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Make your own zoetrope from everyday materials, using our templates. Inspired by the exhibition DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition — Journey from Sketch to Screen.

Make your own zoetrope

Model of a zoetrope, showing a series of dots drawn on the inside.

What is a zoetrope? A zoetrope is a device that gives the illusion of a moving image. The earliest zoetropes are from the 1860s.

The Museum's collection includes a model praxinoscope and a chromatrope, which used a series of slides. Modern ones can include the use of 3D technology.

Time: 40 to 60 minutes

Skill level: ★★★ Difficult — you may need an adult to help.

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Cartridge paper (this stronger paper card can be bought at local art stores)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Pencils and textas
  • Pebble, marble or string (something for your zoetrope to pivot on)
  • Print outs of the zoetrope and animated strips templates

Parts of a zoetrope:

  • Wall — the outside part of your zoetrope. When you spin the zoetrope and look through the gaps you will see your animation.
  • Base — the circular bottom part that attaches to the wall
  • Animation strips — two strips of paper (21cm wide x 4cm high) that fit inside the wall. This is where you make your frame-by-frame drawing.
  • Pivot point — the centre point from where the zoetrope will spin.

Step 1

Supplies for making a zoetrope including scissors, glue and paper.

Gather your materials. Download the zoetrope and animation strip templates and print them out.

Step 2

Glue the template onto the cartridge paper.

Step 3

Once the glue is dry, cut out the template using scissors. Remember: scissors are sharp! Please ask an adult for help. Don’t forget to cut out all the narrow viewing slits.

Step 4

Tape the wall ends together to form a circle. Keep the black side facing outwards.

Steps 5 and 6

Tape the walls to the base, making sure the slits are at the top.

Turn your zoetrope over. Tape a small, smooth pebble or marble to the centre of the circular base, to provide a pivot point for the zoetrope to spin on. Turn the zoetrope back over, so the slits are at the top.

Steps 7 and 8

Cut out the animated strips from the template. Practice drawing your animation in pencil on scrap paper. When ready, draw the stages onto the animation strip, in sequence. Place the animation strip into the zoetrope against the wall, below the slits.

Step 9

Look through the slits from the outside while you spin the zoetrope. Does your animation come to life? Test out different designs and animations.

Zoetrope 00:03

We used a simple series of dots. This video shows how they appear when we spun our zoetrope on a small marble.

Share your creation

Share your creation with us by emailing a photo to: programs@nma.gov.au. Explore Museum objects on our Collection Explorer.

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