Andrei Koribanics was an artist for Hasbro and he did quite a bit of pre-production artwork for the GI Joe line. He worked on Joe from 1983-1985 and did a number of pencil concept sketches as well as full-blown illustrations (in oil on board) for characters that had “passed the first round” of approvals. He was also behind many of the motorized backpacks. His work was for internal review.
Here is the email interview we had:
-What were you doing before Hasbro? Were you interested in the toy industry prior to working for Hasbro?
I was just breaking into the art & design industry when I got the opportunity to work for Hasbro. I’ve ALWAYS loved toys (still do), and, having grown up on the original 12″ Joes (I’m 57 now), it was natural, and very exciting for me. I never made a conscious effort to enter the toy industry… it was pure happenstance that I had the opportunity.
-How did you initially start working with Hasbro as a freelancer? How long did you work with them?
I met Ron Rudat (Director of Boys’ Toys at Hasbro) and Bill Merklein (artist extraordinaire and master sculptor for the new, smaller Joes) through the MFCA (Miniature Figure Collectors of America) about 1983 or so. We were all sculpting and painting historically accurate miniatures (largely of military figures) and showing together, and we quickly became friends. Ron and his crew were getting a little burned out on the Joe line, and looking for some new blood to inject a little life. Bill was sculpting the masters for Hasbro, and, knowing I was an illustrator looking for work, he introduced me to Ron. I only worked for Hasbro for two years or so, but it was quite a busy time, with very tight deadlines… and I thrived on it
-Did you work on other lines besides G.I. Joe for Hasbro?
I did some exploratory work for a line of plushies called ‘Wuzzles’, but as they didn’t carry any weapons, I lost interest
-I’ve seen vehicle designs and internal presentation paintings, did you do other kinds of work for G.I. Joe like sculpt inputs (figure turnarounds)?
No… that was Bill Merklein’s job. I would never step on a friend’s toes unless he asked me to.
-What stage(s) of the design process were you involved in? Mainly early presentation art?
Yes, mainly internal presentation art. I would be sent a rough sketch of the character to be depicted, along with a few notes about what to concentrate on and accent (special uniform details, weapons, etc.) I would then create a full-color rendering of the character… I worked in oil paint on illustration board… a bit overkill for the other designers at Hasbro (most renderings were done in marker), but they sold the concepts and I sincerely enjoyed the process. I’m a detail nut by nature, so it was the best medium for me.
I DID do a dozen or so concept drawings for additional characters, all in pencil on tissue. I would get no more than a suggestion for a character (e.g. ‘message runner’) and take it from there. I loved the way Hasbro would create an entire ‘story’ about their characters and I did the same thing… again, getting very caught up in details.
-Any favorite vehicle or character designs that you remember?
I recall ‘Snake Eyes’ very distinctly… also a Bomb Demolition character. I never designed any vehicles, but I did design a series of wind-up motorized backpacks that I am still quite proud of. Either my designs were spot-on, or Hasbro needed to bang them out, but I was thrilled to find them in my local ‘Toys-R-Us’ when they were released, and to see that they stuck to my original designs by about 99%.
-Do you own/collect any of the final production pieces that you worked on?
Sadly, no. Hasbro was not very good at sending their designers samples of their products, despite repeated requests. As mentioned above, I had to purchase anything I designed, if I wanted an example of it, so I did purchase each of the backpacks at ’Toys-R-Us’ …. then made the mistake of letting my nephew play with them… LOL! Well, his puppies got a hold of them and that was that. I figured, ‘heck… they’ll be around for a while… I can always buy another set”. Oh well… live and learn!
I don’t collect Joes myself, though I do see the charm, of course. I prefer model-building, so collect kits like there’s no tomorrow (mostly aircraft). I still sculpt and paint smaller-scale figures for my own pleasure, and enjoy collecting more realistic 1/6 (12″) figures these days. I am not as much into nostalgia as I am into realism.
Mr. Koribanics still works as a designer/illustrator/sculptor on a freelance basis. Anyone interested can check out his site at: www.andreik2.com