Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector

Background

Welcome to the “Kenner’s Give-A-Show Projector” review. You may be asking, “What is the Kenner’s Give-A-Show Projector? Well, Nostaliga Central has a great description of it: “This large plastic projector from Kenner was basically just a torch and a lens. By sliding strips of slides through the projector you could project a 4 square feet image on to a screen or wall and ‘give-a-show.’ Its plastic casing changed shape and color over the years, but it always contained a bright projector light bulb and a slot that allowed the user to feed a strip of film through the light it emitted to create projected images. To put on a show, the Projector user dimmed the lights and aimed their Give-A-Show Projector at the blank wall of their choice. They then fed a projection strip containing six slides [seven in this version] through the side of the Give-A-Show Projector. The end result was a series of four-foot images that told a story to the viewers through words and pictures.”

According to the Star Trek Comics Checklist, the “Projector was first introduced in 1959.” By 1966, the sixteen strips starred Superman, the Three Stooges, Popeye, Mighty Mouse, Lassie, Secret Squirrel, Mr. Magoo, Fury, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Captain Kangaroo, Roy Rogers, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bozo the Clown, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Heckle and Jeckle, and Stingray. In the 70s, as you can see from the above link, Star Trek appeared as well as “Valley of the Dinosaurs,” Scooby-Doo, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and others.

Again, according to Nostalgia Central, “The most notable [new element] was the addition of sound, which was first achieved by adding a record to be played on a nearby record player while running the Give-A-Show Projector.”

But that’s all in the future, as far as we’re concerned. Our focus is the 1968 version of the Projector, which includes Spider-Man. Here’s a 1968 TV Commercial and if you freeze it at the 5 second mark and read upside down, you can see that the slide in the projector is “Spiderman.”

Story 'The Frustrated Phantom'

  Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector
Summary: "Projects bright Giant Size, Full Color pictures up to 8 ft. on any surface." Contains Spider-Man story.
Publisher: Kenner Toys

The box tells us that we’ll have “112 Color Slides” and “16 New Shows of TV Favorites.” Spidey is on the box but Kenner clearly thought the selling point was Superman. Still, note how they go from zero Marvel titles in their 1966 line-up to 3 by 1968.

When you open the box, you will see the projector packed in the middle with 8 slide strips on each side. The slide strips are numbered, so we might as well go in that order. They are:

  1. Superman
  2. The Lone Ranger
  3. Three Stooges
  4. Captain Kangaroo
  5. Off to See the Wizard
  6. Lassie
  7. Casper the Friendly Ghost
  8. Spiderman
  9. Fantastic Four
  10. Rocky & Bullwinkle
  11. Gentle Ben
  12. Bozo the Clown
  13. Popeye
  14. Thor
  15. King Kong
  16. Aquaman

To say the stories are simple is an understatement. It will take longer to describe each strip’s star than to tell the story.

I don’t know if my projector works anymore but I’m not even going to put in the 3 D batteries to test it. After all, I can look at the strips by holding them up to the light. So, let’s do that and let’s get started.

We begin with Superman. Everybody knows Superman, right? Right. But what about the “TV Favorites” reference? Well, Superman appeared in short segments called “The New Adventures of Superman” beginning in 1966. At the time that this set came out, these segments were appearing in “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure” (1967-1968). These two characters servie as bookends for this collection.

Okay, so, the story is called Asphalt Ambush. In it, two hoods grab Lois Lane at gunpoint with Superman just standing there. (One hood is in a snazzy yellow jacket and the other wears a green suit.) “Don’t follow us, Superman, or Lois Lane dies,” says one of them. (You can’t tell which because the dialogue is just written along the top of the slide.) Supes keeps standing there as they drive off. “I can’t follow them,” he thinks, “but I can get ahead of them.” He flies to a spot on the highway that the hoods haven’t reached. It appears that nobody else drives this road because Superman turns the asphalt to goo with his heat vision and waits for the hoods to drive right into it, stopping them cold (but, apparently, not injuring anyone). Superman sneaks onto the roof of their car with neither of them noticing. The hoods get out with one saying, “Get the girl. We’ll have to make it on foot!” But Superman grabs both of them and yanks them up to the roof. “Surprise, boys, things are looking up!” he says. And that…is that. But what do you expect from seven slides?

