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Stretch Armstrong is a large, gel-filled action figure first introduced in 1976 by Kenner. In 2016, at the New York Toy Fair, Hasbro announced the return of the Stretch Armstrong toy in its original 1976 design.
|Company||Kenner, Denys Fisher, and Hasbro|
|Materials||Plastic, rubber and gel|
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Stretch Armstrong is an action figure in the shape of a short, well-muscled blond man wearing black trunks. The doll's most notable feature was that it could be stretched from its original size of about 15 in (0.38 m) to 4 to 5 ft (1.2 to 1.5 m). (If a tear did develop, it could be fixed with an adhesive bandage. Information on how to repair Stretch was provided in the toy's instruction booklet that was originally inside his box.
The Stretch Armstrong toy concept was created by Jesse D. Horowitz, the industrial designer for Kenner’s R&D group. The idea was approved for development by the head of R&D, Jeep (James) Kuhn, vice president of Kenner.
The "stretch man" idea as it was called was pursued with two different bodies in mind. One was a sumo wrestler and the other was an All-American blond hunk. Horowitz sculpted the models himself instead of hiring a freelancer. The sumo man was too bulky and large, so the All-American body was cast by Kenner's model maker Richard Dobek, and the resultant resin model was taken to a latex doll manufacturer in New Jersey, where the first bodies were dipped.
Originally, springs were thought of as the way to stretch the man. However, they were thought to be too awkward and stiff, too difficult to insert and would likely pierce the skin. Kuhn, a chemical engineer, pursued a liquid sugar idea which eventually proved successful. Tremendous quantities of Karo corn syrup were purchased from an A&P supermarket. The syrup was boiled down to get the proper viscosity. Kuhn and Horowitz flew to Kenner’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and presented the concept to Bernie Loomis, Kenner's president. He loved it and so a toy icon was born.
The original Stretch Armstrong figure was conceived and developed by Bill Armasmith, and was in production from 1976 until 1980. The original 1970s toy commands high prices on the secondary collectors' market, selling for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of US dollars. Through storage and play, the figure could become damaged and rendered useless. There are still original Stretch Armstrongs that have survived the passing of time and are remarkably preserved through sheer luck or being stored at the correct temperature. The figure keeps best at room temperature.
- Stretch X-Ray (1977), had an oversized exposed brain and an alien-looking face with a transparent form that showed its internal organs
- Harbert Sport Mister Muscolo, 1977 Italian version of Stretch Armstrong
- Lili Ledy El Hombre Elastico, Mexican version of Stretch Armstrong
- Tsukuda Mr. X, Japanese version of Stretch Armstrong
- Stretch Monster, a reptilian green nemesis released by Kenner in 1978
- Harbert Sport Mister Mostro, Italian version of Stretch Monster
- Tsukuda Stretch Monster, Japanese version
- Stretch Ollie and Stretch Olivia, male and female octopuses (colored blue and pink, respectively) which had the same face shape but the only difference was their color. Kenner issued both weeks apart but Ollie was more popular. The Denys Fisher UK toy company issued Ollie and Olivia in smaller boxes than their American counterparts, saving on shelf space. The figures are rare to come by now.
- Deny's Fisher Stretch Incredible Hulk
- Mego Elastic Donald Duck (1980)
- Mego Elastic Mickey Mouse (1980)
- Mego Elastic Batman
- Mego Elastic Incredible Hulk
- Mego Elastic Plastic Man (1979)
- Kenner Stretch Serpent
- Cap Toys Fetch Armstrong, Stretch Armstrong's pliable canine counterpart, released in the early 1990s
- Kenner/Hasbro Super Stretch Mask
- Cap Toys Stretch Vac-Man
- ToyQuest Super Morphman
- Super Impulse Gumby and Pokey Stretch
The last two were filled with a granular solid in place of the viscous liquid found in the other figures. A vacuum pump, which attached to the heads of these figures, removed the air from within, which "froze" the toy in its stretched position.
Stretch Armstrong was reissued in the 1990s by Cap Toys, with a canine sidekick, "Fetch Armstrong". The reissue stretch Armstrong had a more comical exaggerated face (a huge genial smile) and had on a vanity T-shirt and shorts. This new reissue figure was introduced in 1993 and 1994 version exist with slightly different art work. He also has an evil brother named Evil X-ray Wretch Armstrong who has a skull face, sports a mohawk, and also stretches. Wretch Armstrong seems to be a redesigned, smaller remake of Stretch X-Ray but in reality looks nothing like the 1970s version. Evil X-ray Wretch Armstrong is only 7 inches tall whereas Stretch X-ray was over 12 inches tall.
