Make your own Hanging Zoetrope!

So you’ve always liked animation and you always thought zoetropes were cool. Perhaps you wanted to make your own zoetrope but felt a little lazy and didn’t quite have the motivation to go dig a motor out of some old kid’s toy? Or maybe you never quite knew how to go about it before.
Well, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, I now bestow upon you my super-simple, super-cheap, relatively-quick instructions for a zoetrope made out of household goods!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 100-pack CD/DVD spindle CLEAR cover
  • Sharpie/marker of Sharpie-standard-ness
  • Ruler
  • Black paint
  • 1/2″ or so paintbrush (I used a bristle brush, they’re cheap)
  • Needle
  • Dental Floss
  • Seamstress measuring tape (optional, most CD/DVD spindles are roughly the same size so you can probably use my measurements).
  • Xacto knife (optional)

And here’s the plan:

Figure out exact amount of frames; figure out the spacing for those frames and draw slits onto spindle cover. Paint everything but “slits” black, let paint dry, then hang the zoetrope from dental floss.

Let’s get started!

1. Find a clear CD/DVD spindle that can be sacrificed for the good of animation.


2. Flip it upside down and figure out its circumference. My Memorex DVD spindle came out to 15.25″.


3. Hopefully you’re mathematically-inclined than I am; for the next part, I figured I wanted to have 7 frames, each 2″ wide. That left me with 1.25″ for my viewing slits around the zoetrope. As I am planning to have 7 frames, I will need 7 viewing slits, preferably all of equal width.

Again, with the seamstress measuring tape, I made a mark with a Sharpie every 2″ (frame size) with an added� 3/16″ after for the viewing slit. I measured this pattern around the entire circumference.


4. Next you’ll extend these marks clear up the spindle. It’s important that you try to keep them as straight and parallel as possible! A trick I found (that seemingly worked) was taking the edge of my ruler and putting it against one of the ledges of the spindle cover (the ledges for locking it in place).


By now, it should look something quite like this:


5. Take a look at your zoetrope-to-be and determine how high you want your animation to be in comparison to your viewing slits. I made my viewing slits 1.5″ high, which felt like a good height. I measured these out again with a Sharpie.


6. Paint time! Bust out the black and paint everything BUT the slits. I gave mine two coats with black Liquitex Basics. (The cheaper the better for this job!)


Paint only the outside! This will keep the inside looking nice and crisp, plus exchanging animations will go smoother. Painting the base is up to you. You may want to leave it unpainted to shine a light through it, and you may want to paint it white to allow for reflected light.


7. Once the paint’s dry (if you’re impatient, go ahead and use a heat gun), you’ll be poking 3 holes like so by twisting the tip of an Xacto knife into the plastic:


Next you’re wondering– but 7 isn’t divisible by 3! Isn’t this contrapion going to be off-balance? No– not as long as you measure your dental floss just right. There’s actually a beauty to it being asymmetrical. You’ll have one huge gap (when it’s hanging) which is easy access to exchange your zoetrope animations! So go ahead and punch a hole in one viewing slit; skip a slit, poke a hole through the next one; skip another slit and poke through the next slit. Be sure to poke the holes through the top so they don’t interrupt your animation viewing space! You’ll be left with two empty viewing slits.

8. Finally, you get to hang it with dental floss! (Dental floss is tough stuff, I’ll have you know– I’ve sewn together bookbags with it and it has yet to fail me). Sew some dental floss through one of the holes and make a tight knot. Make a sort of “end” (mine was 7″) from which all three strands will meet. Make all three as equal as possible and tied up in this one central knot 7″ away from the edge of the zoetrope. (This is easier said than done– I used one long piece of dental floss and made it go through all 3 holes, tying knots as I went along, constantly measuring/testing to make sure it was as even as possible). When you’ve got it hanging from the “central knot”, thread another piece of dental floss below the knot and up around, so it’s got a strand to hang off of. (This way, when you spin your zoetrope, it’ll spin the strand holding the central knot– this way the strands coming from the zoetrope itself won’t get all tangled up and change the balance).

Yippee! You’re done!


There you can see the three holes I made to hang it from, which also demonstrates the ample amount of drop-in space for the zoetrope itself.

I’ve made a zoe-template in .pdf format, which you can download and print here! Enjoy! 😀

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