Explore the Science of Animation at OMSI

Reading Time: 3 minutes

OMSI Animation

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, Oregon, just opened a new exhibit about animation. I took my kids on opening night and we had a great time. The exhibit was developed with Cartoon Network, so there are a lot of familiar characters in the displays: maquettes of the Powerpuff Girls, examples of cels and sketches from Yogi Bear and the Jetsons, how to draw characters from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

The exhibit is full of hands-on stuff: storyboarding, recording dialogue to match animation or creating animation to match recorded dialogue, foley effects, bullet time, pixilation, cel layering, stop-motion animation, and more. It’s a great look at the traditional tools of the trade as well as more modern techniques, and if you and your kids like animation, this is a great way to learn a bit more about how the magic happens.

Here’s a little video showing some of the cool things I saw at the exhibit, followed by some photos of some of the stations. For more information about the exhibit, which lasts until January 11, 2015, visit the OMSI website.

OMSI Animation storyboard
The Storyboard station lets you put the various “scenes” in order, and then watch a video of those scenes. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSI-Animation-cels
You get to “build” one frame of a scene by layering cels—background, character cels, and effects. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-horse
At this station, you get to animate a horse model, with some guidelines to show you how to position the horse. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-foley
Try your hand at Foley effects by using various objects to match the scene in the cartoon. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-pantograph
The Pantograph is a tool for enlarging or reducing images to scale. OMSI’s uses a Magnadoodle and large stencils to show how it works. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-mutoscope
The Mutoscope is a crank-driven flipbook. Here you get to see W.C. Fields in “The Golfer.” Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-scrollingbackground
This station demonstrates how a moving background with stationary characters makes it look like the characters are flying. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-greenscreen
Fun with green screens! An OMSI staff member takes snapshots to form a short animated scene. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-dialogue
Use the chart and the mirror to animate this character speaking a line of dialogue. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-praxinoscope
The Praxinoscope uses mirrors to make it look like the beads are moving up and down the poles when you spin it. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSIAnimation-stopmotion
Make a simple stop-motion animated scene at this station, which is usually in OMSI’s Turbine Room area. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
OMSI Animation Screening Room
What would an animation exhibit be without a screening room? Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Get the Official GeekDad Books!