Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: George McManus

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)

Gertie

After the sophistication of “How a Mosquito Operates,” I was a bit disappointed that Winsor McCay’s next animation film started off with another live-action wraparound story, which is essentially the same as that for “Little Nemo:” his friends bet him that he can’t animate a dinosaur. Apparently he chose a dinosaur as a subject because people had accused him of working from photographs to make the mosquito. But, once Gertie emerged from her cave, all was forgiven – she is the most lovable and fun of all the characters he created for these movies so far. The film was originally made to be shown without the wraparound; McCay showed it as part of live performances, and he would give Gertie the instructions that we read today on the intertitles, and Gertie would appear to respond to him. Gertie is a bit antiquated, being a Brontosaurus (a type of dinosaur we now know never existed), but that doesn’t really make a difference for cartoon purposes, and McCay gets around the scientific objection that their mouths were too small to feed their stomachs by having Gertie devour an entire tree in one gulp. Happily, she’s here to stay, the movie has been preserved by the National Film Registry.

Also known as: “Gertie,” “Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur,” “Gertie, a Dinosaur.”

Director: Winsor McCay

Starring: Winsor McCay, George McManus

Run Time: 12 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

Little Nemo (1911)

Little_Nemo

So far, in my exploration of early movies, I haven’t talked at all about early experiments in animation. That ends today, with the addition of the first known film by Winsor McCay, who also wrote the comic strip that “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” was based on. This movie is based on his best-known and most beloved strip, “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” which was about a boy who dreamt wild and wonderful things each night, and awoke in the last panel of each episode. The movie, however, doesn’t really do much with that theme, and is more about the process of animation. Most of it is live-action sequences in which McCay bets his friends he can make drawing move, collects prodigious amounts of paper and ink, and then toils away at drawing each individual picture. Finally, at the end, we get a brief animated sequence (with some hand-colored sections, in the version I watched) in which characters from “Little Nemo” dance, fight, and interact with each other. A good deal of the screen time is taken up by watching McCay draw his famous characters – sometimes with his hand visible, in a slightly fast-motion live action, and sometimes through “animation” (no hand visible). It’s safe to say that this served mostly as a way for McCay to convince Vitagraph that the technology and interest existed to make this worth pursuing further.

AKA: Winsor McKay, the Famous Cartoonist of the New York Herald and his Moving Comics

Director: Winsor McCay

Camera: Walter Arthur

Starring: Winsor McKay, John Bunny, George McManus

Run Time: 11 Min, 33 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.