Fisher Price Movie Viewer

Sure, if you compare it to the technology introduced in recent years, the Fisher Price Movie Viewer looks pretty darn antiquated. But for a youngster growing up in 1973, the idea of being able to play your own movies on a handheld device, wherever and whenever you wanted, was cutting-edge stuff. Let’s look back at this well-remembered toy.

It’s no surprise that a device as magical as this would come from the toy designers at Fisher-Price; they already had plenty of experience when it came to creating innovative optical-based toys for young children. The Movie Viewer, geared for 3-10 year-olds was a simple but nifty device. Looking a bit more like a crème colored ray gun than a movie camera, the front of the device accepted cartridges that you could buy separately, each containing a short film clip. The film was illuminated thanks to a little window that could be held up to any light source. Simply look through the viewer and start cranking the arm on the side and, voila, your very own movie screening. Inside, each cartridge contained an 8mm film that was looped so that, once you reached the end, you were right back at the beginning. No rewinding necessary. Of course, that didn’t mean you couldn’t rewind – and view all the action in reverse! Since you had complete control of the device, via the hand crank, you not only controlled the speed of the film, but also the direction.

Surprisingly, a decent library of cartridges were available, each of which usually contained a small clip from a movie or TV show, or a short cartoon. Disney movies were rather popular and Cinderella, Bambi and an assortment of other Disney cartoons were available. Warner Brothers cartoons such as Bugs Bunny were also distributed, as well as Peanuts cartoons. TV shows like Sesame Street were also well-represented, and later, feature films like Disney’s The Black Hole would make their way to the cartridge library.

Taking things to the next level, Fisher-Price released a Theater Viewer in 1978, so you could finally watch cartridges with friends, thanks to a backlit screen. They sold respectfully but certainly not at the levels of the original handheld version. Another interesting tidbit about the handheld viewer is that it would find its way into the hands of a number of adults. Up and coming filmmakers learned that it wasn’t very hard to open the cartridges and replace Bambi with their own 8mm movie clips. They could then distribute the devices to promote their films. Even they thought the Fisher Price Movie Viewer was pretty darn cool.

And you know what, it really was. Consider that it needed no batteries to operate, nor any electrical hookups. It was entirely kid-powered – a dying art in the toy world and one that is especially appreciated by parents on Christmas Day. It might have met its demise in 1985 but it certainly made an impact during its respectable run. This was handheld self-contained fun of the highest order, and a glimpse of 30 years into the future, when handheld movies would become commonplace. How many toys can boast something like that?

Did you and your friends entertain yourself with the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer? Tell us all about it in our comments section as we tip our hats to this toy that was well before its time.

35 Responses to “Fisher Price Movie Viewer”

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  1. Camilla Haynes says:

    I have a viewer similar only the trademark is “Action Films” The 8 mm cartridges are the disney movies you described. The viewer is Red and white and has a patent pending mark on it. It was given to me by a Disney Employee in about 1971 or 1972 as a get well gift. I cannot find anything on the internet that resembles this viewer and I am wondering what it is worth and if it could be one of the first ones made.

    • eric says:

      I’m afraid that I can’t be of much help, but perhaps one of our readers can assist. You might want to also consider posting this same information on our Facebook page, in the Discussions section. Between here and there, maybe we have an expert among us. Good luck!

  2. jennifer harris says:

    I had this,I got it for Easter 1 year when i was a child.

  3. Javi A says:

    Oh my god I had that exact same one shown, the “Lonesome Ghosts” clip. Wow, I remember like it was yesterday looking at this and making up my own dialog as I turned the crank.

  4. Bobby says:

    I have the larger one that could project onto a wall, though mine might need a brighter bulb (super bright LEDs anyone?) and a new reflecting mirror internally, and I also have the hand held one. There was even a movie viewer from another company featuring clips from the 6 Million Dollar Man and of course its film cartridges didn’t work with the Fisher Price one. Interestingly, there are long and short versions of the Fisher Price film cartridges. This toy is matched in coolness only by the tiny Sneak Previews toy that used a single AA battery and played short film clips at a respectable and consistent frame rate, and the Voltron Japanese anime circular cartridge among the 6 clips I still have for this toy.

