Exploring Chutes and Ladders: The VCR Board Game

Folks, I’ve gone and done it! I located a board game I knew existed, mentioned, but could not find proof of…until a few days ago. Prepare thyself, we’re tackling the longest chutes and highest ladders of Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game!

Previously, on Retroist…

Like everything else nostalgic that I cram into the deepest recesses of my brain, I never forgot the video and its animation. So imagine my surprise when, after thirty years, I found a short clip on YouTube after mentioning this game briefly in a past Retroist article. Alas, I didn’t find the full video until recently.

Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game!

Milton Bradley released the Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game in 1986. It wasn’t their first VCR-adapted board game, and it wouldn’t be their last. The VCR-based games (at least, this one and its Candy Land counterpart) were unique in that no reading was necessary, children didn’t have to push buttons on the VCR, and the video gave all the instructions one needed. Plus, it had the added bonus of turning gameplay into a fun story.

Chutes and Ladders contained four games/stories (two that relied on sounds, and two more that relied on numbers), each increasing in skill level. I actually played the Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game, as it was the version I owned. I believe it was a birthday present for my fourth birthday. I’m not sure how long we kept it, but like any good nostalgic toy that wasn’t deemed such, it disappeared sometime during my childhood. I’m convinced it either met the trash can or a yard sale.

Either scenario is depressing, friends.

Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game: The Details

Meet Reggie and Bobby.

Everything is a competition in their world, and they turn this allegedly healthy competition into the basis of the first of four different “story games.”

What are those games, you ask (including theirs?)

Thrills and Chills

A game of numbers. Players put the number cards on the board, number side up. When players hear the audio prompt (a whimsical chime), they are to remove a number card from the game board.

In this story, Bobby and Reggie compete at everything (scariest ride, how much junk food they can eat), as their female friends Joanie and Sally Ann watch on.

The Golden Cuckoo

A game of sounds. Players put the picture cards on the board, picture side up. Upon hearing a sound effect prompt, they are to remove the corresponding card from the game board.

Bobby and his sister, Pam (who looks suspiciously like the one girl from the previous story), are baby-sitting their brother, Baby Todd. They discover stairs beyond their front door, and explore the amazing, psychedelic world beyond that door. It’s a world chock full of strangeness – a rooster, balloons, a horse, and a train.

Ricky and Nikki vs. The Space Dragons

Another game of numbers. This one involves Bobby and Reggie’s friends, siblings Ricky and Nikki.

On a snowy day, Ricky and Nikki draw pictures with their crayons. Amidst all this, a spaceship lands in their yard (where’s the snow??), and  takes them to the stars, to a planet where they will help the aliens.

The Case of the Lost Choo-Choo

Another sound game. Sherwood and Dottie (two more of Reggie and Bobby’s friends), as “Sherwood Holmes” and “Dottie Watson” (wink wink, nudge nudge) are on the case of a lost choo-choo, but encounter many other sounds along the way.

Sherwood sounds like he’s channeling his inner Inspector Gadget/Maxwell Smart voice (one in the same, since Don Adams played both characters). They explore a farm, a carnival, store, street, car, and railroad crossing in search of the train. Will they find it? How many sounds can possibly heard at one time?

Since the purpose of this game was not giving kids an opportunity to operate the VCR other than start (and obviously stop) the video, Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game gave players ample time to setup the board via transition segments.

These segments involved eating ice cream cones the fastest, a cuckoo clock that will signal the start of the next game once the bird pops out, and a spinning robot.

This was the clip that helped me rediscover the game in the first place!

So now that you know the game exists, and understand its gameplay, how about we actually watch it in action?

Let’s Play the Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game!

Well, not really play, but we can watch the video…can’t we?

Work with me, folks. I don’t own the game anymore!

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And If You Liked Chutes and Ladders…

You’ll love Candy Land: The VCR Game!

No lie, the conclusion of this video is an advertisement. They literally pad out the thirty-minute run time with a quick ad for Milton Bradley’s other classic childhood game given the 1980s upgrade!

Oh, and did anyone else notice during the first game that Reggie’s skin color changed, like the artists couldn’t agree on his ethnicity?

