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Winsor McCay did a great many things of which he could be justifiably proud, but I think Gertie the Dinosaur ranks at the top of that lengthy list of accomplishments and I suspect McCay may have felt the same way, for it is still remarkable all these years later. Gertie is more life-like than some people I know! Funny, believable, touching and fascinating, sometimes all at once. This is one of the cornerstones of modern animation and also succeeds on its own terms and merits as both art and entertainment. Winsor McCay grew unhappy and somewhat disgruntled and disillusioned as animation became, in his eyes, more commercial and less artistically inclined. I've often wondered what McCay would have made of the independents, such as Will Vinton and Bill Plympton, among others, and the different forms, like Claymation and the stop-motion work of George Pal and others. I hope he would be pleased with at least some of the work done in the last 90 or so years. An absolute gem. If you haven't seen Gertie, I envy you for the treat you have in store. She's a delight. Well worth getting. Most highly recommended.
Winsor McCay's "Gertie the Dinosaur", is an early animation masterpiece
that I believe can be enjoyed by both extreme animation buffs, and the
average casual viewer. On different levels of course. The average viewer
would see a pleasant little film about a baby like dinosaur showing off for
us. An animation fanatic like me would see a lot more. For the time it was
made, the animation is fantastic. It's leaps and bounds ahead of anything
else I have seen from that time. The detail is sharp, the movements are
smooth, and the backgrounds, all hand drawn frame by frame, are vivid and
hardly shake at all. I overheard someone mentioning during the class break
that he could see an early use of rotoscoping when "McCay" walks onto the
screen. The guy was mistaken. Rotoscoping wasn't invented until the
1930's. This is a testament to McCay's artistry: to make characters so
life-like that people still think today that they are real.
That previous statement was in reference to McCay's realistic drawing style. However, it could also be applied to the character of Gertie. She is very believable as a real "person." We come to like Gertie and her child-like antics, understanding her needs to be the focus of attention. I liked the way Gertie tried to hog the screen from Jumbo, first by throwing him into the lake, then by hurtling a rock at him. This of course shows us Gertie's infantile character, but, going back to the artwork, is also a perfect example of McKay's mastery of smooth animated movement. All said, this is probably one of the key films in the transition from cartoon characters just being moving drawings to being characters that we can understand and care about.
Often erroneously touted as the first animation film ever made (J.
Stuart Blackton's 'An Enchanted Drawing' of 1900 takes that title, at
least in America), Gertie the Dinosaur remains, to this day, a charming
example of early animation. The live-action segments bookending the
animation scenes involve a group of real-life animators portraying
themselves, as one of them, Winsor McCay, bets George McManus that he
can make a "Dinosaurus" live again by a series of hand-drawn cartoons.
Six months and ten thousand hand-drawn cartoons later, McCay is ready to show off his hand-made creation. During dinner, McCay introduces his young, playful female Apatosaurus (?) named Gertie. She emerges somewhat tentatively from her cave, before proceeding to swallow a rock and then an entire tree. As McCay gives her instructions from off-screen, Gertie attempts to follow them, though her endless enthusiasm for mischief often leads her master to scold her. Gertie's playful persona is further explored when Jumbo, a passing Woolly Mammoth, threatens to steal her limelight. Though warned not to hurt the little creature, Gertie doesn't hesitate in picking up poor Jumbo by the tail and hurling him into the lake.
McCay's vision of a dinosaur allegedly the first time that one had appeared on film is a little scientifically shaky (I don't expect any dinosaurs to have been able to dance on their hind legs for any prolonged period of time), but I'm more than willing to forgive this in such an early film. What is a Woolly Mammoth doing back then, you may even find yourself asking? The trick is to completely shut out what we all know more than ninety years later, and to just appreciate what a stunning achievement this piece of animation actually was.
Just as the film explicitly states, the animation of Gertie required about ten thousand hand-drawn images (by both McCay and his assistant, John A. Fitzsimmons, who traced the backgrounds), which they inked on rice paper and mounted on cardboard. In the film, it took McCay six months. But, we might ask, shouldn't he have wagered something a little more valuable than just a single dinner? George got off easy, I say!
This short and rather old cartoon about a dinosaur is quite enjoyable. It was one of the earlier cartoons, and one of the first dinosaur movies. It may also have introduced cartoon violence to the world; Gertie chucks a mammoth named Jumbo into the ocean. I have found that it is more fun to watch the original silent version than the one with sound, although others may disagree.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the earliest and certainly most important of animated cartoons is Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur. Surrounded by a live action recreation of McCay with fellow cartoonist George McManus (Bringing Up Father) making a bet of making a dinosaur come to life, the animated footage can still charm any animation buff with scenes of Gertie lifting a foot, crying, throwing Jumbo the elephant to the water, eating a tree, drinking the water, or carrying McCay himself out of frame. The cartoonist drew about a thousand feet of cartoons in six months without cels or backgrounds to put cels over. Just entire drawings with slight differences on sheets of paper. Certainly worth seeing for anyone who wants to study animation from the beginning.
