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Winsor McCay: Animation Legend

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


It's very rare indeed for a single DVD to function as pure entertainment and a valuable archive of animation history, but this award-winning Lumivision disc offers all that and more. Once hailed as "America's Greatest Cartoonist," Winsor McCay (1869-1934) was a master draftsman and illustrator who began his career as a newspaper illustration artist and editorial cartoonist in the late 1890s and later created the milestone comic strips "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend" (1904) and "Little Nemo in Slumberland" (1905). McCay then advanced to become one of animation's true pioneers, and this exemplary DVD collects every surviving film that McCay ever made. His best-known short, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), not only promoted the public's ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, but its title character (a lovable brontosaurus) was perhaps the first prehistoric creature in movie history to be imbued with expressive behavior and human characteristics. Another highlight is The Sinking of the Lusitania, an anti-German World War I propaganda masterpiece from 1918. Lumivision's DVD spans McCay's creative output from 1911 to 1921, and also includes extensive liner notes by animation historian John Canemaker. Predating Walt Disney's earliest efforts by as much as a decade, McCay's amusing and finely crafted films offer a perfectly preserved treat for animation lovers and general viewers alike. --Jeff Shannon


"McCay combined the abilities of a superb draftsman with the imagination of a master story-teller." -- Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic

"The two most important people in animation are Winsor McCay and Walt Disney." -- Chuck Jones

Special Features

  • "Animation Legend: Winsor McCay" was windowboxed during the digital transfer, black borders appearing on all four sides of the picture, with no loss of image
  • Titles Include: McCay's first film, the stunning hand-colored "Little Nemo" (1911), taken directly from the only known 35mm print in existence, How A Mosquito Operates (1912), Gertie The Dinosaur (1914), the dark and disturbing propaganda masterpiece, The Sinking Of The Lusitania (1918), The Pet (1921), Bug Vaudeville (1921) and The Flying House (1921). Plus the extremely rare Gertie On Tour, The Centaurs & Flip's Circus

Product Details

  • Format: Animated, Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sling Shot
  • DVD Release Date: January 12, 1999
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000ICR5
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,625 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is the third time around for the animated shorts of Winsor McCay on video and this is the best version by far. Those of you familiar with the previous Lumivision and Slingshot editions will find the same films as before only this time the source prints are better (for the most part), the piano music by Gabriel Thibaudeaux suits the material better, and the optional commentary from animator John Canemaker gives the necessary background on McCay and his films. For those of you not familiar with Winsor McCay (1867-1934), he was a celebrated comic strip artist whose principal strips LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND and DREAMS OF THE RAREBIT FIEND (that's Welsh Rarebit) were mainstays in the Hearst papers during the first decade of the 20th Century. The astonishing quality of the artwork and the imaginative scenarios employed were and still are a marvel to behold.

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.
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It's unbeliveable that one man sat down with ink and pens and cranked out these animations page by page. This was long before cartoons were put on the assembly line by Hannah-Barbera and Warner Brothers. No wonder there are only a handful of Winsor McCay animations.
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.
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Format: DVD
Winsor McCay is the influence and mentor of such greats as Walt Disney and Chuck Jones, and the father of motion cartoons. This DVD contains all known moving cartoons of Winsor McCay, all created between 1911 and 1921.
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.
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