Friends, at the risk of sounding like a broken record even more than I usually do – in my youth I cherished and desired any toy that would give the illusion of watching or showing a movie. That is of course the reason that my Family bought me both the Fisher-Price Viewer as well as Movie Theater for the Holidays – I received these gifts at the ripe old age of five and I am quite proud to say that I still have them and they are in excellent working condition. Those might have been my favorite but they were by no means the only movie viewers that I would receive in the late ’70s. For example I also got my hands on the Kenner Star Wars movie viewer and even the Snoopy Drive-In Movie Theater – going to bed after that magical Holiday, meant my Father had to sit through multiple showings of Goofy, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, and Pink Panther cartoons.
At the end of the day between the two Fisher-Price products, it was the Movie Theatre that was my favorite – it had quite a bit to do with the fact that you could cast the image on a nearby wall. It was this same toy that I have mentioned in regards to my brief stint as an unlicensed representative of the Ghostbusters in past articles. It not only helped to fan a deep love of animation but also gave me the chance to study the process of making cartoons – with that ability to go frame by frame when watching a cartridge.
There was another toy however that helped scratch that itch of watching a movie whenever I felt like – sort of – I am referring of course to the View-Master. Which in my case was a hand-me-down given to me along with a handful of reels by my Grandparents one Summer evening. Compared to the ability of the Fisher-Price Movie Theater with it’s truncated versions of some of my favorite cartoon shorts – the View-Master viewer initially seemed to be a lesser form of entertainment.
I think we can chalk up that misconception to a folly of youth as I began to realize how wonderful the View-Master truly was. In addition the View-Master beat Fisher-Price and Kenner by how many franchises they managed to sign up – reel sets were produced for the likes of Batman, The Brady Bunch, Buck Rogers, MASH, Gremlins, Doctor Who, and Star Trek to name just a few. In fact you will see a few of those franchises in this 1978 View-Master television commercial – one featuring the Space Theatre in the Round set – as well as a very young Ricky Schroder (Silver Spoons, Lonesome Dove).