Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and His Moving Comics
Cartoon figures announce, via comic strip balloons, that they will move - and move they do, in a wildly exaggerated style.Cartoon figures announce, via comic strip balloons, that they will move - and move they do, in a wildly exaggerated style.Cartoon figures announce, via comic strip balloons, that they will move - and move they do, in a wildly exaggerated style.
McCay's cartoons are all beautiful. This was his first. Typically, the animation exists as a sort of meta narrative, while McCay himself appears in a miniature framing story where he is challenged to produce moving drawings in a certain amount of time. The same device appears in most prints of Gertie the Dinosaur. McCay was a lightning sketch artist and did performances of his swift drawings, so moving picture animation was really an extension of the idea of rapid sketching providing dynamic impressions of motion in his work. Restricted from travelling with his shows by the newspaper that didn't want to lose his cartoons from its pages, it also meant that he could diffuse his talents internationally despite being confined to New York for long periods at a time. The drawings in Little Nemo do not tell a story as such, but instead show characters delighting in their freedom to "stretch and squash", elongating their bodies to demonstrate the malleability of the medium. When Disney studios established its basic principles of animation which would be common to all of its anthropomorphised animal characters, "stretch and squash" was one of the variables which could be applied to a character to give it a distinctive movement. In Disney, the more comedic a character is, the more stretchy and squashy it will be. For McCay, the elasticity of the characters is a way of displaying their triumph over the usual physical laws governing organic bodies. McCay was not concerned with simplistic comedy, as can be witnessed most strikingly in 'The Sinking of the Lusitania'(1918). In the early days of animation, there was no rule which said animation had to be deployed solely for childish comedy, but the industry gradually forced into that pigeonhole to suppress its more (potentially) subversive elements. Kristin Thompson writes superbly on this subject if you're interested. A video and DVD is available featuring all of McCay's animated cartoons. Anyone interested in the history of animation, or early cinema in general, must see it all.
- Feb 12, 2002
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