Thursday, August 20, 2009


Na-no, na-no, culture lovers! Let's say it's 1979 and you like the TV show "Mork & Mindy". And let's also say you missed seeing the pilot from last fall, or you saw it but really want to see it again. What can you do? You probably didn't tape it, because VCRs are around but they're about $800 - $1000. Syndication is a few years away and the DVD release is *gasp* 25 bleems in the future. Shazbot! But wait...maybe you can read it. Video Novel to the rescue!

From 1977-1980, there was a brief publishing experiment where the movie was told using word balloons superimposed over stills from the movie. These were different from movie novelizations, where a movie is told in prose form. Called fotonovels, video novels or photostories (depending on the publisher), the brevity of the fad only enhances the bizarre kitsch factor.

There is a comprehensive list of these fotonovels. Of interest to me is that "Mork & Mindy" is the only sitcom. Most of them are geared towards science fiction, though movies like 'Rocky II' and 'The Champ' were also intended to appeal to kids. John Travolta headlines two of the novels - 'Grease' and 'Saturday Night Fever'. "Star Trek" is the fotonovel king! Twelve episodes and the first two films were adapted into fotonovel form. The brand was so strong that the 'Star Trek II' photostory was released in 1982, two years after everyone else stopped making them!

Movies and TV shows were once fleeting things. Here and gone. If you really liked a movie you had to see it multiple times, because when were you going to see it again? Folks today who see a new movie multiple times are just strange, since it will be out on DVD in about 3 months. That's why network TV premieres of movies used to be a big deal, but now they're a ho-hum enterprise. Movie memorabilia of the past, such as movie posters, was a way of owning a piece from a movie you liked. I guess movie novelizations filled this role as well. Though with the prevalence of home video I can't understand why they're still being written. You don't need a souvenir to remind them of the movies you like because you can own the movie. I'm not sure why the fotonovel didn't have a long life. Perhaps they seemed as goofy back then as they do today.

I know what your thinking (if you've read this far), a whole blog entry about a "Mork & Mindy" book? Matt must be putting me on...

1 comment:

Randy Reynaldo said...

I still have that Lord of the Rings fotonovel of the Bakshi film! Being a big LoTR fan, it was great to own to re-live the film, esp. in the days before VHS.