Vintage Vending #22: Stretch Armstrong?!

It’s been forever since the last edition of Vintage Vending, the series in which I blather on endlessly about old vending machine toys. If you’re newish to Dino Drac, you can read the past twenty-one entries over here!

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Today we’re focusing on “The Stretcher” set, made in 1995, and absolutely indicative of 1995. Ignoring the smaller trinkets for now, the obvious chasers were those two larger stretchable figures.

If their genesis is on the tip of your tongue, I’ll help you out: “The Stretcher” was an obvious ripoff of Stretch Armstrong. Originally sold in the late ‘70s, the toy line enjoyed a brief revival in the early ‘90s, complete with this over-the-top television commercial:

stretchI was still an infant when Kenner’s original line went kaput, but I was way into the ‘90s version. (Funnily enough, most fan attention during this revival went not to Stretch Armstrong, but to his new enemy, the ultra-cool Vac-Man.)

The large dolls could to be stretched to obscene lengths, and would only tear if you were impossibly determined to make them tear. (And sure, most kids would ultimately find themselves determined to break them, but by then, the toys had long lost their novelty.)

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I don’t think the line was really popular enough to warrant bootlegging, but there’s no mistaking what Folz Vending intended. That’s clearly meant to be Stretch Armstrong. And while I’m at it, I think that’s Waldo yanking his arm. Hide better, bozo.

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Fake Stretch is missing the real deal’s self-promotional shirt, but his facial features are a dead-on match, right down to the massive chompers. At four inches tall and well-detailed, he seems too good for even a fifty cent vending machine. Our chances of winning one must have been phenomenally low.

I think the crummier prizes shown on the card were less to suggest diversity and more to subtly admit that you were more likely to go home with a tin bracelet that fit no wrist. “Hey kids! Don’t get too excited!”

Oh, and how about that green guy? You might assume that he was just a generic enemy created to give Fake Stretch’s life some meaning, but nah, that’s gotta be Batman. Batman in his underwear, but still Batman. (Elmer in the comments thinks he looks more like Wolverine, but I more readily accept that Folz made a bad Batman than a good Wolverine.)

Interestingly, the caped crusader had an official stretchable figure, long before 1995.

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Made from a slightly sticky rubber, you can totally kill these dudes without breaking them. Their texture and flexibility reminds me of the old Manglors line. (Protip: Anything that reminds me of Manglors is an instant win.)

Folz broke a law or two to make them, but the quality is amazing. So amazing that there couldn’t have been more than a 2% chance of receiving one. More likely, you’d end up with this crap:

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Yuck. That too-small bracelet was among the most infamous of the bottom-of-the-barrel vending machine prizes. Even when you put a quarter in a machine filled with gumballs, you still had a 30% chance of getting one.

The deputy sheriff pin is slightly better, but nowhere near a reasonable consolation prize for not going home with a half-naked lime green Batman.

The plastic orange skull ring is even cheaper than the other two, but I’ll give it a pass because it’s a plastic orange skull ring. If I’m a tween in 1995, I’m absolutely gonna wear that. At first, I’d pretend it’s Dark Helmet’s Schwartz ring. Then I’d read about the Mandarin in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and immediately switch fantasies.

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rangerThe only other prize stuck to the teaser card was this little guy, obviously inspired by Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Specifically, it’s a ringer for the White Ranger — the one who got the coolest suit and his own motherfucking Tigerzord.

(I’m not sure why Folz made him so chunky, but from a certain perspective, it’s a realist’s take. If I could ride around in a giant space tiger robot monster all day, I’d set new records in sedentariness, too.)

As insignificant as the pea-sized figure seems, the White Ranger was absurdly fresh and popular in 1995. Comparing the White Ranger to Stretch Armstrong was like comparing Jesus to Joses. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if kids wanted that tiny figure more than the big stretchy ones!

Overall: Not a bad collection! The stretchy figures are as good as any prize we’ve seen in previous editions, and I can’t help but enjoy Folz’s boldness in ripping off three active properties simultaneously. All that, and a plastic orange skull ring to boot. 8 out of 10 for “The Stretcher” set.

Hey! Dino Drac’s February Funpacks — with a Valentine’s Day “Love & Monsters” theme — are available now! Get all of the details here!