thrift store finds: movie storybooks

Let’s talk about movie storybooks, shall we?

The format still exists, but in this day and age of home entertainment and instant access to everything on the internet, it’s in a somewhat weakened state. These are oversized picture books filled with production stills, movie storybooks were somewhat elaborate retellings of hit movies.

The appeal of these books was the same as for movie novelizations and photo novels – in the days before you could look up an image on Google or read a recap on a movie news website, these books let kids experience the films they loved without having to beg their parents to take them to the same flick a second time.

Here are three storybooks I’ve run across in the past few months, with limited commentary.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Storybook, written by Shep Steneman, published by Random House in 1980. The copy I found is from a library sale and in pretty rough shape, from its’ cracked and taped binding to the weird smiley face sticker in the corner.

Normally I let beaters like this book pass me by, but I bought it because it reminded me of the copy my elementary school’s library had. Boy, lemme tell you… the ESB Storybook was a BIG deal when I was a kid. You had to put your name on a waiting list for it, something which was reserved for only the MOST popular books at Maybrook Elementary School’s tiny library.

As with most movie-to-book projects, this storybook is based on some early cut of The Empire Strikes Back and while it retells the complete story as we know it, included is also this picture, which fascinated the HELL out of Mrs. Bauer’s first grade class:

21b, the medical droid who helped Luke Skywalker recover from his time lost on Hoth, is examining a Tauntaun. What IS this? Was it Luke’s Tauntaun? Han’s? What’s going on?!? It was little discoveries like this which made storybooks crazy fun. Of course, most of the excitement was seeing all the costumes and details up close… but seriously, what is 21b doing there?

Next up Santa Claus: The Movie Storybook, written by Joan D. Vinge, published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1985.

A tie-in to the box office dud starring Dudley Moore, I initially picked this up because of the cute little “Elf Made” stamp on the bottom right corner of the cover.

This is a nod to the movie, wherein all the toys made by Santa’s elves are stamped with a similar seal. I like the idea that the merch for a movie was created and made by the people starring in the movie. Plus, I saw the flick when I was a kid. I remember it not being very good… but if these posts have taught you anything, I’m weirdly nostalgic even about the crappier pop aspects of my youth.

Vinge is a Hugo award winning author but, if I can be frank, she’s not been given a ton to work with here. Santa Claus: The Movie was pretty wretched, a strange sort of attempt to turn ol’ Saint Nick into some kind of superhero character, with the most memorable performance coming from John Lithgow as the grinning villain of the piece.  I can’t imagine this was high on anyone’s Christmas wish list, unless there was some kid dying to re-experience the majesty of the scene where Santa walks around the North Pole in his nightgown.

You get what I’m saying? Santa just doesn’t have the same appeal as a slam-bang sci-fi storybook like Star Wars or our final example of the genre…

Ghostbusters II: The Movie Storybook, published by Scholastic in 1989… written by “Jovial” Bob Stine.

He’s better known to most readers today as R.L. Stine, creator of Goosebumps, Fear Street, and any number of other YA horror novels. Stine’s a perfect fit for this book, with his penchant for the macabre fitting in equal parts with his love of yukks. This is the best of the lot by a WIDE margin.

I can tell you I bought a copy of this when the Scholastic Book Fair came to my school in ’89. During my formative years, the Book Fair was a BIG deal… and they usually had a Ghostbusters book or two in stock. I guess Scholastic knew a group of easy marks when they saw them.

Again, the book follows the plot of the second GB flick but veers very little from the established movie. The only scene in the book which isn’t in the movie is the final shot, where the city of New York has a celebration for the Ghostbusters on Liberty Island.

Anyhow: movie storybooks. It looks like some publishers are still making them… but not with anywhere near the frequency. They’re fun artifacts of a bygone era!

One Response to “thrift store finds: movie storybooks”

  1. I actually drew the logo for that elf made stamp out and then converted it into a vector and sent it to a company that makes rubber stamps.

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