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History of Zoetrope & Praxinoscope Animation

The zoetrope and praxinoscope are significant inventions in the history of animation and motion pictures, marking important steps towards the development of cinema.

Zoetrope Invented by William George Horner

Zoetrope History

William George Horner, an English mathematician and educator, born in 1786 in Bristol, England, made a significant contribution to the field of optical entertainment through the invention of the zoetrope.

In 1834, Horner invented the zoetrope, which he originally named the "Daedalum" or "Daedatelum." His invention came at a time of significant interest in optical toys and devices that demonstrated the illusion of motion.
The zoetrope is a cylindrical device with slits cut vertically in the sides. Inside the cylinder, a strip of sequential images is placed. When the cylinder is spun and viewed through the slits, the images appear to move, creating an animated effect. This exploits the phenomenon known as persistence of vision.
The zoetrope wasn't immediately popular during Horner's time. Its popularity soared later in the 1860s when it was marketed as a toy by American inventor William F. Lincoln, who also coined the name "zoetrope," meaning "wheel of life."

Horner's zoetrope was a crucial step in the development of motion pictures. It helped to lay the groundwork for the future of animation and film, demonstrating how still images could be made to appear as if they were moving.
Despite the significant role of his invention in the history of cinema, Horner's contribution was often overshadowed by his achievements in mathematics. He is not as prominently remembered as other pioneers in the field of motion pictures. Horner passed away in 1837, just a few years after inventing the zoetrope. It was only much later that the significance of his invention in the context of film history was fully appreciated.
His invention of the zoetrope was a pivotal development in the early history of animated entertainment and the motion picture industry.

The zoetrope became popular in the late 19th century. It was primarily a novelty item, offering a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of motion representation. Its principle demonstrated the persistence of vision, where multiple images blend into a single image in the human mind.

Praxinoscope Invented by Charles-Émile Reynaud

Praxinoscope HistoryCharles-Émile Reynaud, a French inventor and artist, played a pivotal role in the early development of animated films through his creation of the praxinoscope and its further development into the Théâtre Optique. His work was a significant step towards the motion picture industry.
Born in Montreuil, France, on December 8, 1844, Reynaud was initially interested in science and mechanics. He also showed a keen interest in art, particularly in drawing and painting, which would later influence his inventions.

Invention of the Praxinoscope, in 1877, Reynaud developed the praxinoscope. This invention was an improvement over the existing zoetrope. The praxinoscope used a series of mirrors placed in the center of a cylindrical drum, which reflected images from a strip of pictures placed around the inner wall. When the drum was spun, the reflections in the mirrors created a clearer and smoother animation compared to the zoetrope.

Reynaud further evolved his invention into the Théâtre Optique in 1888. This device was capable of projecting longer sequences of hand-painted images onto a screen. He began giving public performances using the Théâtre Optique at the Musée Grévin in Paris. These shows are considered some of the earliest forms of animated projection, predating the Lumière brothers' cinematographic screenings.

Reynaud's praxinoscope and Théâtre Optique were significant in the evolution of animation and film. They demonstrated advanced principles of motion and persistence of vision. Unlike his contemporaries who focused more on the scientific aspects, Reynaud combined art with technology, hand-painting his images, which added a unique artistic quality to his animations.

Despite his early successes, Reynaud struggled later in life, particularly as the cinema began to rise. His contributions were overshadowed by the advent of film. In recent years, however, his work has been reassessed, and he is now recognized as a pioneer in the field of animated film. Reynaud passed away on January 9, 1918, in Ivry-sur-Seine, France.

Charles-Émile Reynaud's contributions, particularly the praxinoscope and the Théâtre Optique, were crucial in the development of animation and early cinema. His innovative approach to combining art and mechanical technology laid the groundwork for the future of animated storytelling and film projection.

Legacy - Influence on Cinema:

Both the zoetrope and praxinoscope contributed to the understanding of motion and persistence of vision. These principles were foundational for the development of the first motion picture cameras and projectors and are remembered for their role in the evolution of visual entertainment and technology. They are ancestors of modern animation and film, demonstrating early techniques of creating and displaying motion. Today, they are often revisited for educational purposes and as historical artifacts, representing the ingenuity of 19th-century inventors in exploring motion and perception. Their principles continue to be applied in various forms of animation and film technology.

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadwaeard Muybridge was born in Kingston upon Thames, England, on April 9, 1830, and passing away on May 8, 1904, was a pivotal figure in the history of motion pictures, although his direct involvement with the zoetrope and praxinoscope was limited. Muybridge's primary contribution to the field was through his pioneering work in motion photography, which laid the groundwork for the development of cinema.

Muybridge's most famous work began in 1872 when he was hired by Leland Stanford, a Californian governor and race-horse owner, to settle a debate about whether all four feet of a horse leave the ground during a gallop. To capture this, Muybridge developed a series of cameras that could take rapid succession photographs. By 1877, he had successfully photographed a horse in motion, proving that all four feet do indeed leave the ground.

Although Muybridge's work was initially separate from the zoetrope and praxinoscope, it significantly influenced these devices and the field of motion pictures. The zoetrope, invented by William George Horner in 1834, was an early form of motion picture projector that displayed a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of motion. Similarly, the praxinoscope, invented by Charles-Émile Reynaud in 1877, improved upon the zoetrope by using a series of mirrors for viewing, resulting in a clearer and less distorted image.

Muybridge's sequential photographs could be and were later used in devices like the zoetrope and praxinoscope to demonstrate motion. His work is particularly notable for its impact on later inventors and filmmakers, who were inspired by his ability to capture and dissect motion in a way that had never been done before. His techniques in motion photography laid the groundwork for the development of motion picture cameras and the art of cinema.

While Eadweard Muybridge's work was not directly related to the invention of the zoetrope or praxinoscope, his pioneering motion photography significantly influenced these devices and the broader field of motion pictures. His contributions are considered foundational in the history of film and animation.