FRANK’S “ZEO-TROPE”: SiDEBOTTOM’S D.i.Y. ZOETROPE

Yes, I’m taking a pair of scissors to a treasured issue of OiNK! No, I’m not still upset (35 years after the fact) with the 5p price rise this issue brought, #25 was the Toys and Hobbies issue and inside was a trove of activities for readers to cut out and make, one of which was Frank Sidebottom’s “zeo-trope”, as he misspelled it. Back as a kid I never cut anything out of my precious comics, but I’m an adult now and can just go and buy a replacement on eBay, so I’m giving this a shot.

The correct spelling is ‘zoetrope’ and it’s a device which the dictionary describes as, “a 19th-century optical toy consisting of a cylinder with a series of pictures on the inner surface that, when viewed through slits with the cylinder rotating, give an impression of continuous motion”. This was a revelation in the days before film and something fun for viewers of various children’s art shows in the 80s to make.

Franks’ alter ego, Chris Sievey decided to try his hand at creating one so let’s see how good it is, shall we? We begin by gluing it to a piece of flexible card. I used a cereal box and the very second I glued it to the blank interior I realised I’d already made a mistake. With the brightly coloured cereal design on the side I’d be looking through to see the animation it would be too distracting when spun. I should’ve made sure the blank side of the cardboard was on the outside. So I glued it on to another piece of the box, blank side out, meaning it was rather more stiff than it should’ve been. Oh well.

Of course, this made cutting out the slits all the more difficult, what with having to slice through two layers of card and glue, and with 12 slots to cut out as neatly as possible this did result in some sore fingers with indents from the ridges of the knife, but that was my fault, not Frank’s. Only as I was doing this did I realise he’d actually numbered all of the slots too. Chris’ work in OiNK was always so intricate, beautifully coloured with felt tip pens and colouring pencils. Co-editor Patrick Gallagher told me he was always amazed at the amount of time and work Chris would put into his pages and the dedication he had for his OiNK work.

Carefully bending it every couple of centimetres I was able to finally get it into a circular shape. (Again, if I’d used one sheet of card this wouldn’t have been so fiddly.) Once glued together a little final squeezing and stretching to get it into as perfect a circle as possible was all that was needed. As instructed by Frank a record player is needed at this stage and luckily enough I have one of those. So it’s now time to see if this works. After all, some people who tried it out as a kid have told me it was pretty rubbish or didn’t work at all! Time to find out.

You have to focus your eye on one of the Franks but I think it works a treat, especially for a cut-out freebie in an old comic.

I remember as a kid those art shows would show zoetropes and we’d only see one of the images animating, making it look like an old-fashioned cartoon animation from the early days of film. Maybe if the device had different dimensions (larger device with smaller holes? I have no idea) it would look more professional but I still think the effect is great, with a group of Franks all strumming away and tapping their feet. I did try to play the OiNK flexidisk while it spun but due to it being only slightly larger than the zoetrope the player’s head hit it and kept skipping after a few seconds. So your ears have been spared!

If you want to give this a try for yourself you can usually pick up #25 of OiNK for no more than a few quid on eBay and this really is easy to put together. This isn’t like the impossible-to-build Road Hogg from #11 (although that didn’t stop one pig pal as you’ll see in that issue’s review). The zoetrope now sits alongside my OiNK collection on my comic shelves, looking like the most unusual little piece of merchandise you ever did see!

(Special thanks to my mate Kevin O’Prey for his help with YouTube. Kevin runs an ASMR channel called TheWhisperCorner which you can find here.)

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