My friend Eric Kurland, visual effects animator (Osmosis Jones) and 3D consultant (Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare), recently came into ownership of a very strange 3-D/Cartoon item. It appears to be a prototype for a coin operated 3-D viewer from Terrytoons. It stands about 4 ft tall, is marked “property of Terrytoons”, and holds a filmstrip containing 4 stereoscopic stories – two Mighty Mouse, one Heckle and Jeckle (with Barker Bill), and one Gandy Goose and Sourpuss.
The machine is called a “Terryscope” and it is a cross between a nickleodeon machine and a jukebox. Eric nursed his Terryscope machine back to health and I recently popped four dimes into it to watch the four 3D Terrytoon shows. Each “cartoon” is a ten picture slide show (think Viewmaster slides, but bigger), simply voiced by one narrator with no music (Paul Terry, cheap to the end). The images are wonderful – full dimensional 3-D images – you get your dimes worth here. All the images were new – no cheating by reusing animation art. The stories were variants of established cartoons – Gypsy Life, Krakatoa, and Happy Circus Days to name a few.
So what is the story behind these unusual and rarely seen devices? Eric and I consulted a few references and talked to several experts. Writer Wynn Hamonic has been researching the Terry studio for years. He wrote in his 2011 dissertation:
Around 1954 Terry developed what he referred to as the “Terryscope”, a small portable booth containing a projection screen. For the price of a nickel, one sound, color Terrytoons cartoon would be exhibited on a small television screen inside these tiny structures that could sit one child comfortably. These small little one seat theatres were then placed in supermarkets where children could watch a cartoon while their mothers were shopping. Apparently Terry leased them out to supermarkets, malls and other locations where families shop. Although Terry stated he invested $500,000 into the invention, animator Mannie Davis provided a more detailed and accurate remembrance that Terry invested $50,000 to $60,000 in the venture.
The existing machines Eric Kurland found differ from Hamonic’s description. Hamonic doubts Terry invested that amount of money in the machines. “That equals 25% of what he received from CBS later that year. $50,000 seems more likely.”
We found further reference to the TerryScopes in several interviews Paul Terry gave in 1955.
Traverse City Record-Eagle from Traverse City, Michigan (June 28, 1955) Page 4 Source: “Broadway”
Paul Terry marked his 60th annlvesary as a cartoonist and the 40th anniversary as an animator. “No sense in dwelling too long on what you’ve already done. The important thing Is what you do today and tomorrow.” Terry, who started as a newspaper cartoonist in San Franclsco In 1905 and switched to animate cartoons when that Industry was in it’s infancy in 1915, has to date produced 1,100 animated motion picture cartoons.
But today he’d rather talk about television ant the Terryscope, the latter an invention of his which he is just about starting to put on the market.
Another 1955 Clipping – Source: UPI “Broadway”
Broadway NEW YORK — (UPI) — After 50 years as a cartoonist, Paul Terry still doesn’t believe In standing still. The father of Mighty Mouse and other famous animated heroes doesn’t believe in too much looking backward, “There’s always tomorrow,” said tho 78-year-old artist who last “Every day I become more startled than ever at the tremendous power and Influence of TV,” said Terry, who produces the “Barker Bill’s Cartoon Show” for CBS-TV twice weekly.
“In all my days of producing motion pictures and comic books I have never gotten as much mail and as much recognitlon as in the less than two years I have been showing my cartoons In TV. “For 40 years now millions of people have been seeing my name in the ‘motion picture credits of my Terrytoons, Yet, I have only begun to feel somewhat known since my name has begun appearing In the TV screen credits for ‘Barker Bill.’
“Just to give you an example of the immense power of TV, we have had ‘Mighty Mouse’ and other Terrytoons products on the market for years – things like banks, handkerchiefs, records , dart games, paint sets, hand puppets and so forth. Well, despite the outstanding popularity of ‘Mighty Mouse,’ these products–until two years ago–enjoyed only an average, fair sale.
“Then, we got on TV with ‘Barker Bill’ and began featuring ‘Mighty Mouse’ and ‘Heckle and Jeckle’ and ‘Dinky’ cartoons regularly– and boom! The merchandise started selling like hot cakes, Six months ago we had to set up a special department to handle just the merchandise.”
About a year ago, Terry began developing his Terryscope, and he said that so far he has invested about $600,000 in it. “It’s a new entertainment medium,” he explained, “It’s something like a jukebox, but not quite. It’s also something like those motion picture nickelodeons you see in penny arcades, but not quite. “What I have done is taken the principle of these nickelodeons and put into them ‘Mighty Mouse’ cartoons in color and 3D, along with sound. We’re leasing them to supermarkets and amusement parks. Owners of supermarkets have found them to be excellent kiddie-catchers. While mama goes shopping, the kiddles remain in a boxed-off area looking into the Terryscope.”
