April 30, 2009

A Boy's Toy Joy: The Fisher-Price Movie Viewer

There is probably only a handful of toys that I can fondly remember playing with as a child growing up in the 1970s. I plan to feature them one at a time, so as to give them the attention I feel they deserve.

The first toy that I would like to "focus" on is the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer. Its design was suggestive of an old movie camera and it even hand-cranked like one. The main difference, of course, was that you used it to watch movies, not film them. The movies that I can remember viewing with it were all animated cartoon shorts. And there were only two of those that I used to watch again and again.

Walt Disney's 'Lonesome Ghosts' was my all-time favorite. It starred Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as ghostbuster/private eye types investigating an old haunted house. They even had on hats like Sherlock Holmes wore, and a magnifying glass, I think...

My favorite sequence was when they were already inside the old house and Mickey opens a door, only to be nearly drowned by a HUGE wave of water that comes rushing in! And four "spooky" ghosts come-a-floating on that very tidal wave. One of the neatest things about the viewer was that, because you powered it by hand-cranking the red dial, you could make it go as fast or slow as you wanted. Even frame by frame or BACKWARDS! So, the whole water sequence alone had a myriad of possibilities and could keep me fascinated for hours. The tale concludes when the three bumbling "detectives" are being chased by the ghosts and crash into a stack of flour barrels. They are then covered head-to-toe in white powder and end up scaring the ghosts away!
The End.

This was my 'Blade Runner'
at the tender age of 4!

My second favorite was Walt Disney's 'Three Little Pigs'. Now, I don't have to tell the story of that one, do I? Again, the thing that I loved to do was watch it in slo-mo or throw it in reverse when the Big Bad Wolf blew down the pigs' houses. I also enjoyed all the happy pig dancing and laughing in this one!

Their houses would get blown
down, then rebuilt again and again...

Thanks to a retro toy seller, I can now crank-up these gems whenever I feel like remembering some of the simpler joys of my youth. There ARE others, but I'll save those for another time!


  1. What a lovely idea for a series of posts.
    I never had one of these but did have a ViewMaster. It was more of a 3D type thing which was cool but I like how yours could play 'movies' faster, slower and BACKWARDS!

  2. So cool you've got these! I've got a little wish-list of toys I'd like to have again.

    I can totally picture little-bitty Anthony with his eye GLUED to that toy for hours!

  3. I loved that tidal wave in reverse! This is a great post. That's so funny, it being your "Bladerunner" at age 4. I don't think I had the 3 Pigs, and I wish I could see the happy pig dancing & laughing right now. I'm totally looking forward to more of these posts! :)

  4. P.S.-I keep meaning to tell you that the little character in the underpants (for the link to my site) TOTALLY looks like he's saying, "Stop clowning around!" That's perfect.

  5. MoonDoggie, I had a View-Master, too! That is yet another personal fave I plan to profile. But I don't think that I ever had a 3D one...

    Tikimama, maybe we could go on a special 'Toy Joy' thrifting mission to try and check off your little wish-list? I know there're still a few that I'd like to find!

    Tommy, you know that you can just play with MY Movie Viewer anytime! Oops, that doesn't sound good! But seriously, the laughing & dancing pigs are there for you whenever you'd like.

  6. You mean you'd actually let me? What if I spilled coffee on it? (Just kidding, I would be verrry careful!)

  7. Anthony, you ain't kiddin'! The Fisher Price Movie Viewer was the most influential toy of my childhood. I would use my allowance to buy cartridges and had quite a few. There were some live-action clips available, such as the giant squid attack scene from 20,000 Leagues-- but the animated cartridges were my favorites. It was the best way for an aspiring young animator to study the masters.

    Seriously, this was such an awesome toy, in the era before home video. You've inspired me to work on a future "love post" for the movie viewer on my own blog...

  8. Kevin, I can see how this toy really WOULD be key for developing a young child's interest in animation! I loved it so much that I'm now wondering why I didn't end up in that field, myself? I'll bet it's a lot of fun!

    I never saw that 20,000 Leagues cartridge. That giant squid attack sounds awesome, though!
    I look forward to seeing YOUR nostalgic post about this wonderful toy...

  9. I remember spending hours watching lonesome ghosts too- just shortly after the tidal wave where the water would spin itself out of existence was a favorite, but I especially enjoyed when the gang would be covered by the molasses and flour at the end- I'd run the initial impact and flour explosion backwards and forwards over and over again. I also had a Sesame Street cartridge and while I don't remember much of it, I did like the Pieman who would fall down the stairs and drop his pies. This sure seems like a toy that would still be enjoyable to todays kids, without any updating. Seeing this sort of thing on a DVD is very different from the personal connection a kid gets peering into the box and being able to physically advance or reverse a frame at a time.

  10. Incidentally, I'm looking for info on another toy I had, and perhaps you'd remember it. It was a series of books with a plastic record on each page. You placed a device onto the record and it read it out loud for you. I remember there being some Disney titles but there were probably several non-Disney as well. I thought it would be easy to find, but a google search hasn't turned up anything yet, mainly because I don't know the actual name.

  11. Hello, Eric, and welcome to my circus!

    It's so nice of you to not only drop by, but to also leave such great comments. You know, I hadn't thought about those record books for ages until you just mentioned them. Weren't they awesome?! I sure wish I could help, but after reading your comment I launched my own investigation (checking several sources, btw!) and came up completely empty-handed.

    The closest I came to it was the book that had the "sonic dial" you'd spin with a finger along with the story, thereby providing narration and appropriate sound effects. I remember that one, too. And if I'm not mistaken, you could also spin the dial backward for creepy backmasking-type results!

    Sorry, I couldn't be of more help... But, please, don't hesitate to drop by again whenever the mood strikes ya! :)

  12. My friend, Mark O. Uitz, an Austrian, designed and built this viewer. It was subsequently sold to Fischer Price. He lives today in Mountain View, CA, and he has a huge project he's trying to launch.

  13. Hello, Joanne Unleashed!
    Thanks for the relevant factoid. And how cool that you actually KNOW the guy who invented this great toy! Also, color me intrigued regarding his huge mystery project... Hope he manages to get it off the ground. :)


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