Letraset used monochrome transfers in their earliest 'Instant Picture' products; the Busy Bee Instant Picture Packs, the Instant Picture Panoramas, & the three Waddington's Instant Pictures sets.
After an unsatisfactory preliminary try-out with Lines Brothers (Palitoy) involving Patrick Tilley's initial attempt at a product for children, "IdentiKit", Letraset next produced six Busy Bee Instant Picture Packs, but they had trouble promoting them themselves, despite an enthusiastic response from the target market (children). Next came the first five Panoramas, & six more Busy Bees. Realising that in order to succeed they needed experienced help with distribution, they turned to John Waddington Ltd.
As of 1st January 1966, Waddington's took over the existing lines & added the three Waddington's Instant Picture sets.
Illustrated here are the front & back covers of a four-sided folded leaflet for "Waddington's Games 1966"; this brochure lists various different games of assorted types, starting with the 'Thunderbirds' game.
The interior pages feature 'Future Scientist Kits', 'Mine-A-Million', & Chessmen.
But of particular relevance to us is the back page:
The Busy Bee Instant Picture Packs offer
a variety of ways of playing with this
fascinating new process.
Price 2/11 (including Purchase Tax).
[The first six Busy Bees are illustrated — 1: Have Fun with the Alphabet, 2: Learn to Count in Pictures, 3: Nursery Rhyme Pictures, 4: Build Your Own Pictures, 5: Picture Puzzle Stories, 6: Make Your Own Cartoons. However, there would have been twelve Busy Bees by this time.]
The Panorama Kits which were introduced
early in 1965 offer full play value with a
large display panel and hundreds of
[The five monochrome Letraset Panoramas are illustrated.]
The Letraset range of rub-down instant
picture toys have already achieved a
great success in this country.
Effective from the 1st January, they are
being produced and distributed by
John Waddington Ltd., and as well as
the existing range, new items will be
2 DONALD DUCK
3 WINNIE THE POOH
ALL PRICE 1/11 EACH (including Purchase Tax)
JOHN WADDINGTON LTD WAKEFIELD ROAD, LEEDS 10. TEL. 72244.
StellarX found this invaluable leaflet boxed inside a board game, so it's additional promotional material rather than an actual trade catalogue. It looks exactly like the catalogue for 1965 (see below), but instead of having sixteen pages mentioning every current Waddington's game, it's only a single folded sheet — i.e., four pages — of the same dimensions, & only refers to the new releases. Which of course means the Panoramas! And the Busy Bees.
But it made us aware of the potential usefulness of catalogues, & largely thanks to the extremely helpful Tracey (traceypaul2012 of eBay), I've managed to acquire a good many of the ones we need.
We're still after Waddington's Catalogues from 1966, 1967, 1968 & 1969, so if you know of the whereabouts of any of those, please let us know! We wouldn't necessarily need scans; ordinary photos would be enough to convey the vital information.
Covering our bases, I acquired the 1965 catalogue, even though I knew it wouldn't contain any relevant material. Sure enough — nothing. But… belt & braces!
How much confidence did John Waddington Ltd. have in Letraset? We've seen from their 1966 brochure that they took on Letraset's toys from 1st January 1966, but when we look at their four-page comic insert advertising their Christmas games, there's no mention of any of them.
Here is the promotional insert, taken from "Look and Learn" No.255, 3rd December 1966:
However, we have better luck by next year. Here is "Waddington's Magazine" from "Look and Learn" No.307, 2nd December 1967:
By the way — yes, you are reading that correctly. It does say "thrills, spills and excitement for 1967!" Clearly it must mean "for CHRISTMAS 1967", since there's not much of 1967 left! I'm so used to trade catalogues & the like, which by convention refer to the upcoming year, that this really throws me each time I read it…
Hooray for Panoramas, which are mentioned at last. Not only on the inside, but even on the cover, where they're referred to as "12 Great new Panorama instant pictures".
By 1970, all twelve Panoramas, all twelve Busy Bees, & correspondingly the twelve Junior Panoramas (which, of course, are just the Busy Bees 'dressed up') are being advertised. There's no mention, however, of the Character Panoramas; by now we would expect 'Doctor Dolittle', 'Captain Scarlet', & the original liveried 'Jungle Book' Panoramas to have been mentioned.
