Praxinoscope

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An 1879 illustration of a praxinoscope
A projecting praxinoscope, 1882
The Théâtre Optique, 1892. This ultimate elaboration of the device used long strips with hundreds of narrative images.

The praxinoscope was an animation device, the successor to the zoetrope. It was invented in France in 1877 by Charles-Émile Reynaud. Like the zoetrope, it used a strip of pictures placed around the inner surface of a spinning cylinder. The praxinoscope improved on the zoetrope by replacing its narrow viewing slits with an inner circle of mirrors, placed so that the reflections of the pictures appeared more or less stationary in position as the wheel turned. Someone looking in the mirrors would therefore see a rapid succession of images producing the illusion of motion, with a brighter and less distorted picture than the zoetrope offered.

In 1889 Reynaud developed the Théâtre Optique, an improved version capable of projecting images on a screen from a longer roll of pictures. This allowed him to show hand-drawn animated cartoons to larger audiences, but it was soon eclipsed in popularity by the photographic film projector of the Lumière brothers.

20th century revival[edit]

The Red Raven Magic Mirror and its special children's phonograph records, introduced in the US in 1956, was a 20th-century adaptation of the praxinoscope. The Magic Mirror was a sixteen-sided praxinoscopic reflector with angled facets. It was placed over the record player's spindle and rotated along with the 78 rpm record, which had a very large label with a sequence of sixteen interwoven animation frames arrayed around its center. As the record played, the user gazed into the Magic Mirror and saw an endlessly repeating animated scene that illustrated the recorded song. In the 1960s, versions of the Red Raven system were introduced in Europe and Japan under various names—Teddy in France and the Netherlands, Mamil Moviton in Italy, etc.[1][2]

Etymology[edit]

The word praxinoscope translates roughly as "action viewer", from the Greek roots πραξι- (confer πρᾶξις "action") and scop- (confer σκοπός "watcher").

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