Broadcasting & Telecasting, April 11, 1955, Page 67-68
CHANGING TERRY’S TUNE – CARTOON-MAKER ENTERED TV WITH CAUTION, NOW IS A FERVID BOOSTER
One of the die-hard skeptics of television a few years ago was Paul Terry, president of Terrytoons Inc., New Rochelle, N.Y. Today, he’s one of the medium’s most fervid boosters.
This enthusiast was soberly cautious when his famed Terrytoon films were released for television. Today, he is so convinced of the medium’s impact that he has established an extensive merchandising operation centered around his cartoon characters — a move, he acknowledges, he did not dare take during the many years that his Terrytoons were popular, staple fare in motion picture theatres. To point up his reticence toward television, it must be noted that the tv films released for tv a few years ago did not carry the Terry imprimateur, but were listed as Barker Bill cartoons.
He confesses he effectuated this disassociation not only because he was uncertain of the films’ reception on tv, but also because he was unsure of the attitude of his theatrical film distributors, with whom he had enjoyed a happy relationship for many years. The results of his tv plunge, according to Mr. Terry, have been “amazing.” In theatres, his cartoon films have continued at a high level of interest — partly because of the tv showings, he believes. And the interest generated by television has prompted Mr. Terry to venture into the merchandising enterprise. Mr. Terry points out that exposure of his cartoon films on 79 stations of CBS-TV on Wednesday and Friday (5-5:15 p.m. EST) has created demand for products associated with his characters.
He confesses he was astonished at the intense interest, adding: “Remember, I’ve been turning out film cartoons for 40 years. Some years ago I started a small merchandising operation for my characters, but it petered out. Television gives the kind of impact in a home setting that is so important in a merchandising operation.”
About a year ago Mr. Terry hired Selwyn Rausch as merchandising manager for Terrytoons. After eight months of preliminary work, the merchandising activity was set in motion about four months ago. Mr. Terry noted that it is still too early to gauge the extent of business but reported it promises to develop into “quite a good little business venture.” The company has licensed about 18 firms to manufacture Terrytoon character products. There are about 30 products associated with characters including Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Terrybears, Dinky Ducks, Barker Bill and The Gelt. Products include books, charm bracelets, masquerade costumes, games, masks, hand puppets, phonographic records and dresses, among others.
Mr. Terry said retail outlets seem “mighty pleased” with the character merchandise. They are sold in variety chain stores, drug chain stores, department stores, toy shops, cigar stores, supermarkets and confectionery shops, among others. Mr. Terry does not effect a tie-up with his merchandising operation on his television program, which is sponsored by General Mills through William Esty Co. After all, he pointed out, the sponsor pays to promote its own products. But Terrytoon characters, he said, often are exposed on other television programs. One viewing characteristic of his television program pleases Mr. Terry: about 25% of the audience is composed of adults. He likes this 75-25 ratio because the adults, in the final analysis, foot the bill for his advertiser and for his merchandised products. He also has observed another pleasureable phenomenon: the merchandising activity creates interest in the tv show.
He expressed the belief that he will be in television for a long time. He uses two six-minute films on each show and has a backlog of 600 films. The firm produces about 26 films a year for initial theatrical release and the product is of the type that lends itself admirably to repeat performances.
Mr. Terry has conjured up another activity that ties in well with his merchandising operation in supermarkets. It is a “Terryscope,” which he describes as a jukebox with stereoscopic film. He plans to put this contraption into supermarkets and other establishments throughout the country so that youngsters can occupy themselves (for a slight fee) while their parents are shopping (and perhaps buying a Mighty Mouse game) . The distance that Mr. Terry has traveled from the days when he was the “watch-and-wait” tv impresario, hidden under Barker Bill’s coattails, can be estimated by this observation: “For the past few months, I no longer have been anonymous on tv. Today I am proud to have the name of Paul Terry associated with television, just as it has been so long with motion pictures and newspapers.”
Eric managed to get both the picture viewer and the audio player working on his machine. “It appears to have a very early version of a “Mackenzie Endless Loop” tape, and have digitized the soundtracks of the cartoons. I’m also planning to scan the film frames, and should be able to edit the sound and picture together to make them watchable in 3-D.”
Let’s take a look at the machine itself, inside and out. (click thumbnails below to enlarge)
And what about the films? What were they like? While it’s not possible for you to experience the full 3D goodness of these Terry films on my blog, here is a rough idea of how the TerryScope presentation played:
Eric Kurland created the video above by taking the images of one the Mighty Mouse films in his machine and synching it up with the sound. Imagine this in full 3-D, with lots of dimensional separation of the images, full rich Technicolor (more like the original art pictured above) and you’ll have a good idea of what a TerryScope film looks like.
Eric will be posting this film in actual 3D (you’ll need red-green anaglyph 3D glasses) later today on his 3-D Space.org website. And finally, an unabashed plug: Eric is raising money via IndieGoGo for a Stereoscopic 3-D Museum to help restore 3D films such as these. Click here to contribute to the cause.
(Special thanks to Van Eaton Galleries)