In the 60s, Jack Friedman, and entrepreneur that will later found THQ and Jakks Pacific, got a job at Norman J. Lewis Associates as a sales representative. He quickly climbed the corporate ladder to the role of president. In 1970, Jack decided to start its own company : LJN. The LJN acronym stand for Norman J Lewis, which is the name of his former employer backward. By 1985, LJN was primarily a toy company but Jack had his eyes on another prize : the video games market.
In 1986, the company was confident enough that the video game market had fully recovers from the video game crash on 83′-84′ and decided to heavily invest in it. LJN started its own video game development studio and by 1987 started to publish their own video games. Back in 1986, the company also decided to explore other avenue. On of these was the Video Art : a console that would transform your television into a coloring book.
Release in 1987 alongside 9 cartridges, Video Art was supposed to be the next big ticket item for LJN alongside the Gotcha, a gun that shoots colored pellets. The reception was cold. One of the major flaw of the system was the control of the paint brush on the screen. When using the Video Art without an activity cartridge, the system would transform your TV in a glorified etch a sketch. At this point, the clumsy control would be problematic, but could add to the challenge of drawing something interesting. But when an activity cartridge was inserted, the system would display an image that would need to be colorized and this is were the system would become unusable. It was extremely difficult to be precise with joystick making each coloring session a frustration.
By September, LJN had spent more than 5 Million in publicity for both the Video Art and Gotcha., but the Video Art was still going no where. The company was also under a tremendous amount of pressure to reduce cost following a faulty water gun problem on their Entertech toy line. LJN cancelled their publicity contract Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos inc, just a few week before Christmas. When Christmas 1987 came, almost no publicity surrounding the Video Art were present. The few reviews of the system that were made, such as the Siskel and Ebert’s Christmas Guide 1987, recommended not to purchase the console. By 1988, the retailer were already liquidating their stock of LJN Video Art product.
Only nine activity cartridges were released for the Video Art:
- A Trip To The Zoo
- Disney Coloring Book
- Disney Story Book
- Looney Tunes
- Marvel Super-Heroes
- My Dream Day
- My Favorite Doll
- On the Move
- Video Art Activity Cartridge