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The Tatebanko Astronomer
(paper diorama stop motion animation)

Ok, I realize the title of this project is a little bit odd but I will explain.

I had a couple of goals when it comes to making this animation. First I wanted to do a paper diorama and see how useful it could be when it comes to making an animation.

Secondly I have the iKit movie maker and I wanted to see how useful and fun that would be.

The project was a success on both accounts. You can watch the entire video and the animation at the bottom of this page.



The tatebanko astronomer


The blank box

Tatebanko is the ancient art of paper dioramas and they are typically inside a paper box similar to the one shown here. If you want to learn more about Tatebanko I have more right here including a download of this box I use so you can make your own paper scenes .

Here you can see the beginning of this project. I have established the box and one of the backgrounds is a starry black sky. This will actually move down and the stars will fall.


One of the important things I wanted to do with this project is use various moving paper parts to do a lot of the animation.

Techniques used in this tutorial: (paper manipulation)

  • Slicing - Paper sliding down (starry background) I actually repeatedly sliced it with a paper cutter.
  • Pinwheeling - this is the galaxy that rotates
  • Sliding paper - the little astronomer, the big astronomer
  • Substitution - for example the background frame with the houses and trees is changed to a darker color when night falls
  • String pulling - This is for the meteor
  • Replacement - I made a series of paper explosions, each successively larger than the previous. Each one in a frame makes a growing explosion. This is technically also replacement

As always the first step is to draw out a storyboard. So we know what we are going to make and how each shot is going to be done. We need the story, and we need the vis ual layout here. You break down the story into a series of scenes that can be worked with.


The story board


Here is a look at the replacement technique. On the left you see the houses and the trees in daylight. As night falls the whole frame is replaced with the exact replica on the right which is a darker color. This is how night falls.


Night falls


The pinwheel galaxy

Here is the pinwheel galaxy. There is a toothpick right at the axle. Rotating this will give the motion of the galaxy spinning.


sliding the little astronomer

Our little astronomer walks out onto the stage and I do this by putting him on a long tab of paper. I can slide him over a quarter inch and snap a photo, move him again and snap another photo. I continue this process to have him walk out into the center of the box.


The astronomer

Then we cut to a closeup scene ofthe astronomer looking through the telescope. Again I move him with a paper tab so he moves right in and looks through the telescope.


The meteor explosion scene

To do the meteor explosion I created six pieces of flame and just substituted them one at a time to simulate the growing explosion. And after growing it I then reversed the order bringing it down in size to subside the explosion. It makes a good effect. This is the Replacement Technique.


The meteor

I used the meteor twice in this project. In the picture here you see it in the telescope view. I moved it with a piece of brown string which pulled it along. For later in the animation, when the meteor crashes to the ground I attached it to a clear piece of plastic so I could move it in the box one frame at a time.


rotating the galaxy

Here is the view through the telescope with the galaxy. It actually has a toothpick in it so it can be rotated step by step and frame by frame.


Watch the animation Here:


Tatebanko Paper Diorama - Dragon's Lair

Tatebanko, or paper dioramas, often depict traditional scenic perspectives but can be used to create almost any amazing diorama. Uniquely combining two-dimensional materials to create and three-dimensional space, this ancient Japanese art and hobby originated in the Edo period (17th century) and remained popular into the 20th century before it was nearly forgotten. has revived this wonderful pastime for your enjoyment! Enclosed in this package you will find everything you need to create your very own tatebanko box! This Tatebanko project is easy to make and looks spectacular. Picture a red dragon sleeping upon his treasure trove in its dark, deep lair with the remains of adventurers past scattered about the cave. Suddenly, it smells something... delicious-it smells a knight-our knight, bravely entering the lair where the awakened dragon is biding his time, waiting in the dark for a hero to emerge and rise to the challenge!

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