And everyone knows the Lone Ranger, right? Here’s a couple of tid-bits that you may not know. The Lone Ranger began on radio at WXYZ in Detroit in 1933, created by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle. Fran and George also created the Green Hornet (whose WXYZ radio show began in 1936) and they made him the great-nephew of the Lone Ranger; the Hornet’s real name being Britt Reid with the Ranger’s real name being John Reid. (But Wikipedia says, “Although the Lone Ranger's last name in the radio shows was given as Reid, his first name was never specified in any of the radio or television shows. Various radio reference books, beginning with Radio's Golden Age (Eastern Valley Press, 1966), give the Lone Ranger's first name as John. Some cite the 20th anniversary radio program in 1953 as the source of the name, but the Lone Ranger's first name is never mentioned in that episode.”) A number of actors played the Ranger on radio but the best-known Ranger is Clayton Moore (1914-1999) who played him in the TV series that ran from 1949 to 1957. Jay Silverheels (1912-1980) played his faithful companion, Tonto. However, the Lone Ranger appears in this set of “TV Favorites” because of the cartoon show that ran from 1966-1969. It starred Michael Rye (1918-2012) as the Ranger and Shepard Menken (1921-1999) as Tonto and it ran for 26 episodes.

Here’s the story from the strip, Tunnel of Terror. The Lone Ranger and Tonto hide behind a rock near the entrance to an old mine with a sign above the tunnel entrance that reads, “Old Mine.” A train track goes into the tunnel for the cars that transport the ore. The Ranger says, “We’ve tracked Killer Karl to his lair.” I assume it is the Ranger who says this but maybe it’s Tonto. It’s written along the top of the slide again with no tail pointed at a speaker. But inside the tunnel, Killer Karl waits with a Gatling gun pointed at the entrance. Karl gets too anxious and fires his gun before the Ranger and Tonto have stepped into the tunnel so they are able to back off, away from the gunfire. The Ranger tells Tonto to “Keep him covered,” which Tonto does by going back around the rock and not having a shot into the tunnel. The Ranger hops into an ore car and rides it down the track. He ducks down inside and Karl’s bullets bounce off the car. When the car reaches Karl, the Ranger leaps up and punches him in the jaw. “Now it’s my turn, Killer!” he says.

I’m not sure if everyone knows the Three Stooges these days. They were a Vaudeville comedy team that engaged in a lot of violent slapstick, eventually starring in a number of movie shorts that became TV staples. The team formed when, in 1922, Moe Howard (1897-1975) joined up with Ted Healy (1896-1937). Moe’s brother Shemp (1895-1955) joined them a few months later. Larry Fine (1902-1975) joined in 1928. The act was known as Ted Healy and His Stooges. Shemp left the group in 1933 and was replaced by his and Moe’s younger brother Jerome “Curly” Howard (1903-1952). The Stooges broke away from Ted Healy in 1934 and Healy died three years later under mysterious circumstances. As Wikipedia puts it, “Healy died on December 21, 1937, at the age of 41, after an evening of celebration at the Trocadero nightclub on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles…The circumstances surrounding his death remain a matter of some controversy. An MGM spokesman initially announced the cause as a heart attack, but the presence of recent wounds—a cut over his right eye and a ‘discolored’ left eye—combined with reports of an altercation at the Trocadero gave rise to speculation that he died as a result of those injuries. Healy's friend, writer Henry Taylor, told Moe Howard that the fight was preceded by an argument between Healy and three men whom he identified as "college fellows". The younger men allegedly knocked Healy to the ground and kicked him in the head, ribs, and abdomen. The wrestler Man Mountain Dean reported that he was standing in front of the Plaza Hotel in Hollywood at 2:30 a.m. when Healy emerged, bleeding, from a taxi. He related an ‘incoherent story’ of being attacked at the Trocadero but could not identify his assailant. Dean contacted a physician, Sydney Weinberg, who treated Healy at the hotel. Another friend, Joe Frisco, then drove him to his home. Wyantt LaMont, Healy's personal physician, was summoned to the home the following morning when Healy began experiencing convulsions. Despite the efforts of LaMont and a cardiologist, John Ruddock, Healy died later that day. Because of the circumstances, LaMont refused to sign Healy's death certificate. A later source alleged that the three assailants were not college boys but rather actor Wallace Beery, producer Albert R. Broccoli, and Broccoli's cousin, agent/producer Pat DiCicco. While no documentation is seen in contemporaneous news reports that either Beery or DiCicco was present, Broccoli admitted that he was indeed involved in a fist fight with Healy at the Trocadero. He later modified his story, stating that a heavily intoxicated Healy had picked a fight with him and the two had briefly scuffled and then shook hands and parted ways. In other reports, Broccoli admitted to pushing Healy, but not striking him. Following an autopsy, the Los Angeles county coroner reported that Healy died of acute toxic nephritis secondary to acute and chronic alcoholism. Police closed their investigation, as no indication in the report was given that his death was caused by physical assault.” In 1946, Curly Howard suffered a stroke and Shemp came back to replace him. Shemp died of a heart attack in 1955 and the others replaced him with Joe Besser (1907-1988) in 1956. Joe left in 1958 when Columbia stopped making film shorts. Joe DeRita (1909-1993), known as “Curly Joe” replaced Joe when the Stooges began making feature films. So it is Curly Joe who is the third Stooge in “The New Three Stooges,” a cartoon that ran one season from 1965 to 1966 and it is Curly Joe who joins Moe and Larry in this film strip.

