Animation has a long and rich history that’s full of many innovative methods for depicting the illusion of motion. Well before the advent of motion pictures, optical toys and handmade devices were used to entertain people during the 19th century. These inventions didn’t project images on a screen. Instead, they allowed a person to view the show one at a time. The zoetrope is one of these animation devices, and its mesmerizing visual effects are still used today.
What is a zoetrope?
Long before Mickey Mouse, early pioneers of animation found creative ways to make static images appear as if they were moving. One approach was a zoetrope. A zeotrope is an early form of animation technology from the 19th century. A variation of the phénakisticope (an animation disc), the zoetrope consists of a cylinder with vertically cut lines along the sides. The inner surface of the cylinder features a row of sequential images. To see the animation in motion, the viewer must look through the slits while simultaneously spinning the zoetrope by hand. The images rotate rapidly and create the illusion of motion.
Who invented the zoetrope?
The earliest zoetrope was invented in 1834 by a mathematician named William Horner. He called it the Daedalum, as a reference to the
In 1865, William Ensign Lincoln invented his own version of Horner’s device, but with easily replaceable strips of images. He named his version “zoetrope,” deriving from the Greek words “zoe,” (“life” in English) and “tropos” (meaning “turning”). Lincoln licensed his invention to Milton Bradley and Co. who first advertised the zoetrope as a children’s toy on December 15, 1866.
Zoetropes were followed by other animation devices, including
Contemporary Zoetrope Artists
Despite the fact that modern technology now allows animators to digitally create elaborate movement, there are still artists who prefer analog, handheld devices like the zoetrope.
After years of working digitally, professional animator
His early works were made from paper. But since then, Dyer has moved on to creating 3D-printed cinetropes and large-scale spinners with photos printed on steel and aluminum.
“The process of creation of this work is a personal and artistic growth process for me, just like the growth process the zoetrope brings to life,” Coppoolse wrote on
After launching a crowdfunding campaign, Coppoolse later transformed this paper version into a much larger, cocoon-shaped machine that spins guests around the paper elements.
Japanese artist Akinori Goto works with a range of media to explore how modern technology can be merged with old animation techniques. He designed a 3D-printed zoetrope, titled toki-, that when lit from the side reveals multiple figures walking in motion. The piece was on view at the 2016 Spiral Independent Creators Festival where it won both the Runner-up Grand Prix and the Audience Award. Since then, Goto has created many other zoetropes using the same technique, including