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Animation from 1908 - 1928

Steve Cavalier | Thursday April 09, 2009

Categories: Film, Animation, 1908 - 1928, Other Topics

Windsor McCay and The Silent Animation Boom

Windsor McCay

In New York Windsor McCay was a successful newspaper cartoonist of the time, his most popular strip being ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’, a brilliantly designed and illustrated full page colour comic strip. He spent four years turning this into a cartoon ‘Little Nemo’ (1911) which was met with much success and followed this with ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ (1913) which became a sensation of the day. When McCay showed ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ he would appear alongside the film onstage carrying the bullwhip and seemed to be interacting with the ‘trained’ cartoon dinosaur onstage.

The sophistication and performance of his animation were unseen at the time and ‘Gertie’ is considered the first proper character animation. His work became a major inspiration for the wave of animators who followed a few years later, including a certain young animator called Walt Disney.

‘Gertie the Dinosaur’


His achievements were even more to be admired when you consider that he and his two assistants drew the whole background into each frame as the idea of transparent cells laid over the background didn’t come about until fellow Americans J.R. Bray and then Earl Hurd perfected this idea in the next few years.

Incidently you may have heard of one of J.R.Bray’s cartoons as the title is heard to this day as cockney rhyming slang! This cartoon was adopted, as most animation was at the time, from a newspaper strip, Bud Fischer’s Mutt and Jeff (1918).

‘Mutt and Jeff’


Ladislas Starewich

Meanwhile in Russia, animator Ladislas Starewich was breaking ground with stop motion, taking the technique to such levels that his films are still a huge influence over stop frame animators today. He started by animating beetles in educational films for a museum, e.g. ‘Battle of the Stag Beetles’ (1910) then, as is common with animals in animation, he started to ‘anthropomorphisise’ (to...


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