Various cities: Various Publishers, 1957-1967. An archive of 3 pressbooks for foreign family adventure and fantasy films released in 1957, 1959, and 1967. The featured characters are Santa Claus, Carlo Collodi's beloved puppet-turned-human, Pinocchio, and the diminutive but unforgettable figure of English folklore, Tom Thumb.
Pressbooks (sometimes referred to as Campaign Manuals) for these features varied in presentation. Early pressbooks were issued in black-and-white, then in primary colors, and modern pressbooks display colors utilizing the full palette, often glossy and bright instead of monochrome and mat finished. They varied in size, but generally stuck to a format similar to that of a large tabloid, between 11 x 17 inches and 13 x 18 inches. Film studios issued pressbooks to exhibitors and theater companies to promote their upcoming releases and to educate the public with information on the stars of the film, with suggested blurbs for reviewers and exploitation campaigns to further publicity and interest surrounding the release. Often two or more films were represented in one pressbook, a selling point for smaller film studios.
These films were released by low-budget studios (meaning studios outside the major houses, with a primary focus on B-movies and family films), and were rich with lovable characters, colorful landscapes, and fantastical themes.
Two films directed by Rene Cardona are represented, "Pulgarcito" (1957, here as "Tom Thumb), and "Santa Claus" (1959). "Tom Thumb" was originally released in Spanish (Mexico), and re-released in the US in 1967. The film brings to life the old English folk tale of a tiny boy from an impoverished family who is captured by an ugly ogre. "Santa Claus" is a fiendish tale of St. Nick, a St. Nick who lives in space, uses cameras made from human organs to spy on children, and worse, is taunted by a flamboyant devil with stomach ulcers. Again the film is live-action, and saw original release in Spanish. The film was adapted to video cassette in 1989, though the scenes involving the devil, "Pitch," were removed and the entire film was abridged. Cardona directed and wrote screenplays for over 200 films, and displayed a wide range of talent, directing children's films, adventures, crime thrillers, dramas, and weird, arguably psychedelic visions of saintly childhood icons.
Released by Childhood Productions (distributor for "Tom Thumb") in 1967, "Pinocchio" was another live-action family-friendly take on Carlo Collodi's masterpiece. The directors Ron Merk and Walter Beck remained faithful to the original tale, with all of Pinocchio's original characters, including the child who turned into a donkey. Originally released in German, the film did not get its English treatment until 1969. Puppetry was performed under the supervision of the famed Prague Marionette Theater.
These pressbooks represent a few early live-action adaptations for three childhood tales many have come to cherish. Live-action films of this nature are seen today, however computer-enhanced graphics, green screens, and computer-generated characters have streamlined the production process. The live-action family fantasy of the 1950s and 1960s was briefly eclipsed by, and indeed evolved into, the adored television films produced by Rankin/Bass in the late 1960s and into 1970s, before cartoon-animated features dominated the children's film market.
All pressbooks are 11 X 17 inches ("Tom Thumb" slightly taller). Very Good to Near Fine in original studio wrappers; all pressbooks folded, with horizontal folds at the center. "Tom Thumb" shows small tears and glue swathes on the rear panel, and "Santa Claus" shows light soil.