…”Vintage View-Master is way better than T.V.”


A few years ago I was working on a project conceptually based on the idea of the View-Master. I ran out to the toy store to pick one up because I needed an illustration reference. It was the standard red and black plastic Fisher-Price version with a bright orange lever, that came packaged with some standard reels of zoo animal photos. Boring and uninspired, but I needed it for technical reference, not inspiration.

A few months later I was helping my mom clean out her house and came across the real deal. Her original, old-school, Sawyer’s View-Master Stereoscope with Light Attachment. I had never seen anything so cool, except maybe the box of original reels I found with it. I had an immediate and renewed appreciation for “how things used to be”. This View-Master is beautiful and the shutter lever still shifts smoothly and quietly. After some digging I discovered it’s a Model C, made of Bakelite and manufactured in 1955. It retailed then for $2.00.

ViewMaster

It would have been impossible for me not to give it a spin, so I did… and fell in love, again. The original reels were created before computers and digital media had evolved and each frame is essentially a photograph of a meticulously crafted diorama. (Does anyone remember making shoebox dioramas in elementary school with toothpicks, clay, and Papier-mâché?) I tried and tried, to no avail, to replicate how these actually look through the Steroscope in all their Kodachrome glory, but finally had to resort to photographing them through the viewfinder with my digital camera, which doesn’t do them justice, but does show some of the creative and wonderful details in the artwork.


Little Red Riding Hood


Adventures of Sam Sawyer: Sam and the Flying Saucer Pirates


Bugs Bunny in “Big Top Bunny” with BRUNO the Slobokian Bear

It might be hard to see it in these examples of the Bugs Bunny reel, but the “set” is an actual photo of a diorama that the cartoon characters have either been overlaid or drawn into. Even by today’s standards, the seamlessness is impressive. And the package typography is classic and gorgeous, even in one and two colors.


Fads and trends change minute to minute these days; Red is the new Black, 40 is the new 20, flats are the new high heels! yadda, yadda, etc. etc.

Classic design is timeless and doesn’t ever go out of style, which is what makes it so iconic and nostalgic from one decade to the next. I could be wrong, but it feels like the era of truly classic is over, at least for now. Hopefully we’ll see a time again in the future when cookie cutter, mass production, look-alike is replaced by the uniqueness, differentiation and quality of the past. Until then, I’ll just be over here finding new inspiration with my old-school View-Master, Hansel and Gretel and Sam Sawyer’s Adventures in full-color, three dimension Kodachrome technology. ✻