In honor of my appearance on today’s live broadcast of Stu’s Show (at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific, if you miss it: archived downloads available here) where we’ll be discussing collecting 8mm films – and as a follow up to my post about Looney Tunes on 8mm last March – I present this gallery of cartoon home movie boxes for closer inspection.
By no means a thorough survey, these images below are mostly gleaned from ebay photos I’ve collected – though a few are from my personal collection. I’ll begin this post with my personal recollection of collecting these little films back in the day.
First of all, kids, you need to know that I bought my very first projector back in the 1960s – long before cable TV, VHS, DVDs, You Tube and NetFlix. We were only exposed to cartoons on Saturday mornings and on weekday kiddie shows (and, if we were lucky, at the movies). If you weren’t watching while the cartoons were being shown, you missed them. Owning physical copies of cartoons wasn’t only impossible, it was technically illegal. The one way we could watch cartoons over and over again was to buy “home movies”.
8mm (or Super 8mm) home movie films were expensive. And you needed a projector to play them. 8mm films and movie projectors were only sold in Camera Shops or in Department Stores (in the Camera Department). And the films were usually locked in a glass case behind the counter as if they were priceless objects – Abbott and Costello in “Have Badge Will Chase“, or “Double Cross at Criss Cross“; Woody Woodpecker in “Tree Medic“; Boris Karloff in “The Mummy“, and Lantz characters I’d never heard of: “Pierre Bear” and “Dynamo Doc”.
The first projector I bought was a $9.98 unit advertised in the back of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I figured if Forry was selling it, how bad could it be? (And besides, it was all I could afford). But it was bad. How bad? First off, it was made of plastic (as opposed to metal); it used a tiny toy flashlight bulb for illumination; and worst of all, it could only run small 50 foot reels (3 minutes of film).
I recall my first film purchase was The Flinstones. It was silent, black and white, and the light from the tiny flashlight bulb was dim – but damn, I could watch The Flinstones anytime I wanted. At 4pm, at 9pm, or even at 3am in the middle of the night. I could study cartoons (with a magnifying glass) frame by frame. I could unlock the secrets of animation – and back in those days, before Facebook pages or animation fanzines, I felt like I was the only one in the world who cared. (An example of what my 8mm Flintstone film looked like is embed at the bottom of this post).
I bought many Betty Boop and Popeye reels, Walt Disney’s feature excerpts, Castle’s Woody Woodpecker films and sought out Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (those were hard to find in my neighborhood). By the time I got to high school, I was ready to graduate to 200-foot super-8 sound reels… but that’s when I discovered the underground world of collecting 16mm. And that’s another story.
For now, here’s a group of cool 8mm boxes (click thumbnails to enlarge) that never fail to put me back in the zone. Maybe you feel that same way…