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Tag Archive: Stretch Armstrong


Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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By C.J. Bunce

As much as I want to jump ahead and discuss the current story of The Bionic Man in Issue #12, which features a character we all have wanted to see since the series started, let’s catch up with the first compilation of Dynamite Comics’ adaptation of the original Six Million Dollar Man that started last year.  The Bionic Man Volume 1: Some Assembly Required collects the first ten issues of The Bionic Man.  These ten issues were billed as “Kevin Smith’s” Bionic Man as the origin story was adapted into an unused screenplay by Smith, then writer Phil Hester re-wrote it, blocking it into chapter/issues, then Smith ran a dialogue pass and Jonathan Lau made it all look good with the visuals.  After Issue #10, the real excitement begins as Hester takes Steve Austin into new, and sometimes nostalgic, directions.  The ongoing series is currently at Issue #12, and we will discuss Hester’s Bionic Man here at borg.com soon.

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This may be the ultimate blast from the past.

Over the past three years there was talk about Stretch Armstrong, the movie.  Universal Studios signed a deal with Hasbro to create a film about Armstrong based on a screenplay written by Nicholas Stoller, the writer who co-wrote The Muppets film from last year, in addition to Get Him to the Greek, which starred current Oscar nominee Jonah Hill.  In February 2010, Universal Studios announced Taylor Lautner would star as Armstrong and that the film would be made in 3-D.   Blockbuster producer Brian Grazer even said he’d signed on to make the film.  Over time, this was believed to be part of a handful of films pitched for Kenner and ex-Milton Bradley toys and games, to include Clue, Ouija, Magic, the Gathering, Candy Land and Battleship, which actually is a sci-fi movie making it to the screens this May.

Yesterday, Relativity Media bought the rights to the Stretch Armstrong live-action film, after Universal Studios backed out on the project.  And they announced even better news: Taylor Lautner will now NOT be in the movie.

You don’t know Stretch Armstrong?  Stretch Armstrong was an action figure that kids played with alongside their Six Million Dollar Man, Atomic Man, and 12-inch scale G.I. Joes in the mid to late 1970s.  Only where G.I. Joe had life-like hair, Stretch had life-like skin.  And he had weight and mass, as he was filled with… corn syrup.  And he stretched–stretched from 15 inches long to 5 feet.  Of the 40,000 or so original Stretches made, it is expected that most didn’t make it very far beyond Christmas 1976.  Although I witnessed my cousins stretch theirs until he snapped and oozed goo all over their refrigerator, it is estimated by some Stretch experts that roughly 200 remain intact, preserved in their styrofoam “preservation chamber”–in their original boxes.

You couldn’t really play with Stretch outside if you wanted him to live to see another day.  You couldn’t parachute him from the tree like G.I. Joe.  And you couldn’t put him in covert combat gear, as the Joe clothes wouldn’t fit him.  Stretch only wore his wrestling shorts.  And compared to any other figure, he was badass–he was taller and bigger than his counterpart fighting men.  Oh… and he stretched.

In fact stretching was the point.  He came with a plastic sheet to guide you and a friend in how far you could stretch him without snapping.   Could you get a lot of play out of such a fragile toy?  You bet!  As long as he stomped around like the Hulk or the Thing, he did just fine.  But invite the crappy neighbor kid over who didn’t take care of his toys and it was goodbye, Stretch!

So now, 36 years later.  A movie is in its initial stages of production.  So what the heck could it be about?  Between 2008 and 2010 it was rumored that Jackie Chan had made a play for the film, with Chan as the star.  Then Lautner replaced that idea.

The fact is there are tons of places the story could go, and you need only look to a few cousins who also were made into Stretch versions similar to Stretch Armstrong: Elastic Plasticman and Stretch Mr. Fantastic.  Plasticman is of course the DC Comics humorous, sunglasses-wearing, stretchy superhero from the Justice League, and Mr. Fantastic, the serious scientist leader of Marvel Comics’  Fantastic Four.  DC Comics’ other stretching superhero, Elongated Man, never was made into the Stretch series.  But certainly these guys could inspire some ideas for Stretch Armstrong.

   

One of the rare concepts of Stretch Armstrong was that he was at his heyday in the years of these first action figure properties, yet Stretch had no backstory.  So there really are no limits to what you could do with a Stretch storyline.  Ideally the actor to play Stretch would be built like Lou Ferrigno (who played The Incredible Hulk, which was made into a Stretch Hulk).  Is Lou the guy to play the role?  Probably not now, but maybe, if you’re looking for similar looks, someone who looks more like Sam J. Jones, who played Flash in Flash Gordon.  Or better yet, how about someone who could fit the size of a Stretch Armstrong and who has played several light-hearted and mega action roles, and is currently still a big draw in theaters?  Who?  Dwayne Johnson, of course.  Formerly “The Rock.”  Johnson has had roles that have spanned all types of genres, stuff for kids like Race to Witch Mountain, to cool roles in the remake of Walking Tall, Get Smart, and Be Cool, to megahits like Scorpion King.  And better yet, he has a new film coming called Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and the can’t-wait-for-it-to-get-here G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

With yesterday’s announcement by Relativity Media, hopefully we’ll start to hear more about their plans for this character soon, and no doubt we’ll see some re-releases of the stretchy action man himself.

Stretch Armstrong is now scheduled to appear in theaters in April 2014.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com