Super Mario Phenakistoscopic Animation




Introduction: Super Mario Phenakistoscopic Animation

About: Elementary Art Teacher

A phenakistoscope is a spinning animation toy from the 1800's. When you spin them in a mirror and look through the slits it comes to life. I've hand animated them before, but for this Mario Bros. themed 'scope I wanted to use the actual sprites from the video game.  A smaller version of this could be made with cardstock and paper, but strong cardboard gives my larger one a good backing.

Supplies You'll Need:

- Compass (the circle making kind)
- Ruler (or the straight edge of the nearest thing lying around)
- Cardboard
- Glue
- Print outs of video game sprites (or you could draw them by hand)
    I found mine here:
- Cardboard
- X-Acto, Box-cutter, or scissors
- Pencil

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Cutting Circles & Dividing the Frames

Cut out 2 circles:
You'll be cutting out 2 circles. 1 shutter spinner (cardboard, larger), and 1 animation disc (paper or cardboard, smaller)
The animation disc should be about 2-3 inches smaller.
I used cardboard for both to make the scope hardier, but paper would work fine for the animation disc.
Be sure to clearly mark the center dot (where the compass needle was).  Everything will spin around this.

Making the Frames:
Decide how many frames you want your animation to be. 
More frames = smaller "pizza pieces" = smoother animation = less details fit in a frame
Less frames = bigger pizza pieces = chunkier animation = more details fit in a frame
I did 33 for mine.

There are great tutorials for how to use a ruler and compass to divide up a circle, and they will be more exact than my method which was:
-> Photoshop's "Polygon Tool" and make a starburst shape with the desired number of points
-> print out
-> tape to the center of your disc
-> mark a dot at the points of the star
-> Use a ruler to connect the dots out

Making the Shutters:
Center the animation disc on the shutter spinner and trace it.  This line will show you how long your shutters will be.
Make 2 vertical cuts on the shutter spinner along each frame line, then pop it out.
Note: Shutters that are a little long don't hurt anything, since your animation will cover them up.

Step 2: Animation Disc

This is the main step of the phenakistoscope, and the most fun!

I plan it out with dots and lines before I glue or draw anything.
Dots are much easier to erase and it's no fun to be halfway through and realize your animation is off.

A Loop, not a Story
Remember, this is a loop animation with continuous motion. Your last frame should lead you into your first frame.
It's different than a flipbook with a beginning and an end.

Keyframes & In-Betweens
Chop your animation is half, then quarters. These keyframes will keep you from working ahead too fast (or falling behind).

Step 3: Spin It!

Jam a pencil through the center of the shutter and animation wheels.
Tape the animation down so it stays put.
Spin it in a mirror. It only works if you look through the shutter slits.

If you made a smaller, lightweight phenakistoscope, then a thumbtack in a pencil eraser is better than jamming a pencil through the center hole.

Note: After 5+ hours of fixing, checking, and minor corrections you may feel a tad sea sick!

Be the First to Share


    • Heart Contest

      Heart Contest
    • Fiber Arts Contest

      Fiber Arts Contest
    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest

    10 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 3

    Superb use of the phenakistoscope format -- really like the way you use most of the disk for your animation. Makes this superior to a zoetrope (similar but looks like a carousel)  for this particular animation.

    Nicely done i'ble.

    I wonder how FEW slits you can use? For instance if you could have only 4 you could animate a 3D photo by using 4 larger alternating left and right images LRLR. I'll have to experiment with this.

    Thanks for the inspiration!!!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I love the 3D idea -- one obstacle would be that the slits don't really block out much: you generally see the whole disc at once. This may be solved by fewer slits though. I'd love to see any experiments on this!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is very cool, especially the animated GIFs, but could I be greedy and ask you to add a scan of your finished disc?

    That way, folk would be able to skip a lot of your more complicated steps, and simply print it out and cut the slots....


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I added a higher quality image of the disc along with some instructions. One thing of note: my center hole is a bit off, which produces the wobble you see in the animated one.