The Fisher-Price Movie Viewer was a cruel, untouchable mistress.
I mean …
You ever have a toy that you longed to own, right down to your marrow, but that circumstances conspired to keep out of your hands?
I did pretty well in the toy department growing up, but one bauble that always eluded me was the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer.
Here you had a hunk of plastic that could bring cartoons right up to your eyeball … and you controlled them!
It was a veritable YouTube for the flower-power years.
Alas, the Fisher-Price and I were not meant to be, even though I still dream about “her” today.
Well, because of stuff like these six reasons the Movie Viewer was the coolest toy I never owned.
It Was Cheap (But Not Cheap Enough)
I don’t remember ever seeing a Fisher-Price Movie Viewer in an actual retail store.
No, for me, these babies lived strictly in the world of garage sales (or yard sales, depending on where you roamed).
The drill went like this …
Your parents worked and made some money, but not a lot of money. So you all ate pretty well and lived in a decent house, but you got most of your clothes for pennies-on-the-dollar at garage sales.
And, while you got a few new toys for Christmas, all the rest came from yard/garage sales, too.
If you went to ten garage sales during the summer months through about 1980, I’d wager you’d find at least three Movie Viewers, with cartridges, for sale.
Usually more, and always with pablum stains of some sort.
And the going price was generally something like $2-3 for the player plus however many cartridges the previous owner had accumulated.
I don’t really know how much these things cost new, but I’m sure this was a bargain price.
Problem was, you didn’t go to a garage sale to drop $2-3 on toys — not when you could clothe a couple kids for a season or two at that price.
So I’d look longingly at the pile of Fisher-Price goodies and settle instead for a(nother) dime stretchy monster.
No Maintenance Costs
From a parent’s perspective (now), one of the very cool aspects of the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer is that there are no replaceable parts
No batteries …
No lights …
No Easy-Bake cake mix …
Just the projector, which you cranked, and the movie cartridges, which you jammed into the projector.
Once you (or your kid) got those two things, you just pointed the gun at the sun, peeped in the eyepiece, and cranked away.
You were good to go until the handle broke off or you died from the boredom of watching “Bear Trouble” for the 921st time.
Cartoons … In Your Hand!
In the 70s and 80s, there was nothing that came in an on-demand form for kids.
No movies on-demand.
No food on-demand.
No PewDiePie on-demand.
And certainly no cartoons on-demand.
If you wanted to watch cartoons, you got your ass in front of the TV right before or after school, and early on Saturday morning, and you hoped Dad didn’t notice the set and switch it to wrestling or election results or some such swill.
But the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer changed all that. If you had one of the crank units and any of the dozens of cartridges, you were in complete control of your cartoon viewing.
Or at least to the extent of when, how fast, and how many times you could view them. The library was limited, and there was no sound, but let me tell you … holding living, breathing cartoons in your hand was like crapping genies right out of your little but.
The Rich Kids Had It
Where I grew up, there weren’t any filthy rich kids running around, at least as far as I knew.
But there were a couple families who always seemed to have a little more than the rest of us, and they led the curve.
When we got 8-tracks, they got cassette players.
When we got Betamax, they got laser disc players
And when we got Viewmasters, they had moved on to the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer.
Those kids were, in short, tangible aspirational models for us. Whatever they had was cool, cutting-edge, better than our stuff.
So, yeah, part of our (my) love affair with the Movie Viewer was fueled by envy, because I knew if the local Richie Rich played with it … it must be really good.
It Was a Star Trek Gun
Kids who toy shopped at garage sales and spent all year carefully planning their Christmas wish list had to be creative in our play time.
We had to look for ways to make our toys serve multiple functions, and we had to target polymorphic toys when asking (begging) for new stuff.
In the 70s, the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer fit this bill to a “T” because it made an almost perfect proxy for a Star Trek taser.
“You messing around with me while I’m trying to watch ‘Dumbo’?” *pow*
“Live short and bug off, a-hole.”
I Was Too Young for the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer
So, this is one of those reasons (like “But Not Cheap Enough” above) why I couldn’t score a Fisher-Price Movie Viewer of my own.
The Movie Viewer debuted in 1973, when I was just one year old.
It was way too advanced for me at that point, and it would take a couple years before I was aware enough to know that I wanted one. By then, they were selling at garage sales for a few bucks (also see above).
Out of the question for our budget.
And by the time we might have been able to afford one of those cartoon-blasting beauties or when I might have put it high on my Christmas list, I was on to other things.
Think Hot Wheels, Star Wars, hand-held football games, Atari.
How could the Fisher-Price compete with those?
It couldn’t … but that doesn’t mean we didn’t still exchange longing glancing across a stack of used corduroys now and then.
(For more fun with old toys, check out our running list of posts about our favorite gnarly play things right here.)
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