Western Animation: Gertie the Dinosaur
"Gertie will now show that she isn't afraid of me and take me for a ride."
A groundbreaking 1914
theatrical short subject from the mind of Little Nemo
creator Winsor McCay
, Gertie the Dinosaur
is a landmark short in personality animation, influencing many artists and future animation pioneers, including Otto Messmer
, Paul Terry
and Walt Disney
The short (well, the non-vaudeville
version) starts off with Winsor visiting a museum with several of his fellow cartoonists, making a bet that he can "make the dinosaurs live again by a series of hand-drawn cartoons
." Winsor and his assistants promptly begin work on the cartoon, showing it to the cartoonists six months later. The animation then shows Gertie herself, going about activities such as eating a pumpkin that Winsor throws to her, or throwing a woolly mammoth into a nearby lake (he counters by squirting her, which she doesn't take well).
The reason for the cartoon being made spawned from criticism of Winsor's earlier shorts Little Nemo
and How a Mosquito Operates
, with skeptical audience members (wrongly) accusing him that he traced off of live-action footage to animate the human characters — so Winsor proceeded to push his mastery of perspective and mass to the limits and created something that you couldn't
get from live action. And boy, did he succeed.
The cartoon came in two versions: the full version with Winsor appearing in a live-action opening, and the roadshow version which only has the Gertie footage. One studio even created their own unauthorized knockoff of the film!
See the full, unabridged version of the cartoon, in two parts, here
Gertie was to receive a sequel short called Gertie on Tour
, but it was ultimately left unfinished, and sadly only a fragment of it has survived, barely lasting over a minute.Walt Disney World
has also made a little tribute to Gertie, via a life-sized replica of her
serving as an ice cream parlor in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
'Gertie the Dinosaur'' provides examples of the following tropes:
- Big Eater / Extreme Omnivore: Gertie eats a pumpkin, a tree (roots and all) bigger than she is, and a rock. She also sucks a lake completely dry.
- Black Hole Belly: But her size doesn't increase.
- Doing It for the Art: Winsor McCay hand-drew every single frame. Without cels. (An assistant did the backgrounds.)
- Framing Device: Seems pretty pointless, although maybe more necessary to 1914 moviegoers that hadn't seen a lot of cartoons.
- Giant Flyer: A four-winged monster flies by and startles Gertie.
- Limited Animation: Both played straight and subverted. Many, many "cels" (actually paper) are repeated over and over again, almost to the point of parody. On the other hand, the background was redrawn every time, since it is not "Cel Animation" per se.
- Line Boil: Evident on the background, which had to be retraced on every frame. McCay felt it made the whole image seem alive.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Possibly the earliest example — Winsor himself would actually appear on screen with Gertie.
- Sea Monster: Irritates Gertie early in the animation.
- The Silent Age of Animation
- Stock Dinosaurs
- George McManus calls Gertie a "dinosaurus"; she appears to be an Apatosaurus or something similar. It was once believed that there was a dinosaur called Dinosaurus, but it's now called Plateosaurus, and looked somewhat like Gertie.
- A woolly mammoth shows up as well.
- Stock Footage: Numerous frames are repeated in the animation part.