Richard Balzer’s Collection of Antique Animation Devices

Thaumatrope

East coast animator Brian Duffy has been cataloguing the collection of Richard Balzer, who owns a one-of-a-kind cache of antique animation toys and devices. Brian writes:

Richard Balzer’s collection numbers in the thousands and includes all manner of zoetropes, thaumatropes, phenakistoscopes, magic lanterns, and any other such devices that produce an optical effect. I have been working with Dick for the past year to help catalogue his collection in an online database, and produce flash-based galleries to show off the effects of select pieces. It’s been quite an eye-opening experience, and I’ve learned a great deal about what is essentially a lost history of animation. Some of the zoetropes and phenakistoscopes show evidence of bedrock principles of animation decades before Winsor McCay and Walt Disney.

I was blown away by all of the ancient goodies displayed on Richard Balzer’s website DickBalzer.com. It’s packed with pre-film artifacts that will prove invaluable to anybody wishing to understand the historical roots of animation. Brian says that they will soon be adding more Flash galleries that show the devices in action. Updates about the collection can be found at DickBalzer.blogspot.com. Kudos to Mr. Balzer for sharing his amazing collection with the world.


  • Bugsmer

    This is awesome! Mr. Balzer has quite the collection. The animation might be limited, but these toys are still fascinating.

  • Mark Newgarden

    An essential site. When will this history finally be written?

  • w

    WOW! I gotta build few of these for the kids.
    There’s something about this image that I really like…like somehow animation is the work of forest sprites and best enjoyed with a bevvie!

  • ear vomit

    i wish that this site existed last year when I was trying to teach high school kids abut pre film. the flash animation to show the item working is great.