Saturday, February 22, 2020

Old-School Animation with a YouTuber Teen: Our DIY Zoetrope

I must tell you that my child has turned into one of those teenaged YouTubers. She has a channel on which she posts cartoons that she makes, usually music videos or memes.

Here's my favorite of her little skit-thingies:

Anyway, basically what I'm saying is that the kid has her animation hobby well in hand, and there is no technical instruction that I could usefully provide her on this subject.

But technical instruction is rarely my role, anyway. What I do is contextualize. Historicize. Enrich and embellish. Strew, if you will.

So on a typical Thursday afternoon, after lunch and before everyone starts getting ready for evening extracurriculars, you contextualize and historize a teen's YouTube animation hobby by talking about the earliest history of animation together, and then you make and play with a zoetrope!

I'm obsessed with everything Crash Course, so you won't be surprised that to get started, we watch the first episode of Crash Course: Film History. In it, the host talks about the zoetrope and the persistence of vision, a fun little optical trick that we've played with off and on over the years, although usually with a thaumotrope instead of a zoetrope:

To make our own zoetrope, Syd and I used a DIY zoetrope kit that I had squirreled away (for too many years to be proud of...), but it looks like to make something similar, you'd have to consult something like this book, because all the other DIY kits that I'm seeing now have too much plastic:

Like, I think that you're going to have fun with your zoetrope, but I don't think that you're going to love it so much that you're going to be glad that it's made of sturdy, keep-it-forever plastic and not nearly as sturdy, recycle-it-when-you're-done cardboard.

Anyway, the fun part, at least for Syd, isn't so much constructing the actual zoetrope. It's creating the animations!

If you can get it to rotate quickly and at a consistent speed, it works quite well!

We kept ourselves entertained with that thing for a looooooong time...

Syd and I also watched a video of this, the COOLEST ZOETROPE EVER CREATED:

I love that the 3D zoetrope represents such an intense intersection with art and hands-on craft. There's still place for old-school DIY used with tech-savvy techniques, is the take-away that I'm hoping that my little artist/tech-savvy creator took away from our project.

P.S. Here are a couple of other DIY zoetrope builds that you could utilize:

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