10. Gertie the Dinosaur – Winsor McCay

Winsor_McCay_(1914)_Gertie_the_Dinosaur_-_Gerite_carries_MccCay_in_her_mouth

Winsor McCay presents Gertie, the only dinosaur in captivity. Disobedient, playful and childlike, Gertie became the first well-rounded personality in animation.

WHY IT’S HERE: ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ remains one of the most famous animated shorts of all time. Often wrongly credited as being the first animated film, McCay’s film does make a convincing claim to creating the first cartoon star. In her canine like capering and interplay with McCay’s master of ceremonies, Gertie far surpasses all other attempts at characterisation that went before her. From Reynaud’s stiff painted figures and Blackton’s chalk outlines to Starewicz’s spindly insects, no-one had quite mastered instilling recognisable traits into animated creations. McCay’s mosquito from his previous short ‘How a Mosquito Operates’ came closest but Gertie takes things a step further. Here was a creation with whom audiences could identify and sympathise and it made her all the more entertaining.

McCay took his Gertie show on the road and it perhaps loses some of its impact when seen by modern audiences, as we are deprived of the experience of seeing the real-life McCay interact with his animated creation, tossing her a pumpkin or riding on her back. But ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ remains one of the crown jewels of animation, paving the way for animated personalities. Gertie starred in only one more short, ‘Gertie on Tour’, the majority of which is now lost, but this debut performance alone cemented her place in animation history.

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