The Three Stooges are firemen in Firehouse Frenzy and they all sleep in the same bed on the second floor of the firehouse, right next to the fire pole. The alarm goes off and they get ready for action. Somehow, Moe falls through the hole where the pole is…I think. (The action is not shown and the pole is nowhere to be seen in the spot where Moe hits the deck.) But, they’re all fine (oops, sorry, only Larry is Fine…bad joke) when they pile into the fire truck along with their Chief. They arrive at the burning house…a dog house…and they “bring up the hose,” only to get entangled in it. The Chief bellows, “Turn on the water, you nincompoop!” and, when Moe does, the Chief gets a blast of water right in his face. The final slide shows the Stooges running away, in single file, as the Chief chases them with an axe. One of them says, “Don’t hurt yourself with that axe, Chief.”

I know everyone doesn’t know Captain Kangaroo because I was in a conversation with some work colleagues recently about children’s TV programs. They were younger but not that younger than me and none of them had heard of Captain Kangaroo. So, a quick rundown on the Captain. Captain Kangaroo was, in reality, Bob Keeshan (1927-2004). He played Clarabelle the Clown on the original Howdy Doody Show, then went on to play Corny the Clown on a New York show called “Time For Fun” and Tinker in “Tinker’s Workshop.” In 1955, he got approval from CBS for his new show, “Captain Kangaroo” and he played the Captain for the next 30 years. The show was a bit like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood with the Captain interacting with his puppet friends, the eyeglass-wearing Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose along with his sidekick Mr. Green Jeans played by Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum (1910-1987). That’s about all you need to know for this story, I think.

In Mower Mayhem, Bunny Rabbit is an actual cartoon rabbit rather than a puppet. The Captain tells him, “It’s your turn to mow the lawn, Bunny Rabbit” and gestures at the push mower. But Bunny Rabbit starts it up and climbs on, using it like a rider mower. Shouting “Wheee!” he rides right into a hedge. (There are men doing yard work on each side of the hedge, so where did Bunny Rabbit come from? Neither looks like Captain Kangaroo’s yard.) Unable to stop, he plows into a carrot patch, which is apparently on the Captain’s property, and eats up all the carrots as he rides through. A stern Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans look at him amidst their decimated carrot patch. “Saying I’m sorry would be the understatement of the year,” says Bunny Rabbit.

