Movie Viewer from Kenner (1975)

Company: Kenner | Release date: 1975 | Where to purchase: eBay

One of my favorite activities when chronicling the history of a toy company is tracking the ebb and flow of its various product lines. Toys that were considered “hits” were usually afforded the additional investment, enjoyed a longer shelf life, and were often expanded to include other licensed brands or characters.

Kenner Products provides a stellar example of this approach to toy marketing and sales. The company distinguished itself by avoiding trends and fads. Instead, Kenner focused on building volume and customer loyalty across product lines that sold well year after year.

On the market for approximately five years, Kenner’s Movie Viewer (1975-1979) was used to feature a variety of the company’s licensed properties, including Snoopy, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Star Wars, and the movie Alien. While different characters and properties were swapped in and out, the basic design of the toy remained unchanged.

The movie viewer featured an all-plastic player that worked with a variety of interchangeable cassettes. Each cassette housed a strip of 8 mm. film that contained roughly 60 seconds of footage. With no audio, the viewer provided an experience that hearkened the silent film era of the 1920s.

Cassettes snapped into the movie viewer. A large turning knob worked in concert with a grooved spindle on the cassette to allow the viewer to move the filmstrip forward and backward in a continuous loop. Viewing is facilitated using natural light and a small lens on the player itself – an approach similar to what is used to view slides in a View-Master.

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