In 1994, Walt Disney Studios obtained the film rights to the character. Several scripts were written, including an early version family comedy written by Greg Erb, a co-writer at Disney. The script which cast Tim Allen in the role of Stretch Armstrong as a "kind of single dad who is a research scientist" and is "stretched too thin" trying to balance his work and family life before he inadvertently accidentally takes one of his experimental serums giving himself "stretchy powers". A later version from Screenwriter Michael Kalesniko was created and it was set in San Francisco. It was about a somewhat socially awkward nobody beset with troubles trying to venture out his failing personal life and is genetically modified with stretching abilities after a failed nuclear fusion experiment and must use his newfound abilities to solve the tragedy that has befallen his family. Among the actors who were considered for the role was Danny DeVito, who refused to do the film if the script made any jokes about his height, after which due to lack of time on the rights both ideas from Disney were scrapped and the rights were bought up by Hasbro.
It was announced from the studios co-chairman Donna Langley that Taylor Lautner would star as Armstrong and that the film would be in 3-D. She stated that "with Lautner's success energy and athleticism he is a perfect fit to a unlikely hero." Producer Brian Grazer stated "Stretch Armstrong is a character I have wanted to see on screen for a long time ... It’s a story about a guy stretching ... the limits of what is possible to become all that he can be." Another script was being made by writer Steve Oedekerk introducing the character in the form of an uptight spy who stumbles across a stretching formula, which he takes and now must adjust to his new found abilities when fighting crime and in his everyday life.
Two years later, after the excitement drummed up by the Studios ideas for the character, Relativity Media announced that they had picked up the film after it was dropped by Universal and set a new release date of April 11, 2014. Planning to make the film more serious than originally intended by Universal, Relativity hired The Manchurian Candidate writer Dean Georgaris to write a new script, dropped Lautner, and hired Breck Eisner to direct. The film origin story was going to introduce an overwhelmed high schooler and the life-or-death consequences he was going to face after undergoing a transformation granting him superhuman abilities. Production was scheduled to start filming on May 15, 2013, in Montreal but by October 2013, both the studio and Hasbro had abandoned the film to work on other projects.
After four attempted films for Stretch Armstrong, Hasbro Studios made a deal with the streaming site Netflix where the property was picked up for a full 26-episode animated series, making it the first deal between the company and the streaming service. This superhero action/comedy animated series will follow an over-scheduled teenager named Jake Armstrong and his two best friends as they go into action when the trio are inadvertently accidentally exposed to an experimental chemical making them flexible and become Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters—a team of stretchable superheroes who must work together and embark on a series of adventures to expand beyond the confines of their lives. The series will debut in late 2017.
Supervising director Victor Cook and head writers/story editors Kevin Burke & Chris "Doc" Wyatt will develop the series as well as being executive producers. It will star the voices of Scott Menville, Steven Yeun, Ogie Banks, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Keith David, Kate Mulgrew and Walter Koenig.
A similar concept with Stretch as a superhero was also shown in a one-off comic produced by Hasbro in 2011 dubbed Unit:E; there, the descendant of Acroyear and a Biotron (both from Micronauts) and Synergy (from Jem; here an alien artificial intelligence) conducted reconnaissance on heroes from Earth and beyond (including characters from G.I. Joe, Transformers, MASK, Battleship Galaxies, Action Man, and even Candy Land) to help fight against Baron Karza (the enemy of the Micronauts).
- Clark, Eric (2007). The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for America's Youngest Consumers. Simon & Schuster. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-7432-4765-5.
- Horowitz, Jesse D. (October 17, 1974). "Stretch man idea". Idea Book.
- Katz, David A. "Chemistry in the Toy Store" (pdf). chymist.com. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
- Stretch Armstrong World (retrieved 23 January 2012)
- Estimated Stretches Left in Existence, Stretch Armstrong World (retrieved 23 January 2012)
- DeBrosse, Jim (September 1, 1995). "S-T-R-E-T-C-H-ING THE MARKET SHARE". Dayton Daily News. pp. 1C.
- "Hollywood's Repeated, Inexplicable Attempts at a 'Stretch Armstrong' Movie". Mental Floss. October 6, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- "'Stretch Armstrong' Writer 'Gets' Taylor Lautner Obsession". MTV. June 11, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- "Stretch Armstrong Movie Gets April 2011 Release Date". /Film. June 2, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
- Russ Fischer (February 5, 2010). "Universal Casts Taylor Lautner in Stretch Armstrong 3D! Seriously. Read more: Universal Casts Taylor Lautner in Stretch Armstrong 3D. Seriously". /Film. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
- Nikki Finke (June 28, 2012). "Universal Drops Hasbro's Stretch Armstrong Film, Taylor Lautner Out As Star, Relativity Picks Up For April 2014 Release". Retrieved July 6, 2010.
- Relativity, Hasbro find 'Stretch' scribe
- "Breck Eisner Confirmed to Direct Stretch Armstrong". Comingsoon.com. July 19, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
- Relativity Abandons 'Stretch Armstrong' Movie
- Spangler, Todd. (January 28, 2016). Netflix Orders ‘Stretch Armstrong’ Series From Hasbro Studios. Access on January 28, 2016.
- "Hasbro and Netflix Announce New Original Series 'Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters' (NASDAQ:HAS)". investor.hasbro.com. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- "IDW, Hasbro Partner For 'Stretch Armstrong' Comic Book (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. September 7, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2017.