Children’s Home Video Companies You May Remember!

For every Hi-Tops and Children’s Video Library, there’s a Clubhouse Pictures, Atlantic/Kushner-Locke, Maltese Companies, Playhouse Video, and Southern Star Productions. Never heard of these children’s home video companies? By the time you’ve finished this article, you will have!

Previously, on Retroist…

We’ve covered the short life and history of Hi-Tops Video, as well as the shorter life of Children’s Video Library. We watched their logos, found out where you’ve seen them, and taken a trip down memory lane with some “coming attractions.” We laughed, we cried, we all remembered Rainbow Brite.

It was beautiful!

We knew these children’s home video companies. They graced many a VHS box, their releases were numerous, and their releases were memorable programs and movies. Plus, how could we ever forget a shoe lacing up before it jumps to the background, or a bunch of balloons flying toward us as the Irish Jig plays?

But, for these well-knowns, what about the little-knowns?

Children’s Home Video Companies: The Little-Knowns

My friends, not all nostalgia is beautiful or well-remembered. Take, for instance, children’s home video companies that are not as well known.

Not everything is Hi-Tops and its lacing shoe, or Children’s Video Library and its balloon-bouncing Irish Jig.

In fact, there existed…

Clubhouse Pictures

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I’m surprised by this one. Clubhouse Pictures was a sublabel/children’s home video company imprint of Atlantic Entertainment Group. Atlantic released children’s movies – Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (aka A Weird Animated Star Wars Ripoff), The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, He-Man and She-Ra: Secret of the Sword, and Here Come the Littles.

Hey, I never said they put out good children’s movies!

But Atlantic figured on why leaving well enough alone, when they could have a children’s division? Enter Clubhouse Pictures, whose releases included television shows (the animated Teen Wolf  Saturday morning cartoon), Heathcliff: The Movie, The Adventures of the American Rabbit, and Go-Bots: Battle of the Rock Lords. Again, not the greatest output. The sublabel only lasted from 1985 until 1987, with its parent company ending operations in 1989 amidst financial troubles.

Of the rare bunch, I love this logo. The animation is very 80s, there’s no music to detract from the “simple, but cute and effective,” and now very nostalgic nature of it. And who doesn’t love the sound of kids laughing?

Related to Clubhouse Video (and its parent company, Atlantic Entertainment Group/Atlantic Releasing) was another sublabel, Atlantic/Kushner-Locke.

Atlantic/Kushner-Locke

The Kushner-Locke Company existed as an independent film and television production company, handling children’s fare such as The Spiral Zone, the animated Teen Wolf TV series in its second season, The Brave Little Toaster movies, Pound Puppies: Legend of Big Paw, and Nutcracker: The Motion Picture. 

Founded in 1983, this company was independent of Atlantic, but combined with them for several films, and outliving them before meeting their end via bankruptcy in 2001.

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I actually like this logo, despite the flashing. I think it is the music not hitting me over the head that helps too.

And since some of these companies seemingly were connected, there was another related company called The Maltese Companies

The Maltese Companies

Founded in 1986, The Maltese Companies stayed afloat until 1990. I actually remember this logo from my days of watching Maple Town. This logo was also seen on The Spiral Zone. It also appeared on movies during the late 1980s (notably the 1988 TV-movie remake of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial). Of the logos I’ve named so far, this one is probably among the rarest, though it does get some stiff competition from Clubhouse Pictures in the “rare” department.

And it has nice logo music.

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Pretty bird. :-)

Oh, and this is the version used in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial:

I like the animation on this one.

Playhouse Video

Playhouse Video was actually part of 20th Century Fox’s CBS/Fox Home video, used from 1985 until 1991 to release children’s and family movies. They’re the only one on this list to be a sublabel of a higher profile (read: not independent film) company.

Playhouse Video releases included the Planet of the Apes movies from 1968-1973, Shirley Temple’s films, The Muppets, Mr. Rogers, and Dr. Seuss specials by DePatie-Freleng Enterprise. And for us Whovians out there, Playhouse Video also released the earliest Doctor Who videos.

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That’s pretty cool too!

