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You’re right, Squeaks; this one is a classic. But did you know that the best part of cartoons takes place inside your brain?

Cartoons like these are made of a bunch of drawings. When you show those drawings one after another, super fast, they look like they’re really moving! That’s called an animation.

But they’re not really alive, or moving around — it’s an illusion, a little trick that you can play on your brain. And today Squeaks and I are going to make our very own version of this trick, called a zoetrope. If we spin all these drawings together really fast, they just look like a blur.

That’s why our zoetrope is going to have slits, which are little holes. We’ll see each drawing through the slit, and then see a black space after each one. It will be like we’re seeing each drawing on its own, but super duper fast.

And then when we spin the zoetrope, our brains will stop noticing the black space and connect the drawings together. The faster the zoetrope spins, the smoother the animation will be! You can make your own zoetrope along with us!

All you need is: some black construction paper, some white construction paper, scissors, tape, a ruler, two pencils, a round piece of cardboard or a paper plate, about 25 centimeters, or 10 inches across, and a grownup to help, because we’ll be doing some measuring and cutting. For our base, we cut out this round piece of cardboard, although you can also use a paper plate. We’ll make a small hole in the middle, just big enough to push one of the pencils through and have the eraser catch on the top.

But we won’t put the pencil in yet. Next, we need to make the walls of the zoetrope. For that, we’ll use the black and white paper.

First, we’ll cut two pieces of the black paper in half, the long way, so we have four long strips. Then we’ll take three of the strips and tape them together. Next, we’ll wrap them around the outside of the cardboard bas.

We might need to trim a little off the end to make sure it fits exactly. This is where we’ll put the slits, to look through and see the animation! We’ll cut 13 slits, each about 3 millimeters, or an eighth of an inch wide, into the top half of the black strip.

We’ll try to make them evenly spaced, about 4 centimeters, or one and a half inches, apart. Just like we did with the black paper, we’ll cut a piece of white paper in half so we have two long strips. We’re going to take those two, and cut them in half.

That gives us four long strips of paper. We’re going to take three of them, and tape them all together. Our white strip is now half as tall as our black strip… and we’re going to cut it so it’s the same length.

The white strip of paper will become the rectangles we use for each drawing. To make those rectangles, we’ll use the ruler and one of the pencils to measure the strips into 13 rectangles that are each about 4 centimeters, or one and a half inches, across. Now it’s time to draw!

Our animation is going to be cyclical, which means that as soon as it’s done, it’s going to start over again from the beginning. So it’s good to have an animation that ends right back where it started – like a plane taking off and coming back down, or a person taking off her hat and putting it back on. We’re going to draw our friend Dino flapping his wings!

Each of your frames should look a lot like the last one, with tiny changes from one to the next. See how his wings move up and down just a tiny bit each rectangle? That will help the animation look smoother!

Once our drawings are done, we’ll tape them to the bottom half of the black paper , with each rectangle right below one of the slits. Now we just need to tape the paper around the base, with the drawings on the inside. Now all we need is to make it spin!

So we just stick this pencil through the hole we made in the base earlier, so the eraser catches on the frame and the pencil doesn’t fall all the way through. Nice! You could also use chopsticks for this, or glue the hole in your base to a marble, so that it can spin on a table.

Or, with some help from a grown-up, you might be able to use a record player or a spinning cake platform! And now … we spin. Oh cool!

Check it out! If the drawings move fast enough, two illusions happen to make them look like an animation. In between each frame, there’s a blank spot, where there’s nothing to see.

But when the drawings come quickly enough, one after the next, your brain stops noticing the blank spaces in between. That’s the first illusion — the effect of one frame on your eye lasts until the next one comes up. All your brain notices is the drawings.

The second illusion is when your brain sees all those separate drawings and thinks that the pictures are moving! It fills in the blanks in between the frames for you, and turns them into something that makes sense, like Dino flying! So you can just see the animation – and enjoy the cartoon.

Squeaks, we make an awesome animation team! Did you make a zoetrope too? What would you want to make a cartoon about?

We’d love to hear about it! Just ask a grown-up to help you go to and send us a message. We’ll see you next time, here at the Fort! ♪.