Mark Evanier, whose News From Me blog should be a daily destination for all, linked to a bit of comic and animation history yesterday:
This is the 12 minute version of Gertie the Dinosaur, the film that contains the five minutes [Little Nemo in Slumberland creator Windsor McCay] animated for what many would later call — erroneously but with only the best of intentions — the first animated cartoon ever. It wasn’t, not by a longshot. It wasn’t even McCay’s first animated film. But this one got enough attention that it probably seemed like the first to some, and it certainly inspired just about everyone who got into animation for an entire era or two. Its makers (McCay had help but not a lot) also invented a number of techniques that are still, in some fashion, in use today.
Cartoonists back then worked night and day to produce their comic strips. For some reason — fame and money, one supposes — some of them still made time to tour in vaudeville or the lecture circuit with acts that sometimes (not always) involved drawing. McCay started such extracirricular activities around 1906, sketching on stages and incorporating his early animated efforts into the presentation. In February of 1914, he debuted Gertie at the Palace Theater in Chicago and then took her to New York and elsewhere. He had the five minutes of animation and he’d stand on stage as it was shown and interact with it. Later that year, the remainder of the film you’re about to see was shot so that Gertie the Dinosaur could be shown in movie houses without McCay or any human participating…and also so that the story of its exhausting production could be immortalized. All the live-action footage was done months after the animation so everything you see of McCay slaving away at the drawing board is a re-creation. In truth, the amount of labor involved was probably not exaggerated except, as is obvious, for comic effect.
He goes on to add that, today, he’ll link McCay’s other Gertie film.