Have you ever seen those old optical toys they used in the 19th century to make out-of-this-world animated illustrations for kids and kids at heart? We haven't seen them in the flesh but it’s a good thing that Richard Balzer collects them and turns them into amazing GIFs for all the world to see.
Thumatropes, praxinoscopes, henakistiscopes, zoetropes and abunch of other optical toys that were famous in the 19th century are the crowning glory in Richard Balzer’s collection of illustrations and machines. And just in case you’re wondering what those things are, well they’re just the ancestors of the GIFs we have all come to love these days.
Balzer’s collection grew by the thousands and the collector decided to share his beloved trove of optical illusions for the masses to see. Partnering with Los Angeles-based animator Brian Duffy, Balzer released his collection for public consumption and the reception was not what he expected. His Tumblr site started picking up followers and reblogs and it’s all thanks to 19th century illustrations that range from surreal to the downright comical.
Imagination is continuously at work in Balzer and Duffy’s animated GIFs since they employ a trial and error scheme to make these 19th century works of art move in the digital age. The looping illustrations show us what passed for amusement during the earlier days, not to mention give us a peek into the whimsical world of the ancestors of the GIF.