I have enough of a memory to remember all of the logos in this article, but this one in particular is one I fondly remember from those aforementioned Dr. Seuss and Shirley Temple movies, as we carried those movies in our “catalog” section at the video store (movies split by genre that are over one year old).

I particularly like the colors and even the music is none to shabby. It has a pretty standard 80s sound.

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And finally, a production company that was actually the foreign counterpart of a well-known animation company in the United States…

Southern Star Productions/Hanna-Barbera Australia

Why ease you in? This logo is a “seeing is believing” sort.

In Australia, Southern Star Productions (now Endemol Australia, so yes, in some way it still exists) was Hanna-Barbera’s Australian division (called Hanna-Barbera Pty. Australia), established as such in 1972, with the Hamlyn Group acquiring 50% of Hanna-Barbera Australia in 1974. In 1984, Hanna-Barbera Australia established a Los Angeles division, bringing them to the United States as Southern Star Productions.

Programs produced by this company were animated in Hanna-Barbera’s Sydney, Australia studios, carrying the name Southern Star Productions/Hanna-Barbera Australia. In the United States, their programs included the animated Teen Wolf Saturday morning cartoon, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, The Berenstain Bears Show, Peter Pan and the Pirates (totally remember this!), Mad Scientist, and CBS Storybreak.

In 1988, the company’s Australia animation facilities were sold after Taft-Hardie’s buyout, and Southern Star Productions/Hanna-Barbera Australia operated until 1991, and sold to Turner Broadcasting System.

As for their logo, well, let’s just say Hanna-Barbera’s Australian cousin is a little freaky…

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Yikes, freakin’ lightning!

Also, this version, without The Berenstain Bears Show music (Upload via LogicSmash, I’m having trouble embedding the video).

Children’s Home Video Companies: The Little-Knowns Become the Now-Knowns

You know, I’d like to think that every logo is well-known by the nostalgic sort that remember them best, no matter how rare. Before doing the research for these logos, they were all ones I was familiar with from some passing point in my life. That is, with the exception of Southern Star Productions/Hanna-Barbera Australia, that one managed to slip the deep recesses of my mind until a decade ago, when I spotted it on YouTube. Yeah, I didn’t like it. Still don’t.

*Shudder*

It’s like the Screen Gems of the children’s world…with lightning!

Do You Remember Children’s Video Library?

The 1980s was saturated with companies vying for that sweet grasp of the budding home video market. When it came to children’s entertainment, the options were usually arms of other companies. For example, Heron/Media had Hi-Tops Video, and Vestron had…Children’s Video Library!

Previously, on Retroist…

In October 2017, I covered the (short-lived) history of Hi-Tops Video. Hi-Tops was the children’s division of Heron Communication’s Media Home Entertainment. The label’s responsibility was family-friend entertainment, specializing in Snoopy Videos, those ultra-rare Cricket cartoons, and Teddy Ruxpin’s animated adventures.

Its other specialty?

Coolest logo with catchiest music EVER!

In the over-saturated home video market of the 1980s, Hi-Tops saw competition in other sub-label companies. Specifically, one such competitor toting a bunch of balloons…and their parent company.

You didn’t think we were going to discuss the actual topic without looking at the entire company, did you?

Vestron Video

Stamford, Connecticut-based Vestron Video (the main subsidiary of Vestron, Inc.) was established in 1981 by Austin Owen Furst Jr. Furst, an executive at HBO, was hired to dismantle the assets of Time-Life Films, but instead bought the library himself and formed a home entertainment company with those assets.

The name “Vestron” came out of a suggestion by Furst’s daughter, combining the Roman Goddess Vesta, and Tron, meaning “instrument” in Greek.

So…Roman Goddess Instrument?

Fascinating.

In a nutshell, Vestron retained the Time-Life Films library, as well as releasing B-movies and movies from the Cannon Films’ library on video and CED Videodisc (so, B-movies and more B-movies?). Vestron also released Dirty Dancing, The Monster Squad, and An American Werewolf in London. Now, those are respectable titles. Conversely, though, they released The Devil’s Gift. That ugly, dark, and annoying movie made great material for Mystery Science Theater 3000, so you’re fully aware of what Vestron was known for.

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Yeah, this.

