I was introduced to zoetropes in Russell Serrianne‘s studio. He builds large, sometimes giant structures and creates images that appear to move as the zoetrope spins. They’re pretty amazing since you can view each image individually by looking down through the open top (as seen below) but only by looking through the slits cut in the side as it’s spinning are you able to see the images move fluidly.
Each drawing is done separately but creates a set of images that can be repeated over and over again – jumping from ball to ball or objects swimming up and down. There must be one image for each slit (so you can see it across the way) so the larger your zoetrope, the more images you can include, thereby creating a more intricate action.
So what’s the point? In a world where everything is animated, instant, and quite complicated, isn’t it nice to go back to basics – finding joy in watching someone do a somersault?
This link has more on the history of zoetropes and more about how they work.
Finally, check out a video of a 3-D zoetrope (the fish are actually little sculptures) by Ben Zurawski to see how they actually work.