John Baumgartner

Shot4shot Toy Story Zoetrope


I had to post this, even though it’s not a shot or really even from a movie.  But it’s by movie makers and a total new application of one of the first technologies ever to show a motion picture, the zoetrope.  (Not sure if the Pixarians are the first to do this, but it has to be one of the best applications.)

Damn those folks as Pixar just can’t help themselves, they’re just so clever.

This, more or less, is a sculptural zoetrope, one that makes inanimate objects come to life right in front of your naked eyes.  It’s the coolest sensation – like live computer animation.  It works by spinning the turntable very fast, and then illuminating only by strobe light.  Why didn’t I think of that?  (Makes me daydream if you could make an entire movie this way, or at least a short.  Could  a conveyor belt of sculptures move fast enough???) No camera, no coverage! They’ve cut out the middle man.

This is on display at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim.  I think it was my favorite thing I saw.  The strobe kicks in at 1:37 in the below video, which of course doesn’t do justice to what it’s like to see it in person.  Epileptics beware!

Let me know if you’ve ever seen this done before by someone else.


  • May 16, 2011
    Jeremy Cole

    Pretty cool! Practical tricks are always the most fun, aren’t they?

    I’m writing a short doc right now on effects before computers. I’m gooning out on all of the little great tricks filmmakers used to pull off huge looking effects. This is right up there.

  • May 16, 2011

    I’ve seen a lot of zoetropes in museum exhibits (especially science museums), but never one this large or with sculpted elements. This is really magical, with the strobe light and the scale of the whole thing – it must be really neat to see in person. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done like this anywhere.

  • May 17, 2011

    Wow sooo cool John. This is crazy. I’m lovin the site, another Goodfellas shot that is beautiful is the loooonnnggg take through the restaurant when he takes Karen out alone. Keep em comin, I’ll be checking back often!

  • June 5, 2011

    There was just a great discussion of the dinner shot from Goodfellas, I want to say it was in Vanity Fair’s 20th anniversary tribute? Definitely another case of Scorcese squeezing everything out of a scene that was written conventionally by shooting in a unique and inspired way. Henny Youngman kept flubbing his line (only his most known punchline) because he was so transfixed by the ballet of maneuvers it took to pull off the shot.


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