Animation History
March 12, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

View Masters!

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bugs_vmI love the old Viewmaster slides. Not to get nostalgic, but who didn’t grow up with these and cherish them in those innocent days before home video, the internet and You Tube? Especially the ones that had three-dimensionalized our favorite 2D hand drawn characters. Unlike today’s CGI movie remakes, the artists who created these viewmaster reels got it right. Brian Sibley did a great post on the subject on his blog which you should read.

Today I was made aware of a fantastic kinescope of a rare live local TV broadcast that went behind the scenes at the Viewmaster factory – Sawyers, Inc. in Portland Oregon. This episode of Success Story (via film collector Sci-Fi Bob Ekman) tours and shows the operations behind the scenes. It aired on KING TV out of Seattle Washington and on it’s sister station in Portland Oregon, KGW-TV. If you have any affection for the classic Viewmaster slides, I think you’ll enjoy this:

yogi_huckVM quickdraw roadrunnerVM woodyVM_duo flintsones-vm yogi_sceneVM

(Thanks, Marc Crisafulli)

14 Comments

  • I loved the “different” look of animated characters through the View Master. As for today’s CGI, I just saw a new Road Runner cartoon. It was not hand-drawn, but if you can get past that, I do think they got it right.

  • If I’m remembering more than fifty years ago correctly, the Disney SLEEPING BEAUTY Viewmaster reel used actual stills from the film rather than recreated scenes in 3-D sets. Pretty good deal for the time, really. In an era when home video didn’t exist and the only way to see a movie again was to wait who knew how long for it to come around to theaters again, just seeing still pictures in vivid color just like on the big theater screen was an exciting souvenir and memory jogger of a favorite movie.

  • Thank YOu. I have always wondered who was behind these. There seemed to be little info.
    I have many of the reels you feature.

  • Now, what happened to the models?

    • Jerry, what a great post. Gerard asked what happened to these models? I bought a chrome of the cover of the Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm one on eBay and was told by the seller, who used to work there, that in the early to mid-nineties that the company moved out of the Oregon offices and many of the models went into the dumpster. I know, right? However, I’ve worked at a place like this and many times things end up going home with employees so who knows what may turn up.

  • I remember when Boomerang first launched the the channel would always show toy figures of Hannah Barbara characters and view masters between the cartoons and commercials as part of their retro logo.

  • Just picked up an odd reel at an antique shop the other day… Andy Panda in “the Beaver Builders”, sort of an interesting reworking of the animated cartoon NUTTY PINE CABIN. This one is of particular interest since it combines actual 3-D sets with 2-D characters.

  • Still have a healthy collection of View-Master discs. One of the biggest thrills of my life was actually being photographed by View-Master. Back in the 1970′s, I worked for the short-lived Ringling Brothers Circus World theme park. The View-Master folks took pictures all over the park and when the official souvenir package was released, I was the subject of one the photos!

    You know, you set your goals and you go for them! (I finally became an official “Honorary Mouseketeer” in my late 30′s, but that’s another story.)

  • It’s interesting that these 3D renderings of 2D characters are still so charming and appealing while most attempts to achieve the same effect with CGI have been off-putting and creepy. Just compare that Yogi Bear photo with any still from the recent Yogi Bear CGI feature.

  • The half hour program was an interesting time capsule. I owned juist a few Viewmasters and reels.in my callow youth,and have always been fascinated by the whole stereo photography medium.

  • The great, but defunct “Department of cartoons” section of the Cartoon Network website featured some original sketches for the Hanna-Barbera view-master reels, among other stuff. They can still be viewed via Internet Archive:
    Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound.

  • But what happened to all that artwork? Time to start snooping around Oregon!

  • I am a View-Master collector and the dioramas of the cartoon characters were always my favorite reels.
    I heard Digital animation studios study these images in designing the digital versions of the same characters. I think Willie Ito at Hanna Barbera would do some story sketches and the View-Master Art department in Portland would transform them into the 3-D sculptures or drawn cel cartoon for the the 3-D reels…

  • I’m amazed at this ambitious LIVE production from a local station. Great camera work, informative narration in an educational but entertaining format. One wonders if this program was done in the evening, which would require all the workers to stay late for the broadcast…

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