“Off to See the Wizard” aired from 1967-1968, riffing off of the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz.” Wikipedia says, “Such was the popularity of the film among TV audiences by then that ABC decided to build an anthology series around it, a series which primarily showcased the first network telecasts of some of MGM's most popular recent live-action family films, much as Walt Disney had often showcased the first telecasts of his films on the Disney anthology television series. Animated versions of Dorothy Gale, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wizard of Oz book-ended each episode of the series, often providing humorous introductions to the films. Chuck Jones, who provided the animation, served as executive producer.” The live-action films included “Flipper,” “Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion,” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The Oz segments starred June Foray as Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West, Daws Butler as the Scarecrow and the Wizard, Don Messick as Toto and the Tin Man, and Mel Blanc as the Cowardly Lion.

In Enchanted River, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion (but no Toto) go out for a walk. The Wicked Witch casts a spell, putting them on an island in the middle of an enchanted river. The Wizard is watching on some kind of video machine. He casts a spell (“Abra Ka-Dee, Abra Ka-Dice, turn that river into ice!”) and “the river turns into ice cream bars.” The Wizard has an ice cream bar of his own and he says, “That’s the tastiest solution I’ve ever come up with.” (For those of you complaining that the Wizard shouldn’t be able to cast spells because he was a humbug, you should know that the Wizard eventually becomes a real Wizard when he returns to Oz and gets training from Glinda the Good. That, according to L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.)

Lassie needs no introduction…or does she? She began as a short story that was lengthened to a novel, then made into a film that was followed by sequels, and then she ended up on TV with her own series running from 1954-1973. In case the character is completely unknown to you, Lassie is a very resourceful collie dog. Here is the opening to the show from about the same time as the slide story.

And here is the slide story: Anchor Man. Some guy is out in a boat, fishing perilously close to a waterfall. He loses his oar and starts drifting toward the falls. Lassie is hanging around on shore. I don’t know if this is her owner or just some guy who knows her but he calls to her and then throws a rope to her. “If only she knows what to do with this rope!” She does. She wraps it around a tree, holding the boat in place just as it gets to the head of the falls. I suppose we have to imagine that the guy pulls his way back from the falls by tugging on the rope. In the last slide, he is back on shore and petting Lassie. “Thanks a million, Lassie girl!” he says.

We saw Casper the Friendly Ghost before in America's Best TV Comics #1 (Promoted Cartoon Show). His cartoon show, “The New Casper Cartoon Show,” premiered in 1963 and, according to Nostalgia Central, “added more characters, including the older and nastier Ghostly Trio, who never approved of Casper’s friendly ways. But Casper now also had friends – Wendy, the Good Little Witch; the self-proclaimed ‘tuff’ ghost Spooky; and Nightmare, a talking ghost horse – all of whom were on hand to join Casper in his adventures as well as star in their own segments.” None of them appear in this strip, entitled, Postal Poltergeist

A postman goes up to a house with a sign warning to “Beware of Dog.” He has reason to be worried. A big slavering bulldog chases him off the lawn. Casper appears and says, “Perhaps I can help, Mr. Postman. Let me go along for the ride.” He hops into the postman’s mailbag. The postman tries again and the dog goes after him again. But this time, Casper pops up out of the bag, saying, “Hello there, may I be of service?” and scares the dog away. The postman shakes Casper’s hand and says, “You’re a first-class mailman, Casper!”

At last, it’s time for “Spiderman.” Is it worth the wait? Er…

The Frustrated Phantom begins in mid-story. Spidey is running through a deserted amusement park. He heads for a Fun House, saying, “The Phantom ran in here.” He enters and is knocked out by gas. When he wakes up, he is tied to the roller coaster track and the Phantom, who is a guy in a cloak and cowl that totally shrouds his face in darkness, pulls the “Go” lever to send the cars down at the web-slinger. In true villain tradition, the Phantom doesn’t stick around to see what happens and, once he’s gone, Spidey uses his webbing to pull the “Stop” lever when the cars are only about 10 feet away. I’m not sure you can actually stop roller coaster cars on a dime once they are barreling down the slope but….am I really nitpicking a Give-A-Show slide? Well, since I am…I don’t know how Spidey frees himself but, as the Phantom walks along, telling himself, “The famous Spiderman is now but a memory,” the web-slinger strikes, kicking the villain in the rear with a KLOP. “A penny for your thoughts, silly Phantom,” says Spidey and it ends there without any real confrontation at all.

