Believe it or not, this childhood toy, which transfixed me in the late '80s, was actually made available in 1939, when the retail sales of View-Master viewers and disks first started. The idea was to create stereoscopic images, where two film slides are viewed simultaneously, one for each eye, to simulate binocular depth perception and make the picture appear three-dimensional.
It was in August '89 that the View-Master product line was sold, for the third time, to Tyco, which then merged with Mattell and became a Fisher-Price toy. In total, there have been about 25 different models of viewers and 1.5 billion disks produced, although the fundamental design and viewing experience remains pretty similar, unlike so many other inventions (what would Alexander Graham Bell think of the iPhone?).
I remember looking at pictures of Snow White through the View-Master and feeling like I was the sole observer of a completely separate world. As soon as you place your eyes to those little holes, you're lost to everyone else on the outside; and as you pull down that plastic lever and hear the reel click into place, a new picture sucks you in even deeper.
For me at least, the magic of the View-Master sure beats 3D movies or rides or tv screens. There's something so purely simple about the optical illusions you enter in your solitary, private, tiny viewing of View-Master images. Even Noi the Albino (from the Icelandic film of the same name) was able to escape his wintry white, lonely world and enter sunnier landscapes via View-Master. It's one of the most poignant moments in this beautiful film, and certainly one surreal and wonderful element of my childhood.