  5. Frank says:

    Does anyone remember a version of the Movie Theatre in cream and light blue, almost like a standalone television set with the slot at the side? Think the batteries went in the bottom. I remember loosing mine to leaky batteries wheI was five years old. I was gutted! Haven’t seen anything online about the model I seeto remember. All I remember is the Love Bug catridge with mine. I watched it religiously, and loved it!

  6. Sean says:

    To try to answer the first poster’s question: the Action Viewer was a knock-off made by Kenner in the late 70’s. It too had Disney cartoons, but also had Star Wars and Six Million Dollar Man clips available for it. I think the cartridges could fit in the Fisher-Price viewers. But those viewers were generally blue with the cartridges being red. There was also a company called Action Films that made cartidges that could fit in the Fisher-Price viewer. You might have their own viewer. Not sure what it’s worth.

  7. Jonathan says:

    what is the one that projects on the wall called?

  8. Bon Regis says:

    I haven’t seen one of these since the time my first grade class had a free day and we were encouraged to bring in toys from home.

  9. Jetta says:

    I still have mine here in Finland from the 70’s working :-). And films sleeping beauty and Pinocchio. It really was something new then. My dad used to by all the newest stuff when it came to cameras etc. And still kids and adults love it. I have it on my living room for the visitors. So great, i wish i could find some more films.

  10. Daniel says:

    Can somebody tell me the names of all the cartridges? I know I hadn’t grown up during its time, but I’m a collector of old toys (I’d also like to get my hands on the looney tunes films because I am a looney tunes fan)

  11. Shelly says:

    Loved this as a kid and just got it out for my kids no batteries and no electronics to worry about not working!! Love it!

  12. little mac says:

    I have the red white hand held crank with six films marry poppins,sleeping beauty,snow white, lonesome ghosts, three little pigs by action films

  13. Mike says:

    I remember having a different one in the 80’s it was really small ran on 1 battery I think and would play short clips from tv shows, I vividly remembering having a knight rider clip that played Kitt speeding and going over a ramp.. Cant remember the name of the player though

  14. Charles says:

    I work in health care. We recently found one of these that was used for Patient Education. The cartridge we have shows how to use a Diaphragm. Someone remembers that there was also one for doing a Breast Self Exam…

  15. Jessie says:

    I remember having one of these available to me through a friend or family member when I was a kid. The movie that I really loved watching was one with Mickey, Donald (Maybe Goofy too?) and three ghosts. I don’t remember the exact story, but I remember playing it backward and forward over and over again. It was loads of fun!

  16. kimpy says:

    I loved those toys! I especially loved the forward and reverse action – you could make the cartoons kinda “dance” really funny to a 6-10 year old kid at the time. It was sorta the visual equivalent of scratching a record:-)

  17. Jamie says:

    I still have mine. I loved this viewer. My kids don’t seem as interested as I was. My brother had the theater viewer.

  18. Bradley says:

    wow..I had one of these. I remember having one with Donald Duck and Goofy. I also remember Bambi, and one other I had but can’t remember. What I do remember is figuring out a way to hold a flashlight up to the side where the light came in and it would project onto a wall.. upside down, but that was easily fixed.

  19. Dave says:

    I received a similar one for Christmas in the early 1970’s. It was a Walt Disney viewer and the box was purple and white from what I can remember. I had “Lonesome Ghosts” as well as the “Three Little Pigs.” I used to love slowing it down, going backward and forward, etc. I also liked making my own flip books, drawing each picture like a single frame of film until I had my own little moving clip at the corner of a pad of paper!

  20. Jules says:

    I had one of these as a kid. My favorite cartridge was “new Orleans square”. Also had lonesome ghost and the 3 pigs. Now my kids play with it. They just don’t make toys like this anymore!