Now that we’ve dealt with the Spidey slide, you’re welcome to jump ahead to the end but I’m going to keep going with the Fantastic Four in Vicious Vine. “A giant plant is attacking the Space Center,” wrapping tendrils around a rocket ship with the FF looking on. It grabs Mr. Fantastic but he stretches his arm so that he punches the plant in the face with a SPLAT. (Yes, the plant has a face or, at least, it has eyes.) “C’mere ya overgrown eggplant,” says the Thing, wading in. The Human Torch flames on and roasts the plant. (They probably should have done this to begin with.) And, in true 60s fashion, the Invisible Girl does nothing. Mr. F. holds the limp remains of the plant in his hands as the Thing says, “First time we ever clobbered a weed.” So, who was the plant, where did he come from, why was he attacking a rocket ship? Oh, never mind.

Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose had their own cartoon show from 1959-1982, although the episodes were all-rerun after 1964. Their main adversary was the Soviet spy named Boris Badenov (named after the 16th century Tsar, Boris Godunov) and that’s probably all you need to know.

In Slingshot Sleuth, Boris smashes out through a window, yelling, “Ho ho! I haf ze plans!” He jumps on a “rocket scooter” and rides away. Rocky and Bullwinkle are nearby and Rocky pulls out a deflated inner tube (from where?) and says, “We’ll need our secret weapon to catch him!” He slips the inner tube onto Bullwinkle antlers and stretches it way back to catapult himself into the air with a KA-TWANG. “Wheee!” says Rocky. He lands on the scooter, knocking Boris off of it. “You can’t beat us when Bullwinkle uses his head, Boris!” says Rocky.

“Gentle Ben” was a 1965 novel that became a film called “Gentle Giant” and then a TV series that ran from 1967 to 1969. Ben was a bear who was a pet to the Wedloe family. Dennis Weaver, who played Tom Wedloe, and Clint Howard (brother of Ron), who played his son Mark, both also played those roles in the “Gentle Giant” film. Here are the opening credits from around the time of the projector.

In Midnight Fright, two crooks are trying to break into a window at the Wedloe home. One guy is jimmying it with a crow bar while the other stands behind him. Gentle Ben rises up behind the standing crook. He turns, sees Ben, and runs off. The other thinks the figure behind him is still his partner and responds to Ben’s “Grrruuuf?” with “Stop grumbling and hand me the flashlight.” When he gets no answer, he turns and says, “Look, stupid” but comes face to face with Ben who puts a paw on his chest. The crook runs off, smashing into a tree with a BONK. Tom and Mark arrive in the final slide and look at the unconscious crook. “Looks like Ben’s been playing watchdog again, Mark,” says Tom.

Bozo the Clown was created in 1946 for a children’s storytelling record and read-along book. He moved to television in 1949. Larry Harmon bought the creative rights to the character in 1956 and turned him into a franchise with different people playing Bozo in different local kids’ shows. I remember Willard Scott playing Bozo in the Washington D.C. area. (Scott was also the first person to play Ronald McDonald and became nationally known as the weatherman on the Today show.) There was also a cartoon show, Bozo: The World’s Most Famous Clown, that aired from 1958-1962 with Larry Harmon playing Bozo.

In Salty Solution, Bozo is pushing a cart filled with popcorn around the Big Top even though the stands are empty. He spots the trapeze artist, Fearless Fred, practicing and notices that Fred has forgotten to put up his safety net. He yells at Fred to “come down!” But the trapeze rope breaks (maybe because Bozo distracted Fred by yelling at him, causing him to grab the trapeze awkwardly?) and Fred falls. “I have to move fast,” says Bozo and he pushes the popcorn cart below Fred, who falls into the popcorn, landing safely. “Thanks, Bozo,” says Fred, “but next time, a little more salt!”

Everyone knows Popeye, right? Cartoonist E.C. Segar created him in 1929 in his strip “Thimble Theatre.” Max Fleischer created the first Popeye cartoons in 1933 and, since then, he’s appeared pretty much everywhere.

