Simple forms of animated pictures existed long before inventing the film. The Phenakistoscope, a vintage toy invented in 1832 by the Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau is one of them. It was a popular Victorian parlor toy in the form of a spinning disc attached vertically to a handle. It contained a series of drawings that showed sequenced phases of an animation around the disc’s center, with equally spaced radial slits cut through the disc.
When the user spins the disc and looks at its reflection in a mirror, through the quickly moving slits, he will see a rapid succession of images which appear to be a single moving picture. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images prevented them from blurring together.
The zoetrope, an animated vintage toy invented in 1834, is another example of early simple animations. It’s a cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides, containing several static pictures on the inside in sequence, so that they appear to be moving when the cylinder spins as the viewers looks through the slits.
The number of images used in the zoetrope was as limited as in the Phenakistoscope, since it required the cylinder to be of modest size.
However, the images and the apparatus in the zoetrope are no longer joined together, since the apparatus is on one side and the band of images is on the other side. Unlike the Phenakistoscope, where the user had to also pick up the apparatus itself as well as the disk of images.
There are many modern implementations of the zoetrope that were created through experimenting with different shapes, drawings, colors and sounds. Some computer programs have made it easy to design 3D zoetrope models which make 3D sculptures appear to move and come to life.
In the image above there is a large zoetrope is at the Australian Center for the Moving Image.
Here’s an important article from the Telegraph newspapers about creating a dancing ballerina using a spinning 3D-printed zoetrope, which won both the Runner-up Grand Prix and the Audience Award in the 2016 Spiral Independent Creators Festival in Tokyo.
The flip book is another example of simple animations. It’s a small notebook -originally stapled, but mostly bound today- with a static image on each page.
When the reader goes through the pages in rapid succession, usually by holding the book in one hand and flipping over the ages with the thumb of the other one, he sees an optical illusion of a short animation. The animation can be slow or fast depending on the speed of flipping.
John Barnes Linnett, under the name of Kineograph for moving pictures, made the first flipbook in 1868. The flip book animation was popular at the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, but it’s still produced today.
Chukimation is a type of animation in which characters or objects are chucked and wiggled around by unseen hands to simulate talking and simple motions. It was used in making Action League Now cartoon, combined with traditional stop motion animation.
While these simple techniques don’t need a camera, object animation and Chuckimation involve filming regular inanimate objects, like legos or dolls, and animating them using stop-motion or off-camera hand-movement.
"True cinema without camera or spotlight, its principle makes from any kind of notebook a potential film in kit form", wrote G.Dupeyrot in an article about commercial flip books.