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?
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?
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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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…
Children’s Video Library boasted affordable family entertainment…
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!
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.