combination of moving picture 'toys' and vaudeville exhibition
devices such as the magic lantern was inevitable and one of
the first successful attempts at such a marriage came in the
form of the Praxinoscope.
Patented in 1877, the Praxinoscope was the result
of work carried out by Frenchman Emile Reynaud. In essence
the Praxinoscope was an adaptation of Hornerís Zoetrope which
at the time had become extremely popular.
Using a drum design which revolved, as with
the Zoetrope, the images were viewed reflected in a prism
of mirrors which rose from the centre of the drum. Each mirror
as it passed flashed a clear image opposed to it.
The result was perfect animation without the
loss of luminosity in movement which was experienced with
The next step, as Reynaud saw it, was to adapt
his existing device so that the animated pictures could be
projected. The replacement of the opaque drawings with transparent
drawings meant that light could be shone through them. The
light which shone through the pictures was reflected by the
mirror prism and focused onto a screen through a lens.
In 1872 Reynaud took this idea and turned it
into theatrical entertainment. Up until this point animation
toys had been limited to repetitive images. Reynaud noted
this and devised a method of painting a series of pictures
on small glass plates which were joined together in a single
flexible strip. The animated characters were projected onto
a screen from behind.
Reynaud exhibited his projecting Praxinoscope
giving public performances using long broad strips of hand
The effect he achieved was successful but was
jerky and slow. In addition the labour required to draw the
strips meant that Reynaudís films could not easily be reproduced.
Reynaudís Theatre Optique came remarkably close
to the cinema - all that it lacked was the addition of photography.