Animate Yourself (Literally!) at New York Hall of Science's New Interactive Animation Exhibit
My son and I had been dying to see the New York Hall of Science's Animation exhibit from the moment it was announced. So when it opened last weekend, we trekked out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to check it out and it did not disappoint. Like all of NYHS's installations, Animation offers hands-on learning fun for kids and adults. Plus, the subject matter is right up every child’s alley: What kid doesn’t love cartoons?
When you step into the huge colorful gallery, you're transported to a cartoon world inhabited by the animated stars of Cartoon Network. (The channel provided funding for this traveling exhibition.) Kids can learn about a variety of animation techniques at a series of interactive stations, and even try to make their own creations. Plus they get a cursory lesson in the history of the genre, and even get to watch classic and contemporary cartoons.
Kids can make animation the super-old-fashioned way by playing with a 19th-century praxinoscope (a spinning mirrored wheel that creates the illusion of movement) or cranking a Penny Arcade mutoscope. Both of these retro machines fascinated my technology-obsessed, 21st century seven-year-old.
The majority of Animation focuses on contemporary animation techniques. My kid loved creating his own ten-second galloping sequence with stop-motion technology (that station is inspired by Eadweard Muybridge's groundbreaking 1882 Horse in Motion animation). My son also practiced synching animated mouths with recorded voices. Additional activities include using the pantograph, a tool for enlarging or shrinking drawings, experimenting with different styles of music to change the mood of scenes, playing with cell layering and drawing your own cartoon characters.
For my son, the highlight of the exhibit was filming himself using Bullet Time, a visual effect that gives the illusion of hovering in midair. Or maybe he liked watching episodes of Ben 10 and other Cartoon Network faves even more. As a screen time stickler, I was happy to see that these clips included informative pop-ups that explained various animation techniques, so they were somewhat educational. There were also clips from Saturday morning cartoons of my youth, like The Flintstones, Quick Draw McGraw and my all-time childhood fave Top Cat. Cases full of cartoon cels, hand-drawn storyboards, classic toys, lunch boxes and other memorabilia round out the exhibit.
One word of warning: The activities at each kiosk can take several minutes to complete and are definitely aimed at school-age kids who can read. The exhibit was pretty empty when my son and I visited, but I suspect you could spend a lot of time waiting on line on a crowded day.
Animation is on view through Sunday, September 2 at the New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Free with admission: $11 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-17.
Read about other cool exhibits for kids in our Museum Guide.