by Matt Sernaker, Managing Editor
Stretch Armstrong is back for new adventures thanks to our friends at Netflix. While you might remember the popular toy line, this new series is set to take the character and franchise in an exciting new direction. Our old friend Victor Cook (The Spectacular Spider-Man) discussed the new series, the process of assembling an exciting creative team and cast, and what’s in store for Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters in Season One:
ComicsOnline: For those viewers who are unfamiliar with the Stretch Armstrong brand, could you give a brief overview of the show?
Victor Cook: Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters is a brand new original super hero series steaming now on Netflix. It is a superhero’s journey experienced by three high school students, each with a distinct personality and back story, Jake Armstrong, Nathan Park and Ricardo Perez code named Stretch, Wingspan and Omni-Mass. These three teenagers gain superpowers from a Flexarium chemical explosion. Super stretchiness and flexibility manifest in each differently. They are hired as corporate superheroes called “The Flex Fighters” by Jonathan Rook, a science and business genius, when the city he remade into a futuristic paradise is threatened by monsters and super villains his chemicals have also accidentally created. Multifarious, Circuit Stream, The Freak Sisters, Smoke Stack, Quick Charge and Stretch Monster! These Super villains are a formidable new rogues gallery, each one with a unique power set, personality and motivation. Also causing trouble for The Flex Fighters is the mysterious Dr. C and her ninja henchman Blindstrike. Just as challenging for our three heroes are their personal lives at home and the social battle field of high school.
Jake, Nathan and Ricardo’s world is rounded out by other compelling lead characters in addition to Rook, such as Riya, Erika and Kane. There are supporting and reoccurring characters that are also intriguing! Main and supporting characters will develop over time with revealing back stories.
Although each episode can stand alone, they also move forward an overall season story. We have sprinkled Easter Eggs through out that pay off over time. There are twist and turns along the way. Some big surprises!
I am also excited for the viewers to see some very cool action sequences. Stretch’s stretching powers have been reinterpreted. He stretches by centrifugal force or gravity. Like a bungee cord, he always snaps back into shape. Stretch is like a human sling shot. This made for a lot of fun kinetic action scenes the directors, storyboard artists and I had a blast choreographing.
CO: How did you personally get involved with this series?
VC: Hasbro execs Michael Vogel and Kathy Page had worked with me at Sony when I was Supervising Producer and Director of The Spectacular Spider-Man. They contacted me about coming over to Hasbro as an Executive Producer and Supervising Director to develop a Stretch Armstrong cartoon. The company had been trying for years to bring back Stretch, but hadn’t cracked it yet. I have to admit I didn’t exactly jump at it at first. After all, the Stretch Armstrong doll from the late 70’s and 80’s was more of a novelty toy than an action figure. Wearing a blue bathing suit, he looked like he could have been a body builder or a wrestler. But that was never made clear. Although Stretch was an iconic toy, he was not an iconic character. There was no back story to him. There was no story to him at all.
But I got excited about what Michael said next. This was going to be a blank slate to create something original with it’s own lore, new characters and back story. Only two things had to be kept from the toy, the name and that he could stretch. That got me. I was all in. This was an opportunity to create a brand new super hero universe.
CO: Aside from the original toy line, did you pull from any other visual inspirations for the aesthetics of Stretch and the gang?
VC: In designing the super suits, we got inspiration from athletic gear such as track shoes, BMX bike gloves, motocross body armor, ski goggles, snow board helmets and bike helmets. We blended the athletic gear inspiration with a superhero look. The only two visual aesthetics we kept from the original old toy was his hair and clothes color. In the new show, Stretch has blond hair and his super-costume is blue.
For the characters, the other inspiration was real life. I know that sounds weird when talking about stretchy superheroes, but this show takes place in a big city, similar to Chicago or New York. So I wanted to see the human diversity of those cities reflected in the city this show takes place in. The diversity of Jake, Nathan, Ricardo, Riya, Erika, Kane, Rook and the world of Charter City looks real and normal.