Vestron’s fortunes turned against them as moviegoers’ interests changed, as audiences preferred “A” movies, rather than just anything (as Vestron was known for). As a result, Vestron’s financing fell through, forcing them to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Blame the twenty (?!) “B” and “low A” titles Vestron committed to in sealing that fate. LIVE Entertainment purchased Vestron’s 3000-plus home media catalog for $27.3 million in 1991.

But Vestron was not just Vestron during its lifespan. Like other home video companies of the time, Vestron had sub-labels, international distributors,  and a children’s and family-friendly sub-label.

Children’s Video Library

Vestron’s Children’s Video Library established itself as the company’s children and family-friendly home video label, operating from 1983 until 1987.

Children’s Video Library releases included well-known licensed character cartoons (Rainbow Brite, GoBots, and My Little Pony, among others), as well as the live-action primetime special The Huggabunch, Reading Rainbow, and various children’s movies. All videocassettes featured this darling of a logo bookending the contents of the videocassette…

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My child memory messed up my recollection of this logo. How so? In my early twenties, I explained this logo as “a bunch of balloons bouncing toward the the viewer,” when it was actually “flying” in a sort of corkscrew path toward us.

And that jingle? Hi-Tops’ memorability factor didn’t hinge on an Irish Jig nightmare jingle. I’d be lying if I said nothing about this logo scared me as an adult. There was absolutely nothing wrong with watching logos on this crazy new website called YouTube all night…

Oh.

Anyway…

Children’s Video Library boasted affordable family entertainment…

…as long as you didn’t live in Canada.

Seriously, this video costs $67.55 USD in today’s times. If you live in Canada, a My Little Pony videocassette of the pilot episode costs…$90.11. (Source: Dollar Times)

As I said, totally affordable.

The Life (and Death) of Children’s Video Library

Vestron’s children’s sublabel began in 1983, and effectively ended in 1987. I can’t find anything stating why, but after watching the how-to video about showing off at parties last week, the sublabel’s demise seemed inevitable.

And just because the label is defunct and the videos long out of print, it doesn’t mean YouTube isn’t crawling with awesome Children’s Video Library finds. And you’d love to see those, wouldn’t you?

Why yes, of course you do!

VIDEOS!

Submitted by YouTubers, for the express purpose of entertaining the nostalgic, a sampling of Children’s Home Video’s offerings!

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Considering that Children’s Video Library releases are long off the market, these videos look well-preserved; heck, even the horribly saccharine logo and jingle look great.  For this reason, this proves that the videocassettes are in the right hands. That, my friends, gives me much nostalgic happiness.

I’d say that, by association, this logo does the same, but it still feels unsettling.

How To Be Cool At Parties…With Malcolm-Jamal Warner!

Oh Malcolm-Jamal Warner, you’ve already taught me how to stay safe when I’m home alone. Now you’re going to teach me how to be cool at parties?

Vestron (and Children’s Video Library) Wrote The Book (Or, Made The Video) on How To Be Cool At Parties!

Have you ever wanted to make a splash at your next party, whether hosting or attending? Look no further than Malcolm-Jamal Warner – and an array of people you wouldn’t invite to your next party – hosting Show Off! How To Be Cool at Parties.

That’s right, from budget home video label Vestron’s Children’s Video Library, comes to the key to popularity and promises of many more party invites. All because you watched Show Off! How to Be Cool at Parties, and said “hey! I can do all of this!”

But, before we start, and this is REALLY important…

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That song will stick with you, and you’ll fight the temptation to punch the television and pop those balloons!

Why, you get to see all these amazing things!

And who better to host this walk-though of potential coolness, other than Malcolm-Jamal Warner. He already taught you how to be safe when home alone, why not how to be cool…at parties?

I’d say you’re in for the greatest how-to guide of them all, but it’s more like comedians/assorted odd people you would never invite to your party teaching you how to be cool enough to be invited. It’s like…they want to live vicariously through you!

As for the party tricks, they’re a bit eye-rolling.

For instance…

The String Trick!

Malcolm’s contribution to the party!

Upside Down Face Lip Syncing!

“I’m gonna up, up, upside down!

