Learning How Animation Works

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The KidzLabs Animation Praxinoscope is a kit that allows kids to make and use their own version of the animation device that brought drawings to life with mirrors and a revolving paper disc invented in France nearly 150 years ago. At that time, it was an innovative way to animate drawings years before the advent of motion pictures.

The toy is much simpler than an actual praxinoscope — instead of projecting the animation, you have to view it from a small window, and you have to spin the disc manually — but it still creates the same effect.

There is also an LED light attached that “‘flashes’ like early movies”, according to the box (though the “flashing” is just an effect caused by the mirrors).

At first, it seems difficult to assemble, but following the instruction manual makes everything really simple. Button batteries are also needed for the LED to work, but fortunately they are already included in the kit (you don’t really need the LED to still enjoy using this, but it does add a nice effect provided you are in a dark or dimly lit place).

I found that the praxinoscope worked a lot like a flipbook, but instead of flipping pages, you spin a disc. There are also some included sheets of paper, each with ten frames of a relatively simple animation (like a horse galloping or a windmill turning).

In addition to the pre-drawn animation sheets, the kit comes with plenty of blank ones (some with grids to help you draw) so that you can make your own animations. There is also a section of the manual that explains how the animations work and tips on how to make them.

Operating this toy will help you understand the way animation works with a series of drawings, each slightly different from the previous one, creating the illusion of movement. It’s the same process that is used in large-budget animated movies today.

This is certainly a very fun and educational toy, and from my experience it works even better than how it’s depicted. I would recommend it for kids over 9 since it might be somewhat difficult for younger kids to figure out on their own, but it is still an enjoyable kit for anyone who’s interested in animation.