In the loop

Downtown Houston's zany new attraction takes viewers on a wild ride

Downtown Houston's zany new attraction takes viewers on a wild ride

Loop
"Loop" consists of giant cylinders that people sit in. Photo by Alexandre Ayer Photography
Loop
The attraction debuted in Montreal.  Photo by Regis Proulx
Houston First presents Avenida Houston Grand Opening
"Loop" will run at Avenida Houston through January 6, 2019.  Photo courtesy of Houston First Corporation
Loop
Loop
Houston First presents Avenida Houston Grand Opening

Houston is about to learn a new 10-dollar word: "zoetrope." It's an optical toy invented in the 19th century (predating animated film) — one which shows images in rapid succession, creating the illusion of motion.

That is the official definition from Houston First, which is bringing 12 giant zoetropes to Avenida Houston in a free, family-friendly, illuminated musical installation called, simply, "Loop."

"Loop," which is now open to the public, is part art installation, part amusement-park ride. It is described as "a larger-than-life cross between a music box, a zoetrope, and a railway handcar."

Still slightly confused? Here's how it works: 

There are cylinders more than 2 meters in diameter (meters, one presumes, because it was first presented at a festival in Montreal), inside which people of all ages can sit and pump a lever together to activate the images. What should appear but beautiful scenes inspired by 12 different childhood fairy tales, organizers say.

"When the cylinder starts spinning, it lights up, making a series of still images appear to move through a flickering strobe effect that accompanies the black and white images," a news release says. "The animation is visible both inside and outside the cylinder and can be viewed from up close or far away."

Participants set the pace, which determines how fast the images move, the frequency of the flickering, and the tempo of the music. (So it sounds like a creative workout alternative to a stationary bike, too.)

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"Loop" will run through January 6, 2019. Avenida Houston is located at 1001 Avenida de las Americas. Exhibit is located in front of Hall C.