I laughed, but a part of my soul also cried.

Beatboxing!

This was actually cool – he’s the voice of Skeeter on Doug, and becomes clear later on!

Thumb Wrestling!

And now for sports…if thumb wrestling was considered a sport.

I picture the liveliest of parties involving a small wrestling ring, fingerless gloves, and “one, two, three, four, this is how we start a war!”

Is this a party for third graders?

Straw Paper Worm!

My straw paper art is way more exciting!

The Imaginary Stairway!

I first saw this on an episode of The Hogan Family…as demonstrated by Sandy Duncan.

One of the oldest, funniest, and at the same time, most eye-rolling gags ever.

Levitating!

Not on a magic carpet, but still, wouldn’t that be awesome!

It’s actually done with your feet. Which is actually…quite depressing.

Making an Exit!

…and smashing your face on the door!

Ouch!

Trying to exit through a locked door…or is it locked?He thinks he’s the COOLEST!

But wait, there’s a dog just waiting at the door, planning their attack upon exiting?

She’s the worst of the bunch, until later on…

The Bicycle Horn!

(I’m so sorry about the screenshot on the right).

The Finger Dangle!

Meh.

The T-Shirt Sheikh!

Offensive in every way possible!

Complete with low budget camel!

Did anyone say “HUMP DAAAAAAAAAAAY?!”

Pencil Tricks!

Bending the pencil…

…rubberizing said pencil…

and making a coin disappear…with a pencil!

Incredibly…lame!

The Invisible Piano!

From offensive to…actually, I like this one. I wouldn’t bust it out at a party, but it’s pretty funny!

But from this we get…

Window Tricks!

Sometimes, she makes such a scary face, she even scares herself!

MAKE IT STOP!!!!

The Imaginary Ball Trick!

His “ball” is blue, and he takes it everywhere with him.

Mmmmkay…I could make a joke about a blue ball, but I won’t.

How about…

Juggling!

The Dancing Scarf!

And finally, because this trainwreck can’t go on forever…

Hawaiian Nose Humming!

Which looks like something entirely different altogether.

And how about that amazing cast of fine mentors of the art of being cool at parties?

The “How To Be Cool at Parties” Players!

A few of these fine folks did nothing/next to nothing beyond this video, but some of them are actually comedians, writers, and Fred Newman is a voiceover artist. And Friedhoffer is an actual magician!

And as we move on to the credits, which display a set reminiscent of what happens when Pee-Wee’s Playhouse goes on a three-day bender…

We are then treated to the horror of this logo all over again…

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Which, by the way, is terrifying at 3 am. Not sure why that’s important, but it is.

Because I’ve never sat up at 3 am watching logos!

And this reminder…

Catalog valid until 1987.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to find out what it takes to be cool at parties?

Well, wonder no more! You’re about to live it!

Show Off! How To Be Cool at Parties!

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As we close out yet another golden moment of weirdness from the dustiest of archives, I wonder who this video was marketed at. No, hear me out. The video was distributed by Children’s Home Video, the family-friendly arm of Vestron Video, itself a (former) distributor of various instructional videos. This isn’t exactly the type of film that targets high school partygoers. Heck, I bet it wouldn’t even target middle school partygoers.

Which means one thing, and one thing only…How To Be Cool at Parties is made for the cool Kindergarten parties!

Nah, that’s harsh. It’s more mature for first grade parties.

I’m going to walk away now.

Oh look, my ride is here!

That’s a Not Bicycle. I’m talking about this ride!

Don’t be jealous, T-Shirt Sheikh!

Home Alone With Malcolm-Jamal Warner (And Friends!)

In the mid-1980s, Malcolm-Jamal Warner was not just Theo Huxtable, he was the host of several child-friendly pseudo-instructional videos on various topics, from being cool at parties to a home safety video for those times kids find themselves…home alone!

Home Safety Video For Kids…Starring Kids!

And now for a whole other kind of training video of the “departure from my usual training video” type!

I’m talking a home safety video for the younger set!

In 1987, Nelvana Limited and Hi-Tops Video produced a home safety video called Home Alone: A Kid’s Guide to Playing it Safe When On Your Own.

