ViewMaster: It’s not dead yet

The death of ViewMaster has been announced more than once, but the medium keeps rising from the dead.  The latest newsletter from Las Vegas-based brings word of some new products, including an original story in the form of a booklet and three stereo reels produced by comedy writer Eric Drysdale (of The Colbert Report fame,) a new advertising reel for Embassy Suites hotels, some new soft-core porn “glamour” reels, and a lot of reissues of old sets.  I’d also mention a release Fisher-Price made in October, a three-reel set of Where the Wild Things Are, which shows the pages of the original book with the white borders and text of the pages as a proscenium foreground and the illustrations inset in three dimensions.  It’s a very clever envisioning of a children’s book, and a perfect use of the stereoscope.  It was originally released as a gift set with a cardboard box and a Model L viewer.  It’s still available in that format from 3Dstereo, but it’s in stores as a simple 3 reel blisterpak.  Highly recommended.

News for View Master Fans

3dstereoFrom the latest bulletin Las Vegas-based 3DStereo  sent to its mailing list:

News and More News:
Sources at Fisher-Price have disclosed that View-Master products are listed in the product list of 2010. A discontinued product line would have no such listing. And although it was not clear what new products are in the offing, it is heartening to hear that View-Master is at least listed for next year.

Of much greater significance, is the news that a tentative agreement has been reached between Fisher-Price and a group of private parties to carry on the work of the now disbanded Custom/Scenic Division. With a surviving reel making machine in Seattle, like the Phoenix rising out of the fire, it appears that the future holds in store for the world, new and favorite scenic View-Master reel sets as well as the ability for custom reel production for the commercial sector.

The Seattle based Alpa Cine, which produced the processed film for the F-P factory in Mexico has combined with Debra Borer, former, able steward of the Custom/Scenic Division pre-2006 will once again head up that exciting, new part of Alpa Cine.

But all is not perfect, probably because the absence was too short, once again Finley-Holiday is being considered distributor of the scenic reels even though their inefficient attitude to View-Master in the past and its resultant distribution practices may have been partly the initial reason that Fisher-Price gave up on scenic View-Master. But then, nothing is always perfect.

More news will be forthcoming and 3Dstereo will endeavor to keep all informed.

She grew up without a View-Master

Thanks to haha for linking to this LA Times story in which a woman tells what it was like to spend the first 48 years of her life unable to see in three dimensions, and what it was like to gain that ability in middle age.

More on the Destruction of ViewMaster


It did not die a natural death

In November, I posted here news that had come to me in a mass email from Las Vegas’ 3Dstereo Store, a report that Mattel would no longer produce ViewMaster reels that might appeal to adults.  Today, another mass mailing from the same source brings more bad news:

Since the the end of last year, the news from the world of View-Master has been earth shaking, but then hasn’t all the news been earth shaking.

Scenic and Custom Divisions Close:
Late last year, Fisher-Price notified all its dealers that the Custom Division which encompassed the Scenic Division was closing permanently. All of its products, every scenic title of View-Master, and the Model L viewers will be discontinued. Custom and commercial reels will never again be made. The factory in Mexico where everything from Beaverton, Oregon was moved, will close. And the remaining View-Master products (children’s View-Master) will only be produced in China at the location that produced the poisoned Mattel/Fisher-Price toys which brought Mattel to the edge of destruction in the first place.

The economy can be blamed for a lot of changes in this world, but the demise of View-Master came unassisted at the hands of Mattel/Fisher-Price executives.

But one thing that Mattel/Fisher-Price will never kill is the joy that tens of thousands of View-Master collectors will always possess in the fascinating product that thrilled the world for 70 years. 


Sad news for ViewMaster fans




News in the latest email from Las Vegas’ 3D Stereo Store:

View-Master Closing:
On a sad note, Mattel/Fisher-Price has announced the permanent closing of the Custom/Commercial/Scenic View-Master division of View-Master. Scenic reels and the Classic Model L will cease to exist. All of the special special 3 Reel sets such as Old TIme Cars, and the on-location ones such as Grand Canyon will no longer be produced.  No more commercial Reels either.

The economic downturn and Mattel/Fisher-Price’s association with China has claimed another victim.  And even though, at least, executive salaries and bonuses will be saved by pending layoffs in excess of a thousand U.S. workers, an era that lasted almost seven decades comes to an end.

Children’s titles produced with Wal-Mart’s approval are planned to be continued for the present.

What’s to be done?  I don’t know.  It sounds like a done deal.  

Stereoscopy in general and Viewmaster in particular have a great deal to offer adults.  To peer into the viewer and tease out 3D effects is a meditative exercise.  Not only is it an extremely relaxing use of a few minutes, it also trains the eye to take a more attentive look at the world.   Trade with China, disparity between workers’ wages and executive compensation, the recession, the power of Walmart, etc, all play into the decline of the medium, but the root cause is something deeper.  The people in charge of corporations like Mattel just don’t believe that American adults are interested in sitting still and using their minds.  They may be right.  But if they are, it becomes a vicious circle.  Loud entertainment systems that allow their users to be passive sell quite well, so capital devotes all its resources to promoting loud entertainment systems that allow their users to be passive.  After a while, we as a society forget the use of quietness, the value of stillness, the importance of simplicity. 


One of Jodie Foster’s Early Roles

I posted a link to this a year or so ago, here’s an embed. 

Slow Start


So the blog is off to a slow start.  I haven’t had much time lately for the sort of wide-ranging reading that would support a lot of postings, and I know you guys have a lot going on as well.  But I think that email would be at a lull right now as well, for the same reason.  So I still believe that going to a blog format was the right move, and that future developments will vindicate this judgement.  I call for a surge of comments, posts, and new links. 

Here’s a link to linguist Larry Trask’s very engaging article, “Where do Mama/Papa words come from?”  I may have included a link in an email a while back, but it’s a really fun read and very convincing.  If you’re at all interested in what historical linguists do, you’ll enjoy it.  The file is pdf, but worth it.

And another youtube clip from The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  I love them.

Speaking of youtube, here’s a Viewmaster commercial from 1971 featuring Henry Fonda and Jodie Foster.  Also a kid who may or may not have been on The Brady Bunch

The Word Origins class I teach includes the Greek word phobos, meaning fear, the uncontrollable urge to run away.  Of course that gives us lots of English words ending in the six letters phobia, words that refer to irrational, unmanageable fears.  People get interested in lists of paronyms like that, so the website below has lots of fans.