Thursday, November 17, 2005

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 17: Media Tie-In Storybooks

Over the months here, I've remembered all sorts of toys, memorabilia and publications that were important to me growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Last week, I wrote about photonovels, and this week I want to feature a different kind of ancillary product: the movie/tv-tie in storybook.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, popular movies like Star Wars could be enjoyed a number of ways at home, though not yet through the splendor of DVD. One way was to
read a novelization (often written by the ubiquitous but quite wonderful Alan Dean Foster...).

But as a little kid, sometimes the novels were just too "grown up." So - as a kid first learning to read - your outstanding alternative was to purchase the storybook, a lavishly illustrated (and always colorful...) version of the film, made child-friendly. That's a euphemism for less gratuitous violence and no sex.

I remember reading the Star Wars storybook as a little kid, and enjoying the opening photo spread,
which featured little boxed photos of all the main characters. Here, I was introduced to the idea that Han Solo was a Corellian. I had never picked up that notion before, but storybooks were great for including just such unusual information.

Storybooks usually costed around $6.95 or so in the day, and were published by all kinds of publishing houses that had acquired the licenses to popular movies, including Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Storybooks are also usually printed in large "type" t
o make reading easy, and are often no longer than fifty pages. As a little kid, I sure loved reading 'em.

As an adult, I enjoy the storybooks for different reasons. They often feature a plethora of outstanding (and colorful) stills from the movie in question. For instance, the Star Trek III: The Search for Spock storybook features almost sixty gorgeous photos, many full-page in size. Even better, the storybooks sometimes featured shots that you didn't remember from the movie.

The Search for Spock storybook (by Lawrence
Weinberg) is again a perfect example, because it features two photos of a Klingon spy named Valkris wearing an elaborate mask/headpiece that is only glimpsed for an instant in the Leonard Nimoy film (and then only the lower portion). In the storybook, you get two bites at the apple, so-to-speak, and can view this neglected example of Klingon costume design.

Storybooks are still produced today (for films as diverse as Batman & Robin [1997] and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace [1999]), but more often than not they're flimsy softback products rather than the old-school hardcovers which I loved so dearly as a rug rat.

I've collected a number of storybooks over the years (including A View To A Kill, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and E.T.), and this week I'm displaying a bunch of 'em here. Unfortunately, my Dune Storybook is water damaged (pictured right). D'oh! You can see that my collection leans heavily towards films of the early teen years when I collected EVERYTHING.

I think my favorite storybook is from 1982's Tron, just because it's kinda rare. I would kill (well, not really...maybe just maim...) to get my hands on a Clash of the Titans Storybook
...don't even know if one was actually produced...


  1. Anonymous10:50 AM

    The coolest thing about the storybook for Star Wars was that it had the scenes of Luke watching the attack on the Rebel Blockade Runner through his binoculars as well as the famous Biggs at Anchorhead scene. I have thought for many years that the reason so many people seem to "remember" those scenes is because as kids we read that storybook over and over. I am with you, I really looked forward to getting those storybooks when I was a kid.

    -Chris Johnson

  2. Hey Chris!

    You know, I remember those scenes too. Luke was wearing a goofy granny hat with goggles, right? (It was also in the Marvel Comic, Issue # 1, which I covered on the blog). Have those scenes ever been restored?

    I didn't buy the special edition OT DVD set because I have the un-fiddled with special edition laser discs. Still, sometimes I wonder what I'm missing...