Saturday Cartoon

Brian Zick

Gertie the DinosaurBack at the Dawn of Animation there was Gertie. She was the creation of newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay, in 1914. Though not the first animated cartoon, Gertie was the first cartoon character to display a distinctive personality, and in that respect she was the inspiration for all the others that followed, from Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Betty Boop to Rocky and Bullwinkle, Ren and Stimpy, and Duckman.Initially, Gertie was featured in a stage act by McCay, in which he stood next to a screen on which the animation was projected. Subsequently, the presentation was filmed and circulated in movie houses. In the production of the animation, McCay conceived of several techniques which became common animation practice. But the cartoon was made before the invention of clear acetate cells, so every single frame is a complete and separate drawing all by itself, with more than 10,000 drawings made altogether. McCay did the drawings on rice paper, and had assistance from John A. Fitzsimmons, who re-traced the background elements from a master drawing onto each sheet.A significant part of Gertie's charm is attributable to McCay's drawing, which is quite extraordinary in capturing believable movement. When Gertie eats a tree or picks up a rock, the action is totally convincing. The animation in Gertie stands up exceptionally well, and it remains one of the best cartoons ever made, acknowledged in The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals.

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