Students will apply the concepts, practices, formulas and terminology of this traditional form of animation presented in the Unit 1 introduction presentation.  Students are to generate a working example of the Thaumatrope.  Once the Thaumatrope is created and tested, students are to digitalize their animation and save it in their digital portfolio as:  firstlastname_thaumatrope.wmv in Unit 1/Activity 1 of your D Drive.

Back up your D drive to your USB.


The Thaumatrope (Thau”ma*trope) is a toy that was invented in 1828 by Sir John Herschel. To achieve it’s illusion It relied on the persistence of vision, or the eye’s ability to retain an image. This phenomenon can be observed by glancing into a bright light briefly and then looking away, doing so will result in the viewer observing a darkened spot where the light previously was. This concept is used to fool the eye into seeing both sides of the Thaumatrope at once.

A Thaumatrope is made of a disc which has a different picture on each of it’s two sides. This disc is tied at two opposing ends with string. When the strings are pulled taught and then twisted in the same diretion the disc will spin. When it’s spun fast enough the images will merge into one combined image.



Required Materials:

  • Paper – For the printer,
  • Printer – For printing the Thaumatrope,
  • Scissors – To cut out the Thauamatrope stencil,
  • String – To spin the Thamatrope and make it work,
  • Tape/Glue – To mount the two sides to the string,
  • Digital Video camera – Capture your optical illusion
  • Software – Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Adobe Premiere CS5

Student Task (Students are to complete the following steps in order):

  1. Students are to generate a concept for their working Thaumatrope.  The content of the Thaumatrope must be approved by the teacher.
  2. Print the premade template, right click on the image above and select “print picture.”   This will give you the two discs of the Thaumatrope. Notice the horizontal and vertical lines at the four sides of the circles, these will be used to align the discs with one another. This is to let you know which way the disc will be oriented. The discs, when placed back to back, must be upside down with each other, this will be expained later.  or   To make a custom digital Thaumatrope, with your own imagery on it, download the Thaumatrope template here Thaumatrope. You must have Photoshop CS5  installed on your computer to use the template. There are 2 layers in the template. Layers one and two are locked and do not need to be edited, these two layers outline the edge of the circle for your Thaumatrope. Simply add two middle layers and label them  “Disc A” and “Disc B” respectively. Print it out and follow the instructions above for assembly.
  3. Aligning the Thaumatrope.  After you have cut out the two discs, place them next to each other like the picture above. You will need to flip disc A over and leave disc B where it is. The reason they need to be inverted from one another is that when the string of the Thaumatrope is twisted, the images orientation is reversed, “up” on one side equals “down” on the other. If your confused, don’t be, you’ll understand when you use your Thamatrope. Flip disc A over onto it’s front, from top to bottom then continue to the next step, assembly of the Thaumatrope.
  4. Assembling the Thaumatrope.  Once you have your disc with the back facing you,Taped2 stretch your length of string, thread or yarn accross the back of the disc, aligning the string with the lines on the edges of the other side. (remember the horizontal and vertical lines?) Now place a piece of tape accross the length of string for the part that is on the disc, like the picture above. TapedBe sure your string is pulled taught when you tape it, and that the tape is pressed down firmly or else your Thamatrope may not work correctly.
  5. Now take two pieces of tape and wrap them around your index finger with the sticky side facing away from your skin. Place these tape rolls on the back of side A, one on each side of the string previously taped there. When you are finished, you should see something similar to the picture above. You may safely substitute the use of a glue stick for the two rolled up pieces of tape, this is merely a matter of prefrence.
  6. Align disc B over disc A so that the lines on the left and right (horizontal) are aligned on each disc, keeping in mind that the images need to remain upside down in relation to one another, for reasons that will become apparent very soon. Press down firmly on the two spots where you either affixed the rolled up pieces of tape or spots of glue. If you used glue, wait a few minute for it to dry, otherwise you are ready for the final step, useing your Thaumatrope.
  7. Using your Thaumatrope.    Hold the strings with your thumbs and index fingers. Hold them so that the image of the charecter is facing you and is right side up, leaving the pumpkin upside down on the reverse.
  8. Record your Thaumatrope in action.  Allow it to record for at least 20 seconds.
  9. Once the Thaumatrope is created and tested, students are to digitalize their animation and save it in their digital portfolio as:  firstlastname_thaumatrope.flv in Unit 1/Activity 1 of your E Drive
  10. Students are to submit their Thaumatrope for feedback, tag with your name and activity 1.


  • see traditional animation rubric for mark breakdown.

Examples and Exemplars: