Zoetropes, Flipbooks
& Narrative Theory

To the right is the first version of TV Dinner; a 12 image cycle animated for a zoetrope strip.

If you look at animation in a zoetrope, you see images go through the same motion over and over again. When I first worked with the zoetrope, I noticed that this repetition created dramatic tension. As I watched the moving image cycle, I'd want something to happen which would spin it off into linear narrative, with a defined beginning, middle and end. To satisfy this desire, I let my imagination decide what could happen next and used those ideas to develop several flipbooks, including TV Dinner, Hot Licks, Paranoia and Sloth.

In narrative theory, the practice of describing a repeating event only once is known as the iterative. Storytellers (including filmmakers and animators) find the iterative useful to establish context at the beginning of a story. For example, "Every morning, when we turned on the TV, a big mouth on the screen opened." The mouth opening on TV is a repeated event. But there won't be a story unless some change sets the plot in motion. "This morning, when we turned on the TV, the mouth opened, shot out its tongue like a hungry frog and...."

(Order the flipbook to find out the end of that story!)

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Copyright Ruth Hayes 2017