Fascination With The 3-Dimensional Zoetrope

Another topic that we covered in our lecture last Thursday that interested me were the numerous devices invented to display animated images like the Folioscope (otherwise known as the flip book) which was the first form of primitive interactive media that I was exposed to. I was surprised to discover that it had not been patented until 1882. The Thaumatrope (1825), Phenakistoscope (1832) and the Zoetrope (1834) predated it.

Whilst there were many devices that was mentioned during the lecture. I was interested in the zoetrope in particular and especially in the video of a 3-Dimensional zoetrope that was presented.

A traditional Zoetrope is basically a device that spins so the viewer can animated images and or/objects with the aid of visual isolators which enables the human eye to ‘catch’ the animation in progress instead a blur of spinning images.

A zoetrope is most often found in the form of a spinning cylindrical barrel contraption (or toy as some would argue) that contains a series of artwork inside; each contextually and sequentially related but differing slightly from one other. The Zoetrope is then spun quickly so the illusion of animation can viewed through the cut out slits at the sides that act as shutters.

The aforementioned 3-Dimensional zoetrope was created by Pixar Animation Studios and it featured the characters from the Toy Story universe. Interestingly enough, it was itself inspired by a sculptural Zoetrope built by Studio Ghibli of the characters from the much beloved animation My Neighbour Totoro from 1988.

The 3D zoetropes presented differ from the traditional zoetrope in a few ways. The ‘images’ themselves are in fact 3D sculptures of each animated character and are not confined within a cylindrical barrel or drum. Multiple character sculptures are placed in sequence on a rotating disc. When the mechanism is rotated and spun at high speed, a strobe light is used to make the sculptures persist and ‘stick’ to the human eye.

Giving the appearance of movement and animated life.

This to me, is definitive proof that an idea, however simple; will never fail entertain, inform and mesmerise audience when executed wholeheartedly.

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