  21. Sally carty says:

    I had one of these movie viewers! It was great! Mickeys haunted house could be played fast, in reverse or slow motion frame by frame. For a kid in the 70’s and even now it was a fabulous gift!!

  22. Jeff Missinne says:

    The Fisher-Price viewers came out after my childhood, but I had a Kenner Easy-Show projector that used open loops of film that had to be threaded (and always jammed!) and a Brumberger projector that used standard 50-ft. 8mm reels and sounded like a machine gun when you cranked it. I still remember it came with 3 25-ft. films, one each of Popeye, Laurel and Hardy, and …Tom Mix!?! I was hooked, and moved up to my mom’s “real” 8mm projector, which she could never run but I could, and finally to 16mm sound, which is still my hobby. There’s a Mexican-made (I think) toy projector called a Cinexin which I think is still made and looks like a clone of the Kenner Easy-Show, but brought up to date with LED light, etc.

  23. Jeff Missinne says:

    To correct and clarify my previous remarks, the Cinexin projector was apparently made in Spain rather than Mexico, though they may well have been sold there. I had seen an old TV commercial for it on You Tube grouped under a heading something like “Old Mexican TV Commercials.” You can actually find videos of still-working Cinexins showing cartoon loops of the Pink Panther and Popeye!

  24. Ladyjaye says:

    I still have mine (the handheld version) with several carts (Goofy Glider, Lonesome Ghosts, Pink Panther, Road Runner, Sesame Street). The only issue I have with mine is that there’s some dust in the lens and the focus wheel became loose when I tried cleaning it. Doesn’t seem to be much I can do since it’s a sealed unit, aside from gluing the focus wheel into place (I used a piece of paper wedged in for many years as a solution). Anyone got any other suggestion, aside from buying a replacement viewer?

  25. Ricardo says:

    I absolutely loved this when I was a kid, my parents threw it away as it became trash and I moved out, and would love to have one now and show it to my daughter.

  26. Ed says:

    The projectors are worth $100 and the movies range from $45- $400, depending on which one you have. The peanuts ones are the most sought after.

  27. James Hambly says:

    I had this toy. I was born in 1973, and I think I got mine around 1978. I never knew there was a backlit projector. I had only three cartridges; Lonesome Ghosts, Disney’s Robin Hood ( with the fox as robin hood), and one i cant remember the name of, but was a take on the classic silent film of the guy hanging from the clock tower, but with goofy, donald and mickey instead. I to would run the film backwards sometimes. My girlfriend just picked up lonesome ghosts and a viwer at a yard sale, and it prompted me to look these up on ebay and google it and saw it on your website ( which incidentally i have been to many times before). I also had a view master ( the older one with the sharp turquoise handle), a projector, and a box of about 60 three wheel packs. I see you have an article on these as well, and that is where I am going now! Thanks for posting the great article for the afisher Price movie viewer and cartridges, i found out alot about them that I didnt know.

    • James Hambly says:

      I read through all of the comments, and had forgotten that i had a third cartridge, three little pigs. I also forgot to mention that there were only two things that bothered me as a kid with this toy. the noise it made while turning the crank, and that it had no sound. but all in all, still one of my favorite toys.

  28. P.Jackson says:

    I recently purchased a Fisher Price Movie Viewer Theater on Ebay and it takes the regular cartridges that require you to crank it. The movie theater has a light inside but it needs to be brighter. I opened up the back of it and there is another bulb but I don’t know if this is just a replacement bulb plus it did not come with the directions. Does anyone still have those directions as I don’t know exactly how to change the bulb and don’t want to break it..
    Thank you.

  29. Andy says:

    I had one of these – my sister gave it away while I was away at college. It may sound weird, but I still miss it and think about it – so many good memories and such a cool toy.

  30. Carol says:

    I loved mine as a kid! I was born in ’82 but I do remember Lion’s Den, Red Baron and there is one I don’t remember the name of for the life of me and it was a favorite. The only scene I remember right now was as if a roller coaster was spiraling forward and it was on a dark background. HELP!

    I sure loved mine and also the 3D Viewfinder.

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