Magic Wheels

What's a magic wheel? Good question. It's actually something called a phenakistoscope (feen-uh-kissed-oh-scope). But phenakistoscope is hard to say or remember. So smart people call it a magic wheel instead.

scopeThe "magic" part of a "magic wheel" is that what looks like one rude pink cake kicking one small, brown cupcake is really a bunch rude pink cakes and sad little cupcakes that don't move at all. Look to your left. They're just standing there, right? Nothing's moving. But all those cakes and cupcakes happen to be drawn on the same piece of round paper. Like the spokes on a bicycle wheel.

This is where the "wheel" part of a "magic wheel" comes from. Because spinning your circle of stationary cakes and cupcakes is what magically brings everything to life. I don't really know how it works. I only know that it does.

mirrorI wish I could take credit for being smart enough to have invented the magic wheel. It would be the coolest thing I've ever invented. By far. But sadly, someone way cleverer than me invented them in the 1830's. Which is over 180 years ago. So the only thing clever about me is that I know how to follow instructions. I Googled "phenakistoscope," and found web sites that explain how and why "magic wheels" work, and how to make one yourself.Here is a short list of links to some of the places I looked. These are just a few suggestions. You may find better resources out there. If so, please let me know so I can share them here.

Wikipedia Definition of Phenakistoscope

How to Create a Phenakistoscope

Amazing Antique Phenakistoscopes

Download a Rude Cakes Magic Wheel (pdf)

scopeIt should go without saying that most magic wheels don't show rude cakes kicking cupcakes. You can make magic wheels about fire-breathing cakes. Or poodles. Or poodles in flying rocket cakes. Or you don't even need to draw poodles or cakes at all. Maybe you hate cakes? And poodles? That would be your loss. But I didn't make the world, and you are free to dislike whatever you want. I don't like turtleneck sweaters. Or hugging strangers. So I will probably never make a magic wheel about either. But you can.

Please email me pix of your magic wheels. I would love to see what you come up with. Unless it involves hugging. Or turtleneck sweaters.


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