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Winsor McCay: Animation Legend
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"The two most important people in animation are Winsor McCay and Walt Disney." -- Chuck Jones
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Between 1911 and 1921 McCay made a series of animated shorts almost entirely drawn by him. The most famous is GERTIE THE DINOSAUR from 1914 presented here for the first time in a copy made from a 35mm print. The initial offering LITTLE NEMO from 1911 was not only drawn by McCay (on rice paper!) but hand-colored by him as well. The propaganda film THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA (1918) remains one of the great achievements in animation history. While the quality of the animation is beyond reproach, some people may be surprised by the dark and disturbing nature of the Rarebit shorts THE PET and THE FLYING HOUSE (both 1921) and HOW A MOSQUITO OPERATES (1912). McCay saw animation as an artform and not as a vehicle for popular entertainment. This ultimately forced him to give it up once the likes of FELIX THE CAT took over in the early 20's.Read more ›
McCay made his fortune from newspaper comics. Little Nemo (which took up an entire page in color) and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend were very successful. It's possible that due to this success he was able to branch out into animation. He was by no means the first to dabble in animation, but he defintely was a pioneer in the popularization of the medium. Donald Crafton's "Before Mickey" is a great place to get some inside info on McCay and his place in animation history.
McCay seems to have been obsessed with metamorphosis of shapes, particularly of people. His newspaper comics use metamorphosis (i.e, a tailor is trying to fit a man for a suit, but he keeps changing shape telling the tailor to "hurry now! I haven't all day!") but with animation McCay is able to visually depict amorphous shapes. The "Little Nemo" cartoon on the DVD is packed with characters whose heads expand and contract, then their feet, then their bodies, etc. Drawings were almost limiting for McCay, so animation was a natural progression.
One interesting way McCay popularized animation was through a live-action/animation mix, which usually utilized a bet. "Gertie the Dinosaur" is based on a bet McCay (himself starring in the movie) makes with friends that he can make a dinosaur come to life with pen and paper. His freinds have a good guffaw and take the sucker on his bet. Then we visit McCay in his studio surrounded by towering stacks of paper. Someone always enters the room and knocks the stacks over.Read more ›
Most of these films come from a stroke of luck: the nitrates were found in a Long Island garage belonging to a friend of McCay's son Robert in 1947. Many of the canisters were in a serious state of deterioration, some of them turning to dust in the hands of the discoverers. The 8-dozen canisters were eventually turned over to La Cinematheque Quebecoise for restoration. Luckily for us, most of them were successfully transferred to safety stock and that's what we see here.
To today's standards, much of the animation is quite crude, but it's important to remember we have computers, animation teams, professional storywriters, not to mention almost 100 years of practice. The Winsor McCay cartoons were completed by 1 man who created an entire industry with his pen.
Each cartoon is hand drawn by McCay: thousands of drawing in each, and sections of 'Little Nemo', his earliest known work, are even hand colored frame-by-frame!
McCay is also responsible for the 1st repeated cartoon character: Gertie the Dinosaur. McCay contructed Gertie to assist him is a vaudeville routine in which he projected the cartoon behind him, stood in front and interacted with the dinosaur, thus creating the first multimedia live and animation interaction in history.
Other high points of this DVD are the darkly ominous 'Sinking of the Lusitania', 'The Centaurs' and 'Flip's Circus'.
I rated the DVD 4 out of 5 because although this is truly an amazing and complete DVD, the cartoons themselves are not as entertaining as I hoped.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The great Winsor McCay! Walt Disney learned from this master. That Gertie the dinosaur is adorable. Read morePublished 13 months ago by M. Brennan
The color of the DvD I received was intentionally made to look like warn out stock film rather than the nicer colored image you may see on the shopping browser. Read morePublished 16 months ago by ML
For those fortunate enough to own this fascinating set of the works of Winsor McCay, there is good news! Read morePublished on December 23, 2011 by Grady Harp
this was an excellent DVD with many clips from his animation career. Winsor McCay is pretty much hidden from the public view but his impact on the current technology of animation... Read morePublished on March 3, 2010 by Robert Ladrach
What a way to see McCay's genius. The films are high quality and as complete as possible. You can just watch them without John Canemaker's insights or turn on the comments to learn... Read morePublished on December 8, 2009 by James Macdonald
This collection contains the surviving films, complete and incomplete, from the man who called himself the "inventor of animated cartoons. Read morePublished on April 7, 2008 by Timothy Hulsey
This wonderful disc brings together all of Winsor McCay's known surviving films, made between 1911 and 1921, although some of them, such as 'The Centaurs,' are just fragments, and... Read morePublished on February 7, 2007 by Anyechka