Monday, February 19, 2007

STRETCH MONSTER OR STRETCH GIRAFFE

First there was Stretch Armstrong, the blonde haired, black Speedo wearing wrestler guy. He was the first to exhibit true stretching powers similar to those classic comic book heroes like Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic. He showed up in the toy aisles sometime during our nations bicentennial year of 1976 and was an instant hit.



Patent#4,169,336 lists the toy genius, James O. Kuhn (father of the Easy-Bake-Oven) as the inventor of this new and unusual toy introduced by Kenner Toys. (Mr. Kuhn passed away in 2005 and you can click here for a nice write up about the toy maker.)

James (Jeep) O. Kuhn

Every hero needs a villain and Armstrong got one in the form of a green scaly monster with protruding fangs and a brooding brow. Stretch Monster showed up in 1977 and would end up on most kid’s Christmas wish lists.



A crazy thing, is that Stretch Monster was almost a cute Stretch Giraffe instead. The patent shows a design for a stretching giraffe and here’s a photo of the head sculpt prototype from Stretch Armstrong World of the proposed Stretch Giraffe. Luckily the giraffe was scrapped, which is a good thing since Stretch Giraffe Week would probably not be all that great.

Now it’s a mystery on who designed Stretch Monster, but I’m guessing this person might’ve been influenced by another stretching super villain and that’s the Super Skrull. Take away Stretch Monster’s fangs and give him pointy ears and wha-la, you almost have twins.

The party for Stretch Monster only lasted two short years as he was replaced by Stretch X-Ray, the see-through alien invader. Monsters kind of fell out of favor with toy companies as pop culture became space-crazy thanks to movies like Star Wars and Alien.


Of course, us kid’s had stars and lazer beams in our eyes and we quickly forgot about our fun stretch pals and started playing with little 3 3/4" Star Wars figures. Looking back, I’m amazed that Kenner didn’t turn some of the Star Wars cantina creatures into stretch figures. I think that would’ve been an obvious choice for the toy company. Go figure! (No pun intended.)


STRETCH GREEDO

6 comments:

Mike Middleton said...

SM influenced by Super Skrull? Dare I say it....That's kind of a stretch...

Kirk D. said...

And so it begins.

I always thought that Kraken from Clash of the Titans seemed to be influenced by Stretch Monster...
http://www.monstersinmotion.com/catalog/images/fantasy/clashofthetitanskracken00tn.jpg

Todd Franklin said...

Mike - Ha! "That's kind of a stretch" Funny!

Kirk - They do have some similarities, especially the ridges on the top of their heads. I never thought about that before. Next time we see Ray Harryhausen at a convention we’ll need to ask him about his inspiration for the Kraken’s look.

G.B. said...

Villain? Who says Stretch Monster was a villain? Who says Stretch Armstrong was a good guy?

Well, I'll tell you, as a child, I got Stretch Armstrong first. When Stretch Monster came out, I knew the two of them were supposed to battle and I fully intended to make Stretch Monster the villain and Armstrong the hero. But, when I got Stretch Monster for Christmas, I noticed two things on the box that changed my mind. For one thing, the pictures on the box always showed Stretch Monster winning the battles (Surely a villain could not win). Even more importantly though was the statement on the box. Don't remember it word for word, but to paraphrase, it said that Stretch Monster is really a friendly monster unless someone makes him angry, and Stretch Armstrong makes him VERY angry! That was all I needed to convince me that Stretch Monster was in fact the good guy. At a time when the Hulk was my favorite super hero, it wasn't very difficult to believe that Stretch Monster was a good guy as well. I even acted out wrestling matches with the two of them (Stretch Monster as the fan favorite, of course). Stretch Armstrong burst open long before Stretch Monster did, which I took as a clear sign that Stretch Monster was the ultimate winner. Ah, memories.

It's so great to see Stretch Monster week on here! I had forgotten about the priceless expression the boy on the box has as he stretches Stretch Monster.

The stretch toys were probably some of the most innovative toys ever made. Sadly, the very thing that made them unique, made them have short lives and become very difficult for collectors to own.

Long Live Stretch Monster!

Todd Franklin said...

Nicely said G.B. Long live Stretch Monster!

SjN said...

FANTASTIC POST!

I'm loving that Stretch Greedo! That's just too funny! All in all, a fitting tribute to a great pop icon!

I'm finding that I agree 100% with Kirk D in that The Kraken seems to have been inspired by the lovable Stretch Monster. The resemblance is uncanny.

For me, I've been playing World of Warcraft lately and I just can't help thinking that the Orcs in the game are dead on replicas of good ol' SM!

Thanks for a great post!!

~~SjN