Obscurity of the Day: Magic Eye

 

Most of you know that I don’t track newspaper activity features, generally, even if there are cartoon elements. However, in the case of Magic Eye the only real activity is focusing your eyes, so I give it a pass.

Magic Eye pictures, which when focused on just right reveal a hidden 3-D cartoony image, was a big fad in the 1990s. I suppose the high point of that fad was the infamous episode of Seinfeld wherein Mr. Pitt is so intent on finding the hidden picture in one that he misses an important meeting:

 
 
Magic Eye pictures (more scientifically known as an autostereograms) were popularized by a company called N.E. Thing Enterprises, headed by Tom Baccei and Cheri Smith. Initially creating the optical illusions for ads, the business quickly branched out into posters, books, and, in 1994, a Sunday comics feature.  Baccei flew the coop in 1995, looking at sales figures that showed the fad had run its course, but Smith hung in there with the concept for the long haul. 
Smith was most likely in charge of the weekly Magic Eye newspaper series from its inception, though until December 6 1998 it offered no credits. Since Andrews-McMeel published the books, Universal Press Syndicate was a shoe-in to distribute the feature, which debuted on June 5 1994*. At first the feature was ‘hosted’ by Wizzy Nodwig, a magical sprite of some sort. With no role except to appear in the corner of the feature, he was mercifully retired on October 1 1996, the same date on which the feature title was changed from just Magic Eye to Magic Eye Illusions
Credits were added to the feature starting December 6 1998. (It should be noted that by now the feature was appearing in very few comic sections, the fad now long over). From that date on Cheri Smith always got lead credit, but starting on that date Bill Clark and Andy Paraskevas were offered co-authorship. I have no idea what role these co-creators actually play — are they the technical folks who do the computer wizardry part, or are they involved more in the art end of the feature? In what little I can find on these co-authors on the interwebs, it appears that they were likely more involved in the graphics end. 
Clark only got a credit until January 31 1999, but Andy Paraskevas, who was a part-owner of the business, was credited through September 5 1999. After that Cheri Smith received full credit until March 23 2003, when Dawn Zimiles was added. Zimiles received a co-credit for the next ten years, ending March 24 2013 (yes, believe it or not, the feature was STILL running). Two years later, though, Zimiles returns for a second co-credit stint, from April 26 2015 through December 24 2017*. In finding these dates in the New York Sunday News, one of the rare newspapers still carrying it, I also found that material was being recycled by now. I don’t know if it was all reprints (hard to care that much, y’know) or if some was still new. 
The Sunday News finally dropped it in 2019 and I haven’t been able to track it after that. However, according to the Magic Eye website the feature is still available. 
 
There have been a slew of Magic Eye books (including, bizarrely, one focusing on Nostradamus), but the only one specifically advertised as containing images from the newspaper feature is titled Magic Eye: Have Fun in 3-D; oddly, I can find no evidence that this book was actually published.
For an interesting history of the Magic Eye fad, I recommend The Hidden History of Magic Eye.
*Source: Quad City Times
* Sources for credits: Fort Myers News-Press and New York Daily News

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