Originally published on Torontoist on August 26, 2015.
Before reading this column any further, grab the nearest pack of coloured pencils, crayons, or markers, or open up your favourite digital art program. Have we got a colouring bonanza for you!
Long before adult colouring books topped the Amazon charts, there was the humble colouring contest. It was a simple gimmick: draw interest in your brand, event, publication, or store by reeling in kids with promises of prizes if they applied their artistic skills (or lack thereof) to simple line drawings based on popular shows or seasonal icons. For their efforts, they might win pocket change, a bicycle, a chance to meet their idols, or bragging rights at the playground.
Today’s selection of ads spotlights past opportunities to dazzle judges with your colouring skill. Let your creativity run wild!
Click on any of the following images for larger versions.
Toronto Star, March 23, 1928.
The Globe, December 4, 1934 and December 5, 1934.
From the August 18, 1934 New York Times review of Treasure Island:
Although there are occasional studio interpolations, the present screen offering is a moderately satisfactory production. It has not the force or depth of the parent work and, kind as one might wish to be to the adaptation, it always seems synthetic. However, hitherto on the stage and in two silent films of the same subject, the role of Jim Hawkins has been acted by a girl. One is spared this weakness in this picture, for that able juvenile, Jackie Cooper, plays Jim, and, although he may not impress one as being the Jim of the book, he does fairly well.
Christmas colouring contests have long been a holiday staple. In this case, they may have also provided a boost to the Star’s sister publication, Star Weekly.
Toronto Star, September 11, 1954 and September 19, 1954.
Forget the beautiful statue of the “King of the Cowboys” riding his trusty horse Trigger; the real thrill for most winners would have been spending a few moments with Roy and Dale at the 1954 CNE. A photo published in the Star of 11-year-old victors John Goslinga and Alfred Kemp depicted them in full cowboy regalia, as if they were ready to be extras in one of Roy’s horse operas.
Toronto Star, September 12, 1955 (left) and September 13, 1955 (right).
A year after the Roy Rogers contest, the Star capitalized on the success of Davy Crockett. Note flattering depictions of aboriginals and women.
Globe and Mail, April 19, 1955.
Faster than a bicycle going downhill! More powerful than a butter churn! Spreads margarine on toast with a single stroke! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s PARKAYBOY!
Toronto Star, October 9, 1956.
Simpsons gets in on the colouring contest action with RCA Victor’s venerable mascot, Nipper.
Toronto Star, November 21, 1956.
We (and Disney’s lawyers) can only hope that the actual drawing of Mickey and Minnie used for Dominion’s Ice Capades tie-in was superior to this spartan sketch.
Toronto Sun, April 19, 1972.
How terrfying can you make this clown?
Toronto Sun, November 20, 1977.
A previous post covered the story of dinner with Chewbacca.
Toronto Star, August 6, 1977.
The Star’s kids page launched its first colouring contest with this detailed pair of figures who would have looked at home in the Royal Ontario Museum. A trip to the ROM might have been preferable to the grand prize: a chance to see the first-year Blue Jays drop both ends of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees. The first game was a 15-0 blowout, which saw future Jay Cliff Johnson hit two homers. The Yankees were gracious during the second match, with only a 2-0 victory.
Toronto Star, May 28, 1978.
More colouring, more baseball, happier results for the Blue Jays. The prize winner saw the home team defeat the Orioles in another doubleheader by scores of 6-2 and 9-8. It was the franchise’s first doubleheader sweep at Exhibition Stadium.
Toronto Star, September 2, 1984.
Who better to represent a teddy bear picnic at the Metro Zoo than Winnie the Pooh? We wonder if, a year or two later, the celebrity mascot would have been Teddy Ruxpin.
Toronto Life, April 1973.
While not promoting a colouring contest, this ad for the fashionable Bloor Street clothier fits the mood of a modern adult colouring book.
Toronto Star, September 7, 1954.
Toronto Star, August 25, 1955. Click on image for larger version.
While the winners of the Star‘s Roy Rogers contest only received a small corner of a page, the winners of the paper’s Davy Crockett took up most of the front page of the second section. Sadly, none of them posed with series stars Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen.