Stretchy Chan? Master of schtick-fu. The latest name attached to Stretch Armstrong
Stretch Armstrong, the classic `70s toy that implored you to jab it with sharp objects so you could find out what the goop inside was made of, may be one step closer to making it to the big screen. Disney is reportedly in negotiations with martial arts star Jackie Chan to star in a theatrical feature based on the toy. The main story line would cast Chan as an uptight spy and martial arts specialist who ingests a secret formula that allows him to stretch his body for abnormally long distances. (Much of the film would see Chan trying to learn how to modify his signature kung-fu moves to suit his newfound powers, so you can expect Disney to stretch the budget for CGI effects on this one.)
For Oddzon Toys, the Hasbro division that last produced the toy in `97, news of Chan’s involvement in the project is being met with tempered optimism. Since `93, when Cap Toys (which Hasbro later acquired and merged with OddzOn) sold the theatrical rights to Disney, several Hollywood actors, including Danny Devito and Tim Allen, have been attached to the movie. Disney still has two years remaining on those rights, and until it decides to make the movie, Hasbro will likely have to keep any new product ideas it has for the franchise on hold. ‘Entertainment will be critical to the relaunch of Stretch Armstrong,’ says Ira Hernowitz, VP of marketing at Napa Valley, California-based OddzOn Toys.
‘Today, Stretch would be competing against action figures that are supported by TV and film. Even though it’s a classic toy, without the movie, it would not have the type of media exposure needed to drive people to the aisle,’ says Hernowitz.
Once the movie receives the greenlight, don’t be surprised if you can’t find the brawny Stretch Armstrong doll that you remembered from childhood. According to Hernowitz, OddzOn has designs in the works to do three or four different doll lines, including a movie line, a classic line and an electronic line of dolls that make sounds when you stretch them. But don’t worry, the goop inside the new Stretch dolls (according to Hernowitz, it’s actually corn syrup) will remain the same.
EM.TV and Karstadt Warenhaus team on Jr. Worlds
Hoping to bolster its kid and family traffic, German department store retailer Karstadt Warenhaus has partnered with German broadcaster EM.TV & Merchandising to create Jr. World areas in its stores. Named after EM.TV’s block of kids programming, the deal gives Karstadt exclusive in-store marketing rights to the Jr. World brand, which it will use to draw shoppers to its kids departments. Starting this month, Karstadt will begin introducing the Jr. Worlds (which are approximately 1,000 square feet in size) into six of its super stores. Each world will contain signage and audio and visual elements promoting the Jr. World brand, as well as a range of licensed and nonlicensed merchandise. Concurrently, in its smaller store locations, Karstadt will also roll out Jr. World boutiques, which will offer consumers licensed merchandise exclusively based on EM.TV kids properties, including Twipsy, Maya the Bee and Tabaluga.
Move over Pikachu-a new CCG plays mind games with kids
Selling itself as the thinking kid’s Pokémon, this month, Seattle-based Interactive Imagination will release Magi-Nation, a new role-play trading card game targeted to kids ages eight to 14. Set on a colonized moon several thousand years into the future, the game features aliens called Magi who summon beings from their minds-called Creatures-to wage battle against each other on the subconscious level. The object of the game is for players to defeat other Magi by collecting cards to enhance their own Magi’s powers.
There will be no shortage of cards for kids to chase down at the local toy store. IM will bow with five starter decks (US$8.99 each) and one booster pack (US$2.99) this month, and has plans to release additional decks for each of the 12 dimensions that exist in the game. IM is hoping to use the cards as a platform to launch other merchandise in the franchise, including a Game Boy game due out in February, and a novel based on the property that is slated to hit stores next summer. According to Glenn Halseth, VP of sales and marketing at Interactive, the company is also in talks with Nickelodeon and Fox Kids to develop a Magi-Nation TV show. Initially, the Magi-Nation cards will be available only at specialty and hobby stores, before hitting mass in February.