The back story of Charter City is it was once a decaying, boarded up city, until Rook started rebuilding it about a decade ago. He designed the city to be a shining example of the technologically advanced city of tomorrow. We looked at a few foreign modern cities as inspirations for the architecture. For the every day city transportation, we were inspired by modern concept cars, we wanted our vehicles to look futuristic, but only about 10 or 15 years ahead.
CO: You have assembled quite an impressive cast and crew for this series. Could you discuss the process of bringing this team together?
The head writers Kevin Burke and Chris “Doc” Wyatt, were also contacted by Hasbro. The three of us developed the show together and we are Executive Producers of the series. We brought in Voice Director Collette Sunderman, and we then cast the show with Hasbro and Netflix.
It was very easy for all of us to agree on this amazing cast:
Scott Menville as Jake Armstrong aka Stretch, Steven Yuen as Nathan Park aka WingSpan, Ogie Banks as Ricardo Perez aka Omni-Mass, Felicia Day as Erika, Kate Mulgrew as Dr C, Wil Weaton as Rook, Keith David as Kane, Nazneen Contractor as Riya.
In reoccurring roles we have:
Josh Keaton as Gabe, Walter Koenig as Mr Savic, Gary Cole as Jake’s dad, Sab Shimono as Nathan’s Grandpa, Kelly Hu as Miya, Will Friedle as Reynolds, Tia Carrere as Santos, Andrew Kishino as a seemingly ordinary citizen and Phil Lamar as Ricardo’s dad.
As villains we have:
The late Miguel Ferrer as Stretch Monster, Jon Heder as Multifarious, James Arnold Taylor as Circuit Stream, Grey DeLisle Griffin as both of the Freak Sisters, Clancy Brown as Smoke Stack, Henry Rollins as Micky Simmons, Vanessa Marshal as Madam Tousant , Eric Bauza as Murakami, Yvette Nicole Brown as QuickCharge, Wayne Knight & Troy Baker as Brick & Mortar, Luke Arnold and Ian Hopps as the Tech Men.
I put together the art and production team like I was assembling the Magnificent Seven, except I needed a lot more than seven (and I needed specialists!). I brought in a mix of people I have worked with before and some new:
The Episode Directors are Kevin Altieri (Batman: The Animated Series, The Spectacular Spider-Man), Frank Paur (Gargoyles), Alan Caldwell (Jackie Chan Adventures).
Storyboard artists Joonki Park, Chris Rutkowski, Sofia Alexander, Brandon McKinney, Adam Van Wyk, Jack Hsu and many other talented people!
Art Director/Character Designer Joey Mason, Character Designers Kano Kimanyen, Glenn Wong, Zak Plucinski.
Lead Background Designer Kenny McGill (The Spectacular Spider-Man) with Alex Dilts and a great BG team.
Color BG style developed by Stephen Nicodemus and painted by Kelly Chan, Tristin Roesch Cole.
Props by Ron Catigay and James Lim, Color Key by Allyn Conley (The Spectacular Spider-Man) and Addis Zaryan.
Production schedule supervised by Vince Anicieto and Patty Burgos.
Some of the animation teams from Korea that worked with me on The Spectacular Spider-Man and Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated are also animating on Stretch!
For season one, Kevin and Doc brought in an team of amazing writers: Eugene Son, Rob Hoegee, Josh Haber, Brian Hohlfeld, Mark Hoffmeir, FM DeMarco, Eric Rogers and Thomas Krajewski.
BoomBox owners Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman and I have worked together before and we wanted to again for Stretch. They created our sound effects and audio mix, all supervised by Jessey Drake. Our Co-Producer Mikiel Houser was instrumental in bringing in our amazing composers, The Outfit.
The main title song was written by Mike Tavera, Victor Cook and Kevin Burke & Doc Wyatt.
In 2018, we have something super cool coming, a Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters ‘choose your own adventure’ event!
Special thanks to Victor Cook for this exclusive interview.