COSI gets animated with its new exhibit

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Messenger photo by John Matuszak
From left, Jessica Smith, 12, Sabrina Gibson, 9, and Tiffany Gibson, 11, all of Chillicothe, are up in the air over COSI’s "Animation" exhibit. They are experiencing "bullet-time," in which they will appear to float above the floor in a Matrix-style special effect.

Ever wanted to live in a cartoon?

In a way, we do.

"We live in an animated world," explained Jeff Shapiro at COSI’s "Animation" exhibit, using Cartoon Network and classic Hanna-Barbera characters to demonstrate the science and art behind favorite ‘toons.

Shapiro mans the "Animation Station" booth among the numerous interactive exhibits on the history and production of animation.

Using a mirror, Shapiro shows that we cannot see when our eyes shift focus from left to right, because there is a momentary gap in vision. The same holds true when watching action pass before our eyes, such as a horse race.

It is the gap that creates the illusion of "apparent motion," he further demonstrates. A circle of pictures of an elephant is a blur when viewed directly as it spins. But when watched through a ring with gaps in it, the elephant pictures take on life-like movement. Shapiro illustrates the same principle with a small strobe light directed on a spinning wheel with pictures of a running horse.

Just add character, story, color, background, sound and special effects, and a cartoon is born.

The rest of the exhibit shows how all those elements come together, and how they borrow from scientific fields from physics and anatomy, and benefit studies in genetics, medicine and archeology.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland built the exhibit after teaching classes about animation for 10 years. Students who attended the classes performed better in school, the designers discovered.

And your mother said you were wasting your time watching cartoons!

Visitors to COSI will be able to step into that animated world where the principles of motion and physics are mastered and then temporarily suspended.

An exhibit based on "Foster’s Home of Imaginary Friends" makes it appear as if you are hopping from spot to spot without moving, with a series of photographs using "pixilation."

The same use of a grid pattern is employed in mathematics, mapmaking and other scientific explorations.

Kids can step into "Dexter’s Laboratory" to experience "bullet-time," which makes people appear to be suspended in mid-air in a Matrix-like effect. This is achieved through a large number of cameras taking pictures at the same time from different angles and playing them back in order.

A Foley booth allows would-be Walt Disneys to add sound effects to clips from "Kids Next Door."

Several kiosks discuss careers in animation with commentary from such practitioners as actor Candi Milo, who has provided the voice for Dexter and 200 other characters.

Careers in science that use the properties of animation to speed up or slow down the physical world for exploration are also discussed.

A Cartoon Theater provides an opportunity to watch how the principles of animation are put into motion.

Putting together an animated film, which takes hundreds of artists and technicians, isn’t child’s play, Bexley resident Sam Fishel, 13, discovered.

"It’s a lot of work," Fishel learned.

And it’s big business. Computer-animated "Shrek 2" was the third highest grossing movie of all time, and one-fourth of videos sold are animated films.

Sam and his mother, Joan Fishel, were impressed with the advances in technology, such as computer animation that allows the artist to draw directly on the screen.

Baby boomers may not be familiar with some of the characters from the Cartoon Network, unless they have kids of their own. But they won’t feel left out.

One area salutes the classic characters of the Hanna-Barbera Studio, from the Flintstones to Scooby Doo, with film clips and displays of toys, animation cels and other memorabilia.

"Animation" will be on display at COSI, 333 W. Broad St., through Labor Day. Visit www.cosi.org for summer hours and admission prices.

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