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First Person

Scantastic

Arlington artist and filmmaker Rufus Butler Seder, 56, brings magic to the masses with his Lifetiles murals and Waddle!, his newest (and already best-selling) Scanimation book.

By Lylah M. Alphonse
November 29, 2009

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What’s Scanimation? It’s similar to one of those flip books every kid knows. I figured out how to scramble all those flip-book pages together and print them onto one page. Over that, I lay a sheet of thin, clear plastic printed with a black “picket fence” pattern. When you open the book, the picket fence slides across the face of the scrambled image, showing the first drawing, then the next drawing, then the next, and your brain puts it together and makes motion out of it.

You started out in film and ended up with three books -- Gallop!, Swing!, and Waddle! -- that seem to be permanently housed on the New York Times bestseller list. How did you go from movies to books? In the mid-1980s my interests turned to inventing methods of creating motion pictures without the use of electricity or motors. First, I came up with a glass-tiled medium I called Lifetiles, which enabled me to create life-size murals that appear to come to life and move realistically when the observer walks alongside them. Later, I invented and patented a number of other nifty things that deliver the illusion of movement [see eyethinkinc.com]. One of the most successful things was a paper greeting card I called a Smart Move card, with a picture that came to life and moved when you opened it.

Some of your art is in Boston. I did an Olympic-themed mural for the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center as well as a giant “living scrapbook” featuring moving, changing pictures of Reggie Lewis, the Celtics, and his family. There’s another Lifetiles mural in the children’s Floating Hospital. That mural features Boston Bruin Ace Bailey on an icy pond knocking a puck at you while, nearby, an ice skating girl spins.

What’s next? Star Wars Scanimation! Luke fighting Darth Vader, the Death Star exploding, Yoda twirling his light saber -- all that and more.

What would you try to do, if time and money were no objects? Now that I think about it -- hey, I guess I’m already doing it!

  • November 29, 2009 cover
  • november 29 globe magazine cover
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