Winsor McCay's skill, wit, and creativity are all quite apparent when
watching his pioneering animation feature "Gertie the Dinosaur", which
is also an enjoyable and sometimes enchanting little movie in its own
The format is similar to an earlier feature in which McCay introduced his animated versions of the Little Nemo characters. The footage featuring "Gertie" is prefaced by a mini-story suggesting how the idea for her arose, and then comes the highlight, the animation starring the engaging dinosaur herself. The combination of McCay's imaginative images, and the fascination of dinosaurs in themselves, makes it quite enjoyable.
The animation is extremely good for such an early effort. McCay already had the knack for drawing interesting figures, and in moving pictures such as this one he made sure to include little details that add extra interest. This feature also shows some good story-telling, as a number of times Gertie's antics effectively play off of audience expectations. Her interaction with McCay also works very well, and the whole feature is a very enjoyable piece of cinema and animation history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dinosaurs, or to use the term used here, dinosauruses.
This is a remarkable little film. Oh, its important because it was very early animation, and advanced for the era, but its interesting otherwise.
Spoilers here, if such a thing can be said of something like this.
The film is in three "real" scenes. The first is a group of artists, all cartoonists, I think. They are on a "joy ride" and conveniently have a flat tire in front of the New Yor natural History Museum, where they view a brontosaurus fossil. One of the artists makes a bet that he can make the dinosauruses "come alive."
Second scene: the artist at work, with a comic interlude of a clerk spilling thousands of pages.
Third scene: the artists at dinner, where our hero first draws a dinosaurus, then "shows" his cartoon. The cartoon is remarkable to some and has some historical interest. But what's more interesting to me is the relationship between cartoon reality and photographed reality. We see the dinosaurus in a sense at the beginning. Later we see the artist draw it and then we miraculously enter the cartoon. At the end of the cartoon, the artist (a lifelike representation) enters the cartoon where formerly the cartoon has entered the dining room. This may all seem trivially folded today. In its day, it was remarkably imaginative.
But this sort of adventure is gone now, extinct.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
This is an odd little film featuring Winsor McCay--the creator of Gertie the Dinosaur and Little Nemo. And, just as in his first Little Nemo film, much of this film features Winsor McCay with his friends (all animators and lovers of animation) and only in the second half do you get to see Gertie. Ostensively, the film is about a bet Winsor made with his friends that he can make a dinosaur come to life--and he does in the form of a short cartoon featuring the lovable character "Gertie". While Gertie is very crude and simple compared to later color cartoons, there is still a lot of charm in the character and the film is a wonderful time capsule. Of great importance to Cinephiles and lovers of early animation.
Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
This Winsor McCay film starts off very much like his first as McCay and a friend are inside a dinosaur exhibit when the artist says he could make them walk. The friend and others at a local club laugh at him so he makes a bet that he can bring a dinosaur to life. A month later McCay displays Gertie, a lovable dinosaur who will do whatever he says. I will admit that the start of this film is a tad bit slow because we've already seen this same opening in an earlier film. With that said, there's no question that this is a very important film and one that is a must see. The most amazing thing to me about this film is how much life McCay is able to give Gertie. There's not a single frame where you feel as if you're watching a bit of animation because the director does such a nice job at bringing her to life and making her seem so real. The animation includes Gertie doing various tricks, a dance and a few other things but we also get a sea serpent that shows up. The animation looks incredibly strong and we're given some great humor throughout. I hate using the word cute but that's exactly what this film is and it's so impressive that even those who can't stand older movies should be drawn into it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Winsor McCay combined his filmmaking and performance practices by incorporating his film Gertie The Dinosaur into his stage act. His extraordinary draughtsmanship, based on the working process of drawing two 'extreme' poses for his characters and 'in-betweening' the movement from one to the other, rather than drawing in the 'direct' fashion of moving from one image to the next, revolutionized animation: he was effectively working less with the graphic codes encouraged by the unpredictability of immediate visual improvisation and more with 'realist' conventions of preconceived action. McCay sought to bring plausibility to his 'fantastic' forms so that they would transcend their status as animation. This approach suited the American Historical Society, which had approached McCay in 1912 to consider a 'dinosaur' film. The film opened on 8 February 1914 at the Palace Theater, Chicago, and amazed audiences, who could not work out how the illusion had been achieved. This was partly because Gertie The Dinosaur was the first example of an 'interactive' cartoon, where McCay appeared to be giving instructions to Gertie. McCay's fluid illustration is enhanced by the attention he gave to the ways in which Gertie's size and weight would affect the environment, and the way he informed the rhythm and timing of her movements with 'thought' processes and emotive actions. Gertie's legacy is profound. From Willis O'Brien's The Lost World (1925) to Disney's Dinosaur (2000), pre-history has been reanimated. More importantly, the caricatural conviction in Gertie's personality informs character animation into the contemporary era. Nor more appropriate tribute came than Dick Huemer's re-enactment of McCay's vaudeville act in the television series Disneyland in an episode called 'The Art Of The Animated Drawing' (1955). McCay once presciently suggested that 'artists working hand in hand with science will evolve a new school of art that will revolutionize the whole field'. Warner Brothers' master animator, Chuck Jones, once remarked that 'the two most important people in animation are Winsor McCay and Walt Disney, and I'm not sure which should go first'.
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