Malcolm-Jamal Warner hosts the program, along with a cast of child actors, all of whom were actual working child actors, and none of whom appear on the box cover.

I’m serious.

Now, before we start, I have something important to get out of the way!

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Ah yes.  Now we can start!

Anyway, the actual kids…

From right to left (As they introduce themselves): Alyson (Alyson Court), Sunny (Sunny Besen-Thrasher), Mike (Ian Heath, because why use his real name?), and Wendy (Wendy Chong).

For those not in the know, Alyson and Sunny were prominent voice actors who (at the time) starred as siblings in the live-action My Pet Monster, Wendy was a regular on The Elephant Show, and Ian/Mike made appearances on The Edison Twins (Sunny played the twins’ younger sibling, Paul) and starred in the mini-series Anne of Avonlea. He’s probably the least well-known of the four child actors. Malcolm himself was playing Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and is the only non-Canadian of the group.

So…did he go up to Canada to film this?

The video’s aim is to teach kids how to stay safe in any possible situation when by themselves. The instruction is done through scenarios and role play, and done in a way that kids understand.

And there’s kiddie game show-style theme music and eighties transition magic. Because 1987.

What scenarios do they act out, you ask?

Scenario #1: How to Safeguard Your Key

Featuring giant keys on a string around your neck, or attached to your belt loop, and Malcolm wearing a black Halloween mask and ski cap!

Scenario #2: Kitchen Safety (Making a Snack)

Not using sharp knives, the stove, or the oven. Also featuring Alyson Court’s giant sandwich!

 

I saw My Pet Monster. The Giant Sandwich and Sunny Besen-Thrasher in the same room does not end well, trust me!

And Malcolm’s slightly evil face next to knives.

I kid you not.

Scenario #3: Person at the Door

Malcolm tries to convince the kids to let him in, and almost succeeds with Wendy and Alyson.

Malcolm: “Knock, knock!”

Sunny: “Who’s there?”

Malcolm: “Boo-hoo.”

Sunny: “Boo who?”

Malcolm: “Don’t cry, I’m here to fix the hot water heater!”

Scenario #4: Phone

That phone and its giant buttons are on point!

Scenario #5: Problems with Utilities (Water, Gas, Electricity) And First Aid

Malcolm demonstrates turning off water or gas in the event of a leak, and explains what to do if the power goes out.Malcolm reviews the First Aid kit, creating a contact list, and what to do in the event of a fire.

Scenario #6: Medical Emergency

Alyson and “Officer Warner” go over what to do in the event of a medical emergency.

And now that you know all of this, time to…

Put The Home Safety Video Details Together!

Mike/Ian and Wendy (as “Dad” and “Mom”) review all the scenarios and explanations with their “son” Malcolm.

And now that you know everything there is to know from this home safety video…

Make A Plan!

Create a plan that works well for you, practice it, and watch this tape once a month to refresh your memory. After all, Hi-Tops did throw this at the beginning of the video…

It is a nicer way of saying “BUY THIS HI-TOPS VIDEOCASSETTE!”

So, what do you think? You know the scenarios, but how about seeing them played out by our young stars?

Well, you’re in luck!

Home Alone: A Kid’s Guide To Playing It Safe When On Your Own

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Takeaways From Home Alone: A Kid’s Guide To Playing It Safe When On Your Own

1. Staying safe while home alone (especially at a younger age) never becomes a dated concept.

2. There was a time when cell phones didn’t exist, and we relied on handwritten contact lists and the home phone.

3. Alyson listened to records or the radio. A modern-day kid wants to know what a record is.

4. Sunny will get robbed or kidnapped leaving his window open and door unlocked.

(The perp won’t look like Malcolm-Jamal Warner).

5. Malcolm-Jamal Warner looks slightly evil standing next to knives.

That might be my screenshot skills, but seriously, that expression!

The music sting after each “incorrect” response makes so much sense!

And finally…

6. Giant Sandwich a la Alyson!

And now that you know how to stay safe, 1987 style, it is time to put these strategies and to work! So write up your contact list in huge letters, put your giant key on a string around your neck, and don’t answer the door for anyone!

Stranger Danger? Never heard of it in 1987!