Projecting Play

The Give-A-Show Projector and Children’s Audiovisual Media Toys of the Mid-20th Century

Authored by: Meredith A. Bak

The Routledge Companion to Media Technology and Obsolescence

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138216266
eBook ISBN: 9781315442686
Adobe ISBN:


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In a television commercial for Kenner’s Play N’ Show combination phonograph and picture viewer/projector (ca. 1969) a blonde, pig-tailed girl addresses the camera. “You know what?” she begins, “My brother has a real color TV!” The commercial cuts to her older brother staring into a screen embedded in a plastic console that resembles a cross between a television set and an Apple II computer. He turns to the camera and corrects his sister. “It’s not a TV! It’s Kenner’s Play N’ Show.” He goes on to explain the toy’s picture records, which synchronize audio narration to still-picture slide shows featuring characters such as The Flintstones and Yogi Bear. Astonished by the appearance of Yogi Bear, the little girl repeats again: “Isn’t this a nice TV?” and again her brother corrects her. The commercial’s simultaneous reliance upon and disavowal of television is curious. The Play N’ Show is a toy that closely resembles a TV and was advertised on TV, yet despite the little girl’s insistence that it is a TV, her brother and the adult voiceover narrator reconfirm that it is a separate medium altogether. The Play N’ Show was the latest in a string of media toys sold by Cincinnati-based company Kenner, which boasted a wide product range of toy phonographs including the Close ’N Play, hybrid picture/sound players such as the Play N’ Show, toy televisions like the Change-A-Channel TV Set, the Easy-Show movie projector, and the company’s most well-known slide projector, the Give-A-Show, on the market from roughly 1959 to 1980.

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