Fisher-Price Movie Viewer

Fisher-Price Movie Viewer

Synopsis of Toy

Fisher-Price has been a leader in the world of optical toys for children for several decades. In the late 1980’s, the western New York-based toy company created the PXL-2000, a revolutionary children’s video camera that operated on audiotape. Unfortunately, the PXL was not initially successful and was relegated to the world of film artists, who used the primitive video-making toy for its interesting graphic representation of images.

The development of the PXL was the eventual progeny of a much more successful movie-related toy produced almost two decades earlier. 1973 saw the release of the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer for children aged 3–10. The viewer itself looked like a cream-colored plastic super-8 camera with a multi-colored circular hand crank on one side and a small plastic window that provided a light source on the other. One end had a small magnifying glass view hole, while the other end had a space for the rectangular movie cartridge. To experience this flicking picture show, the child would insert the yellow cartridge and crank away, watching the movie through the eyepiece. The viewer used an 8mm strip of film that was permanently looped on the inside of the cartridge so that at the end of any particular strip, the clip would simply begin again.

Almost all of the films made for the Movie Viewer were clips from well-known animated or live-action children’s entertainment. Disney animated product—such as an abridged version of “Lonesome Ghosts,” film segments from Sesame Street, Bugs Bunny and Peanuts shorts made up a number of the early cartridges, but in later years, feature films, television programs and other filmed entertainment were included in the Movie Viewer repertoire. Even The Black Hole had its own cartridge.

One of the special features offered by the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer was the variable control of the unit. Children could move the film as fast or as slow as they wanted. As if that wasn’t enough, it was also very easy to run the film backwards (also in variable speeds).

It meant that you could watch Mickey Mouse knock over a door in slow-mo in “Lonesome Ghosts” or watch a man’s face fall out of a cake in Sesame Street's “Numbers”. The best thing was that it wasn’t battery operated or governed by electricity. The Fisher-Price Movie Viewer was all kid-powered, kid-run and kid-approved.

In 1977, Fisher Price added a Theater Viewer product that used the same cartridges to project the 8mm images on a small backlit screen. The cartridges themselves could also be opened and the film inside replaced with a loop of your own choosing. This was an unexpected, unplanned and probably unsanctioned benefit to the Viewer, but many aspiring young filmmakers, keen in the ways of Fisher Price, picked up on the application and handed out the viewers as previews for their latest 8mm masterpieces.

After a long run and many imitators, including an attempt by Kenner to catch the slightly older audiences with clips from prime-time television, Fisher-Price stopped making the Movie Viewer and Movie Theater in 1985. In 1986 they came out with another, sleeker model of the Viewer but it lasted only one year.

Release History of Toy

1973 - Fisher-Price Movie Viewer
1977 - Fisher-Price Movie Theater

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tv tie-in

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