The wonderful 3D diorama art of old View-Master reels

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As a kid, I was always sad/confused by the diorama versions of cartoons.
It was just so…off model for my 6 year old self.
Now, I’m like OMG this is awesome


While super cool, I’m a little sad they didn’t scan both and give it a bit of a wobbling gif treatment to show off the 3d-ness of it.


I inherited a Viewmaster and a bunch of reels so I don’t remember ever having a booklet to go with them. I just enjoyed the pictures and with these Flintstone ones especially I was fascinated by the level of detail. I wanted to know who made them and how and, if possible, make some myself.


We used to have a bunch of those - Disney’s Winnie The Pooh always impressed me.

Somewhere out there is a View-Master version of Fraggle Rock. They shot it on the studio set and the characters were fitted with armature wire and posed - except for Junior Gorg, because he just too fucking huge. So I had to stand still in these “action” poses while they took the shots - sounds easy but it wasn’t. Never saw the finished work. I’m sure one will turn up one of these days.


Do you think Wilma’s sexy?


Me too. I liked the Nature reels much better.

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I know, right?

When Google Cardboard came out, I thought it would be so cool to look at cleaned up, reformatted viewmaster reels in this new format. I’m still waiting.


I was about to give a talk on 3D comix before everything was cancelled. In my research I was delighted to find tons of comics-related Viewmaster reels. While most of the works on paper are anaglyph (red-cyan w/ glasses), these reels are almost exclusively photographed dioramas of dolls - which surprised me at first, but of course makes sense: with “proper stereoscopy” a stereo pair of photographs will have a more naturalistic effect (if that’s what you’re after!) while also being easier to produce, presumably. Manual post-conversion of b&w comics into anaglyph is finicky, especially pre-Photoshop.
You can observe interesting challenges - how do we “add a dimension” to our cartoon characters? How do we deal with typography, and speech bubbles in particular?
Here’s a cheeky visualization of the first problem:

And here’s a nice solution to both: (click through, there’s a lot of good ones there)

My first encounter with Viewmaster was right at the fall of the GDR: we had just moved from Poland to Germany, and for christmas I got a GDR-era toy “optics kit”. Mere months earlier it would have been imported – maybe it was and my parents held on to it, or got it for cheap (there’s a lot of sad scam stories in this vein).

(source; “Pewex” was the name of Polish intershops)

The binocular thingy you can see on the lower right of the cover is the DIY viewmaster, the reel is the paper with 6 stereo pairs. AFAIK it was dioramas of bears in kindergarden.

I think at 5 I was way too young for this kind of kit, but hey, look where it got me today. On a BBS yammering about my cancelled talk on 3D comix that 10 nerds would have seen :smiley:


The cover design looks remarkably like vintage European pornography.
So I’ve heard. I’m guessing, really.

I should not have commented…


No worries, your denial is plausible. Being British, how could you possibly know the good stuff from the continent, right? I mean, all you guys have is this:



I had one of those!
Besides doing optical experiments you could assemble the parts into something approaching a legit sci-fi laser gun.




I had a Snoopy vs. the Red Barron that had super gothic lighting. I think it still informs my aesthetics. (I think I still have).

A while back I saw a View-Master projector in a vintage bazaar and had to seriously sit on my hands to not buy it. I never knew such a thing even existed.

The other reel I could never forget was ‘The Little Yellow Dinosaur’.

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