You saw and loved Scorsese’s “Hugo.” You rushed home and Googled “Georges Melies,” and you rediscovered a thrilling character from history You wondered: Surely the automaton was wholly fictional, right? No one could really make something like that!
Oh, but they did. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has one restored. CBS Sunday Morning reported it:
(And then CBS disabled embedding — you’ll have to go watch at YouTube. Sorry.)
Here, watch this longer piece demonstrating the device:
Steampunkers everywhere are suddenly filled with hope.
But, should we be surprised that mere mechanical devices can do such seemingly wonderous stuff? Remember the “bird pistols” that were auctioned a few months ago? And what about all those mechanized clocks in towns and cities across Europe? See the clock tower in Poznan, Poland, for example:
At Mid day everyday, 2 mechanical goats bang their heads together and a guy plays a trumpet.
Amazing stuff was possible, without electronics. 2D animation on film is fantastic. 3d animation of a real object? It appears just short of miraculous, and then only because we know something about how it was done. Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Third Law screams to be noted here: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But of course, no one is making such automata today. Maybe they are miracles, no? Bugs Bunny sang, “Carrots are sublime/You get a dozen for dime/It’s magic!”
Magic of and on film, one of the great themes of the movie “Hugo.”
Updated: More sources (courtesy of Zemanta):