A thaumatrope is a 19th Century toy; it is a disk with a picture on each side, which is attached to two pieces of string. When the string is twisted and then pulled quickly, the disks spin; the two pictures appear to become one picture due to the persistence of vision.

The persistence of vision is what underpins animated films; the brain can’t distinguish the separate images as they move too quickly and therefore blend into one a smooth moving image.

You will need:

  • Bowl
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • String
  • Pens and Pencils
  • Hole Punch
  • Tape

Draw around a bowl and cut it out.

YC drawing Mickey Mouse

YC drawing Mickey Mouse

On either side of the paper draw a picture that you want to appear as one picture once it is spinning. EC did a bat and a cave, YC did Mickey and Minnie Mouse and I did a caterpillar and leaf.

EC adding the finishing touches to his bat cave.

EC adding the finishing touches to his bat cave.

Use the hole punch to make a hole either side of the picture; you need to do them at the sides rather than above and below the picture.

Cover these holes with some tape or a hole reinforcement sticker; if you don’t you run the risk of pulling the sting through the paper, which is exactly what happened to us.

EC's bat in a cave thaumatrope.

EC’s bat in a cave thaumatrope.

Once you are finished twirl the strings around and pull hard to make the disk spin quickly. If you do it quick enough the pictures should become one.

YC's Mickey and Minnie Mouse thaumatrope.

YC’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse thaumatrope.

YC and EC found this rather magical to watch and once they had finished they kept finding new people to show their magic thaumatropes to.

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Make your own Thaumatrope. A 19th Century toy that works on the persistence of vision, the same principle that animated films work on.