Availability

Chutes and Ladders VCR Board Game came onto the market in 1986 (the original version had been around since 1943), but very little information exists on this version of the game. I’d say it was available at least through the mid-late 1980s. As I said, I received it in 1986 as a birthday present. I’m not sure how much play-ability we got out of it, but with four different segments, one could easily fill forty-five minutes between setting up, actual game play/resetting the board, and cleanup. Not a bad distraction for the kids, right?

The cool aspect of this game is not needing to read instructions, and only needing to hit play. However, after watching the video, I’m not entirely convinced that kids wouldn’t need to hit pause while resetting the game board. That’s the only part of this that bothers me. I’m thirty-five years old and of reasonable intelligence. And I don’t think the transition scenes give enough time to put all the cards back on the board. Another thing about the board – the chutes and ladders side.  Does that seem superfluous to you? This isn’t traditional Chutes and Ladders, you’re removing cards based on numbers and sounds. Why do you need a “Chutes and Ladders” side…unless this is two versions in one? Because based on what I’ve gathered from the video, this version of Chutes and Ladders is nothing like the original game.

Nevertheless, the video is thoroughly entertaining. If someone handed this version to me and told me to have fun (again, I’m thirty-five years old), I would enjoy it. I don’t recall having the original version, just this one. And I’m glad I only had this one, I’m betting I had a blast with it!

But Wait, There’s More!

Chutes and Ladders wasn’t the only Milton Bradley game to get the traditional board game to 1980s VCR Game treatment. Candy Land also got the distinction. And guess what? I found that video too!

Didn’t think you were getting off that easy, did you?

Until next time, farewell from the land of tallest ladders and twisting, turning slides…until our next adventure!

Allison’s “Saturday Night Live” (Starmaker VHS) Collection!

You’ve seen my VHS/VCR Tests, but you have yet to see a rare jewel of my VHS collection – my Starmaker Entertainment prints of The Best of Saturday Night Live!

But First, a little background on Starmaker Entertainment!

Starmaker Entertainment

Type “Starmaker Entertainment” into a Wikipedia search, and you’ll redirect to Anchor Bay Entertainment. If you think that sounds incorrect, it isn’t. Anchor Bay Entertainment is the successor to Starmaker Entertainment. In fact, Anchor Bay traces its origins back to both Starmaker (founded in 1988) and Video Treasures (founded in 1985). Both companies reissued previously-released home video releases at budget prices.

Because Vestron was a ripoff, folks.

Better be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, because $29.95 for a video your kids will basically run into the ground after repeated viewings is not “a low price.”

Starmaker Entertainment’s major distributions included (recently defunct) New World Pictures releases, programs licensed to their video division, Viacom programmings, and the aforementioned Saturday Night Live home video collection.

In 1995, the competing Video Treasures and Starmaker Entertainment were sold to the Handleman Company, beginning new life as Anchor Bay Entertainment in May 1995.

How I Got Into Collecting These Videos

I was in Suncoast Video at the mall in the spring of 1997 (I remember this because I was in eighth grade), and spotted a bunch of Saturday Night Live videocassettes on the shelf, all in brightly colored boxes.

Some had titles, others were for specific years. I began getting into reruns of the show the previous summer, when they aired on Comedy Central. The video that jumped out at me specifically was one that said 15th Anniversary Special. I figured out that would have been 1989. Intrigued, and with more than the cost of $4.99 (yes, $4.99) in my wallet, I was sold.

I was sold as long as Suncoast Video carried the videos, which was until 1999.

By that point, I amassed a respectable collection of these videos. I’d be remiss if I didn’t open up my archives to show you my collection!

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Of course, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t include a VHS/VCR test!

Starmaker Entertainment Saturday Night Live Home Video Sampler

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I always think I miss videocassettes until I see the degraded quality. Or worse, the videocassette acts up while making a sampler. Either way, they were an important part of my VHS collection/teenage viewing.

Proof that I liked nostalgia long before I was old enough, or before it was cool to like nostalgia.

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.