GERTIE THE DINOSAURMedium: Theatrical Animation
Released by: Vitagraph
First Appeared: 1914
Creator: Winsor McCay
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it's the one that made the public stand up and take notice of the fact that animation was a brand-new art form, with vast potential.
In 1910, McCay, acting on a joking challenge from fellow cartoonist George McManus (creator of Bringing Up Father) (or so the story goes) painstakingly produced 4,000 animation drawings, bringing his famous comic strip character, Little Nemo in Slumberland, to life. A handful of crude, simple animated films had been done before, as novelties, but this one was so good, audiences thought it had been made through some sort of live-action trickery.
McCay followed it, a year later, with How a Mosquito Operates — but even then, people found it easier to believe he had somehow made a real mosquito perform, than that he had drawn each frame by hand.
And so, he made his third animated film about a dinosaur. Once they'd seen Gertie on the screen, they were ready to believe animation was for real.
Gertie was first shown in February, 1914, at so-called "chalk talks". This was a popular form of entertainment, in which the artist himself would stand in front of an audience and create drawings for their amusement. Seeing a drawing apparently come to life had an electrifying effect on 1914 New Yorkers. At least one viewer, Paul Terry, was so impressed, he embarked on a lifelong career in animation — and that's how Terrytoons came to be.
In November of that year, Gertie the Dinosaur was released to theaters, and the whole country had the opportunity to be amazed at McCay's inventiveness and craftsmanship.
McCay made a few more animated films, including a 1918 documentary on the sinking of the Lusitania. By the early 1920s, he had turned his attention elsewhere.
But by then, others had entered the field. McCay proved early on that animation was an art. By the time he was done with it, it had become an industry.