What Ever Happened to ‘Stretch Armstrong’? New ‘Stretchs’ in the Works
Unlike most action figures kids beg their parents for, Stretch Armstrong wasn’t the result of a character from a cartoon or even a comic book or movie. The only thing it took for Kenner Products to generate one of the best-selling toys of the 1970s was asking kids the simple question: “How much can you stretch him?”
The answer was simple — as much as you want! As long as you want, and in any fashion that you can think to stretch or bend the rubbery, pull-him-how-you-want-to type of guy.
The toy is so logically simple.
“It’s from that cool ’70s era,” shares John Baulch, publisher of the U.K.’s Toy World Magazine, about the toy’s lasting appeal. “In truth, it’s just a brilliant play pattern. It is just fantastic. What kid doesn’t love just getting a hold of one and just pulling it apart. It’s fun! Sometimes we can over intellectualize these things, truth be told Stretch Armstrong is just a fun tactile toy.”
In a post-pandemic world toy creators are once again seeing more people going back to these type of tactile toys, where it’s all about touch and feel.
Who Came Up With Stretch?
In 1976, the idea for the Stretch Armstrong toy was hatched by Jesse D. Horowitz who worked for Kenner’s R&D group. [Kenner was a U.S. toy company founded in 1946, who first made their presence in the market with toys like the “Bubble-Matic” and the “Easy-Bake Oven.” The company was closed in 2000 by its parent Hasbro.] The original idea for the new super-stretchy toy came down to two options: a sumo wrestler or an All-American blonde hunk. Once the sumo wrestler was deemed too big and clunky Stretch was born.
What Makes ‘Stretch’ Stretch?
Originally, springs were put into the toy to make it stretch but this was later deemed unsafe, and the springs were replaced with gelled corn syrup. The toy was introduced in 1976 and quickly became a must-have and has been an icon ever since. In 2016, Hasbro decided to release an updated version of the toy, celebrating 40 years since the original had been released.
Although many kids today lack the same passion and nostalgia toward the original Stretch Armstrong, the idea of being able to manhandle and mistreat a toy without breaking it remains popular.
The Next Stretch Line Planned for 2024
In 2024, Hasbro and Character Options, a popular toy company based in the United Kingdom, are planning to release a new line of toys under the Stretch Armstrong title. This includes different popular figures such as Darth Vader, Jabba The Hutt and Optimus Prime to name a few. These new toys will have the same idea as the original Stretch Armstrong toy, “How much can you stretch him?” Pictured above is a re-launched version of the 1970’s toy Stretch Armstrong that was displayed at a Toy Fair in west London, England in 2016.
Where to Find Stretch Today?
If you happen to have an original 1970s Stretch Armstrong lying around, or if you’re looking to purchase one, they are selling for hundreds of dollars depending on the condition of the toy. Our copy chief sold her original Stretch on ebay for about $300 20 years ago (we know she still secretly misses him). Aggressive sellers have the toy listed as high as $1,900 on ebay. Now that’s a stretch!