I can hear the hobby and professional photographers gasping for breath. No worries. I know a camera isn’t technically a toy. LeClic cameras were so much more than a camera and because I used mine for so long, I have a little over a decade of memories preserved through it.
Why did I choose my LeClic camera?
LeClic cameras made their debut in 1986, so unlike previous entries in this series, it’s something I have a clear memory of both acquiring and using.
With their bright colors and convenient pocket/fanny pack size, Le Clic cameras were advertised as a fashion accessory. This wasn’t your parents’ Kodak camera. Le Clic cameras were fashion statements in of themselves.
Check out You Tube to see a fun television commercial for Le Clic cameras. Everything about the commercial is distinctively late 1980’s, featuring freeze frame images of models wearing brightly colored outfits.
The model I had was the one that took 110 film. Other models were in the disc film style. The cameras were available in a palatte of wild colors, but there was also a gray/silver camera. Mine was mostly pink and purple which made it easy to find even when I was carrying a dark purse and in a mostly dark room.
The film advancer and shutter button on the model I had were both teal. As a card-carrying member of the Butterfingers Society, my favorite feature was the pink wrist strap with the teal bead as the picture below demonstrates. I don’t know what I was trying to take a picture of here, but I ended up with a corner of my camera and my friend’s driveway as the backdrop.
When was this toy originally produced?
LeClic cameras were introduced in 1986, just in time for my fourth grade trip to Rock Eagle. I looked for pictures from this first trip but I don’t know where I put them. On the other hand, I have quite a few pictures from my high school years, especially from my junior and senior years.
Was there a cartoon?
No, but I remember the LeClic commercial airing on Saturday mornings during both cartoons and American Bandstand.
I also remember the next morning after I bought the camera was a Saturday. I remember going outside during a commercial break with the camera to practice using it. My family wasn’t big on cameras and getting our pictures taken. We also weren’t great about getting the film developed in a timely manner because it usually took us a long time to use a roll of film because film was expensive.
My senior year, with prom, senior luncheon, and the graduation itself may have been our record for using a roll of film and getting it developed the soonest. I think the only senior event I didn’t take my camera for was our picnic because that was also the day we received our yearbooks. I decided it would be too much to keep track of a camera, a yearbook, and keeping the bugs away from my food.
A LeClic camera was also an important prop in the film My Cousin Vinny. Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei’s character, Mona Lisa Vito, uses one throughout the film. A picture from that camera even serves as evidence in the movie’s plot. Ms. Vito has the disc film model of the camera, but it was exciting to watch a movie and see a character use something related to a product I actually owned.
Who was the villain?
This question isn’t applicable in this instance in the usual sense, but analog cameras had a few drawbacks aside from the long neglected rolls of undeveloped film.
If someone (or something, in the case of an animal) was moving too quickly at the time the picture was being taken, the developed picture came out blurry.
With a flash camera in a dark room, you ran the risk of the dreaded red eyes.
For a petite person such as myself, taking a picture of a tall person without photographic decapitation was always a challenge.
Where did I acquire this toy?
I went back and forth between two long defunct stores (Richway and Zayre) with my previous articles on Rose Petal and Medley. I did find out later however that Medley (My Little Pony) and a few of her friends were actually Easter basket fillers.
The LeClic camera, however, I can proudly say came from Service Merchandise. I can also say that I remember getting it on a Friday evening, because of the memory of taking the brand new camera outside for the aforementioned Saturday morning test run. I also remember that I used Christmas money from a grandparent and/or godparent to buy the camera.
Do I still have this toy and/or packaging?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had my LeClic camera for a long time. At some point, it became either difficult to obtain 110 film due to either cost or availability. It may even have been expensive or inconvenient to get the film developed.
I remember in the 1990’s, disposable cameras became very popular. Eventually, digital cameras came along followed by a massive improvement in the quality of cell phone cameras. These days when I want to take a picture, I use the camera in my phone. On my current phone, I don’t even have to unlock it to use the camera.
Even though I don’t have my LeClic anymore, I still have the pictures I took with it. Some are pictures of family members. Others are pictures of friends from school and church. There are even pictures of items in my room and pictures of my pets.
Did anything surprise me about this toy?
As it turns out, the LeClic line wasn’t just limited to cameras. LeClic also produced blank videocassettes. The commercial for LeClic videocassettes even featured one of the biggest stars of the mid 1990’s: a pre-Friends. Matt LeBlanc, branching out from soft drinks (Coca-Cola and Cherry 7Up) and condiments (Heinz ketchup).
Here are some of my favorite pictures taken with the LeClic.
The first is of my dog in one of her favorite hiding spots: my papysan chair. I’ll go into the chair in more detail in a future article as it was a Christmas gift.
The picture below is of a waterfall (Amicalola) in Dawsonville, Georgia. It was taken during a hike while my church youth group was on one of our annual retreats. We were camping at Unicoi State Park several miles away from the falls.