Very likely, they may have been mentioned in the earlier catalogues I haven't seen (1966-1969).
It seems they had come… & gone. With a relatively short shelf-life. The three Waddington's Instant Pictures sets are also unmentioned.
Photo courtesy of traceypaul2012
Photo courtesy of traceypaul2012
The next year, however, two Character Panoramas get a look in: 'Aristocats' & the 'Walt Disney Panorama'. They appear in the new Waddington's livery of flat coloured areas, but the original Panoramas do not. Since Waddington's are not the most reliable or consistent source of information, it's hard to say if this isn't just an oversight at the design stage, simply using the out-of-date photos from the previous year. But in fact the old stock continued to be sold even after the new livery was available, so it's swings & roundabouts…
The Letraset products are shown for the first time in display boxes which are strongly reminiscent of Patrick Tilley's original Busy Bee display box designs, although the Panorama box features characters from the post-Tilley batch of seven. Perhaps the general box designs had existed all along, although of course the Character Panorama box would have to have been an adaptation.
There are now four Character Panoramas: 'Babar' & 'The Jungle Book' have been added. This is the first printed appearance of the term "Character Panorama".
'Jungle Book' is odd; by rights it should have been produced around 1968, but is mentioned as NEW in the 1972 catalogue. This must be a mistake. Perhaps by "NEW", Waddington's meant "new release" in the sense of "re-release in the new livery".
Jungle Book UK cinema release dates: 17 November 1967 (London), 24 December (nationally). Then 21 December 1975 (re-release). This makes 1972 a very odd year to release a Jungle Book Panorama…
'Doctor Dolittle', 'Captain Scarlet' & 'Jungle Book' had existed before the advent of the 1971 flat-colour-frame livery. 'Disney', 'Aristocats', 'Bedknobs' & 'Babar' — probably did not.
Also 'new for 72' are Waddington's Stock Numbers for Letraset products:
381 — Busy Bees
383 — Junior Panoramas
385 — Panoramas
386 — Character Panoramas
The easiest way to make sense of the above information, along with its troublesome discrepancies, is to suppose that Waddington's had a major re-think in time for the 1972 catalogue, & that while they thought of the next six Character Panoramas as a single product range, they considered the three early Character Panoramas ('Dolittle', 'Scarlet', 'Jungle Book') as one-offs.
Not only was the flat colour livery a poor design decision, but also Waddington's have no qualms at displaying the black 'redacted text' bars which appeared on the cover of some Panoramas right up front in their promotional material. It's as if they WANT people not to buy Letraset products! (See top right of the photo above.)
There are still twelve Busy Bees available, but curiously the number of Junior Panoramas has been reduced from twelve to six.
Meanwhile, 'Dumbo Circus' & 'Bedknobs & Broomsticks' have been added to the Character Panorama roster.
That poor girl has been punched in the face. Nice house, though.
The Character Panoramas are undisturbed, as are the Busy Bees & Junior Panoramas; the big change is:
"New for 74 — Panorama… …12 titles… …6 of the titles are new for 1974"
These new Panoramas are the ones Letraset later reprinted as 'Giant' (using litho printing rather than gravure). Of the original twelve, the six retained are the first five, plus 'Gulliver's'. Surprisingly to many, 'Haunted House' didn't make the cut!
The new titles:
— Shopping Scene
— Beach Scene
— Dolls House
This is Letraset's last appearance in a Waddington's catalogue; nothing whatsoever appeared after 1974; they washed their hands of the whole business. And Letraset retained their rights to the Panoramas, carrying on under their own name.
Waddington's did, however, continue to sell their remaining stock for a while, including re-packaging their over-stocked 4-spot Panorama transfer sheets as "John Waddington Mini Action Transfers".
Finally, here's what Panoramas looked like post-Waddington's, in the Letraset 1978 trade catalogue:
Letraset 1978 trade catalogue
Those are the last vestiges of what had once been Waddington's contribution to the panorama of Panoramas, but Letraset, & a bit later Thomas Salter, did add more new titles — as you can see on the Panoramas page.
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — traceypaul2012 — Craig Spivey
© Tom Vinelott 2023