Visionaries.
Airlandia: Wow, $30 million seems like a success to me, especially without a cartoon to back it up! What kind of money were they looking for?
Steve Reiss: Back then, Hasbro looked for 50 million minimum. Below that was not worth the internal resources to develop and market the line in question.
Airlandia: What ever happened to the Air Refinery? I’ve asked other designers like Dan Price, Fred Rieber, even the guys who designed it (Dave McDonald and Ron Rudat) and no one has an answer.
Steve Reiss: The Air Refinery NEVER saw the light of day. It was part of the second wave that we developed but never put into production due to the Visionaries figure line. The image on the cross sell was of the prototype, never went further.
Airlandia: So the second wave was when the Air Refinery would have been produced if all had gone well?
Steve Reiss: If all had gone well, yes.
Airlandia: There are some pre-Toyfair 1988 catalog pictures of the second wave of Air Raiders toys, were you still working on the toyline at that point?
Steve Reiss: I left in Feb 1988, I had already stopped inputting ideas before the second wave started development.
Airlandia: Was there anything you would have changed from the initial Air Raiders concept?
Steve Reiss: Mattel used the air power concept in their line of Hot Wheel Streex cars which worked really well because, as we found out, compressed air was NOT a good motive power source. Injection molded wheeled vehicles were never going to move fast due to the weight issue. Streex was vac formed and really skittered across the floor quickly. We should have reverted to vac form. The vac-formed body shells would have been extremely light, one piece, no hard plastic including wheels, axles, floors and vac-formed uses plastic .03-04” thick, pulled hot over a solid shaped mold. Simple, cheap and easy to deco…
Airlandia: Thanks, Steve!
Steve Reiss: No problem, thanks for reminding me how much fun my career could be!
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