Deep Sea Dilemma finds Popeye reclining in a row boat barely big enough to contain him. (The boat’s name is “Olive.”) He has a fishing line in the water but is mostly sleeping and while he is sleeping, an octopus comes to the surface, grabs him, and takes him down to the sea bottom (which is only about ten feet below him). “I’ve had it,” says Popeye but then he spots some “sea spinach” on the sea floor. He eats the spinach, frees himself from the octopus, punches the octopus with a POWEE and goes back to sleep in his boat, with the octopus’ arms all tied in a knot below him.

Thor’s story is called Melt the Monster. Thor spots a “giant of gleaming crystal” and flies right at it. Instead of knocking the monster out, he passes right through because the giant is “made of ice.” The monster turns to him and says, “My icy grip will end your folly, Thunder God.” Thor raises his hammer and yells, “First feel the heat of my enchanted mallet, giant one!” He flies around the monster until it melts. “My worthy opponent is now but water,” Thor says. If you feel like you read this story in this review already, you did, back when it starred the Fantastic Four and was called Vicious Vine. It’s another monster that attacks for no reason only to be killed by the super-heroes, who don’t think twice about murdering him. Nice going, Thor. The monster was intelligent enough to speak (and use words like “grip” and “folly”) but you just did him in. Granted, he was getting ready to trash New York City…oh heck, why am I bothering?

Allow me to refer you to America's Best TV Comics #1 (Promoted Cartoon Show) again, where there is a story based on the King Kong cartoon series. “In the King Kong series,” I said in that review, “Professor Bond takes his children Susan and Bobby to Mondo Island. Bobby finds a valley full of prehistoric creatures and is rescued there by King Kong.” Bobby and Kong become buddies, which is all you need to know here.

In Erroneous Eruption, a villain who doesn’t even get a name, uses a “volcanic stimulator” to “remove those infidels from my island.” Who is this guy? Why does he think Mondo Island is his island? Who knows? He pulls a lever on his “stimulator” and the volcano, that is right next to the small community, erupts. Bobby points it out to Kong (though it is pretty obvious without him doing so) and Kong grabs a boulder and plugs the volcano with a FOOMP. In the backlash, the villain’s stimulator blows up with a POW. “Aargh! That cursed ape has ruined my plans!” he says.

And, finally, let’s look at Aquaman, now the star of his own film but, back then, featured in the Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure cartoon series. His story is All Clammed Up and it begins with a “giant sea glob” attacking a sub. (Yes, that’s right. A glob.) Aquaman swims up and grabs the glob. (“Let’s see how he likes being grabbed,” he says.) The annoyed glob releases the sub and swims after Aquaman who lures him to a giant clam. (The glob has eyes on stalks and a big mouth with sharp teeth. “My, what pretty teeth you have,” says Aquaman.) The glob springs at Aquaman, who swims away, allowing the giant clam to clamp down on the glob, trapping him. “My friend the giant clam will hold you for a while,” says Aquaman. But what about when the clam releases the glob? But, isn’t this story pretty much the same as the FF and Thor stories? But…but…but…

General Comments

So, what do you expect from 7 slides per episode anyway? Granted, the Spidey story isn’t great but it’s better than some. At least he’s not defeating the Phantom by melting asphalt…or melting his opponent. A number of stories are rather fun in their own simplistic way. The Lone Ranger, Captain Kangaroo, Off to See the Wizard, Casper, and Bozo are some of my favorites. It’s mostly the super-hero stories that suffer. Oh well, at least Spidey didn’t get the same story as the FF, Thor, and Aquaman. The point isn’t really the stories, anyway. It’s being able to project Spidey or Thor or even Captain Kangaroo in a big square on your wall. That’s pretty cool no matter what the story is. And, hey, some of the titles might even teach the kids some new words. Poltergeist, Sleuth, Dilemma, and Erroneous may have been added to young vocabularies.

Overall Rating

You know exactly how this is going to go. Much as I may enjoy some of them, there isn’t a story in the lot that’s worth a second look but the whole package is so cool, I just have to give it five webs. Especially with us all trapped in our homes. (Wishing the best outcome for all of you out there.) It may be time to put 3 “D” batteries in my projector, find a bare wall, and give-a-show!

Footnote

Next: Something totally unexpected. (Unless you’re following along with the chronology, in which case it’s totally expected.) Castle of Frankenstein #12.