Long before the TV came into existence, people watched moving pictures on a device called a zoetrope. The oldest known version dates back to China around 180 AD but the one we’re most familiar with became popular in the early 1800’s.
Since then, many modern artists have used the zoetrope to tell their own story. Here are a few examples.
1. The Caketrope of Burton’s Team
French director Alexandre Dubosc enjoys making films with food. He has created several zoetrope cakes including this 2012 homage to Nightmare Before Christmas creator Tim Burton.
If you take the Q train from Brooklyn to Manhattan you’ll see a wondrous site – a work of art called Masstransiscope that was painted by artist Bill Brand back in 1980. He painted these 228 panels on the wall of an abandoned subway station then installed vertical beams. When the train roars by the panels come to life, just like the still images of a zoetrope.
3. Sony Bravia Zoetrope: the Braviadrome
In 2009, Sony commissioned the creation of the world’s largest zoetrope to promote MotionFlow technology in their new TVs. The 33-foot round,10-ton BRAVIA-drome was built in Italy using images of Brazilian soccer star Kaka for the storyline. The idea was to use one of the oldest forms of visual storytelling technology to promote one of the newest.
4. Forza Motorsport 5: FilmSpeed
Xbox created the world’s fastest zoetrope and maybe the only to be experienced from the inside out. To show how realistic the Forza Motorsport 5 racing game is, they printed images from the game, mounted them to a wall around a racetrack then mounted a camera on to a race car. By filming the images at 120 mph the zoetrope effect kicks in and the cars appear to be racing. Amazing.
5. 3D Zoetrope “Get Animated” at the California State Fair
This large piece was part of the “Get Animated” exhibit at the 2010 California State Fair. It uses the same principals as a zoetrope but instead of slits, they use a strobe and camera to create the same effect. The disc is covered with famous cartoon characters so it truly looks like work of stop motion animation.
Want to make your own zoetrope? Click here for instructions!