The zoetrope consists of a cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides. On the inner surface of the cylinder is a band with images from a set of sequenced pictures. As the cylinder spins, the user looks through the slits at the pictures across. The scanning of the slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together, and the user sees a rapid succession of images, producing the illusion of motion.
In 3D versions, a precisely-timed flashing light replaces the slits, creating the illusion of movement between the different figures.
The Toy Story-themed Pixar Zoetrope was on display at Disneyland California Adventure until it went on an international tour. Update:It’s currently at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. From their site:
“In the mid-2000s, the Pixar crew built a giant zoetrope that featured beloved characters from the film. They began by mounting 214 Toy Story maquettes, each posed in a sequence of postures, on a turntable. As the table turns and strobe lights flash, the characters come to life: Woody and his horse buck past in one direction; Buzz rolls by on a Pixar ball in the other; Jesse the cowgirl, from Toy Story 2, dances inside a lasso; army men parachute from the sky as three-eyed aliens wave and play. The cumulative effect is magical…
“The first 3D zoetrope appeared in 1887, when French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey animated a series of plaster models of birds in flight. The zoetrope’s effect is much more dramatic in 3D: for the Toy Story version, each of the 32 maquettes was created using a 3D printer, which converted visual data from the films into a blueprint for the pose.”
Here’s another look: