Today’s collectible has somehow traveled all the way from England, and from the past, to the present. This Walt Disney Film Strip Lantern, or ‘projector’ as they would later be called, likely dates from the early to mid 1940s.
I’ve had this in my collection for years but have only recently rediscovered it while I was looking for items to put in a yard sale. It didn’t sell and now I can’t imagine parting with it!
After researching the entire Internet (would you believe that?) I came across a wonderful site called Photographic Memorabilia, based appropriately in the UK, for this product. You can click the link for a much more detailed look at the history of this Lantern. I appreciate the permission from Maurice Fisher to use some of the information from his site to populate this post!
I feel very fortunate to have such a complete and intact version of this Lantern! The box is a bit worn but has the original yellow stick-on images. The gentleman who restored the Lantern you will see if you click the link to the PM site, Gavin Ritchie, was missing the box and wished to create a replica. He had the top image but not the side images to do so. I was happy to supply these to him so he could complete his replica!
So what do I have with my Lantern?
First, I have three complete strips of film, containing six 12-frame stories. Two of these strips were still in the original boxes:
I learned that there were three versions of this Lantern produced. Because mine has both a switch on the front (which appears to engage the battery, and so turns on the unit) and the metal handle on top, I have an earlier version.
Dusty and dingy but intact and hopefully working! I will need to source a battery to check. You can see images of the battery compartment, the bulb (of which I have four) and the wooden rollers used to advance the film strips below:
Thanks again to PM I now know what type of battery I need and how it is used. Hopefully the Internet will yield up one or two for me to purchase!
It’s one thing to find a vintage device that works and quite another to find it with all of the original documentation! To begin with what I have, you can see and read the advertisement flyer for the Walt Disney Film Strip Lantern below:
Next, I can present the ‘How to Use’ booklet:
This would be a good place to pause and talk about Johnsons of Hendon. I received some updated information about the years that this company operated under this name before adding ‘Ltd.’ at the end. It appears that the time period covered would be between 1943 and 1948. So we can date the Lantern I have from between those years.
Another way to date merchandise is from the characters that are included on the packaging and those that are not. In this case, Jiminy Cricket (1940) and Bambi (1942) appear on the box but Cinderella (1950) does not. This correlates the dating of the Lantern to between 1943 and 1948.
This mechanical wonder is promoted as ‘any child can use it’ but I take issue with that! After playing with the film threading process for a bit, I would find it hard to believe a young child could get the hang of it and manage to advance the film cells in sync with the spoken scripts.
And speaking of the films and the scripts, let’s have a look at them now:
The titles of the films and scripts don’t always match exactly but the stories do gel. Although there were 24-frame stories, mine are divided into two 12-frame stories on each strip of film. So each script page has a story on one side and another story on the other side to coincide with the film strip it came with.
Some of the films are innocent enough but some are insensitive by today’s standards. Mickey Mouse Crusoe for example has stereotypical depictions of ‘natives’ that would not be acceptable today.
Pluto gets his own feature (script above, top right):
Of course, Mickey Mouse appears in most of the films. And there is a holiday story as well:
Lastly, and I heard you say “Thank Goodness!”, I have this 6-frame paper holder:
If threading the film through the Lantern with the wooden rollers seemed too difficult, a child could more easily clamp the first six images into this device and push it across the light aperture.
And we are done! Almost.
I am planning a series of YouTube videos on the Disleelandia Channel that will go live soon (ish). They will show each slide as they would have been seen using the Lantern but with a cast of my friends providing the voices for the characters that are starring in each story. My hope is that it will harken back to the days of the old radio programs that were such a staple in the lives of so many who lived in the 1940s when the Walt Disney Film Strip Lantern was sold!
As they say: “Coming Soon!”