SUMMARY: Newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay bets his friends that he can produce 4000 drawings within a month, which he will present as the first ever animated film.
WHY IT’S HERE: Although he was not, as he often claimed, the inventor of the animated film, Winsor McCay is surely one of the most important names in animation history. While the likes of Reynaud, Blackton and Cohl beat him to it, what McCay did with the medium of animation was an enormous leap ahead, as evidenced in this, his first film.
McCay was already famous for his masterful newspaper comic strips, the most famous of which, ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’, was the basis for this short. Of its 11 and a half minute runtime, only about two minutes are actually animated, the rest taken up with a live action framing device in which McCay bets his friends he can create 4000 drawings and turn them into a moving picture within a month. These sequences are a charming, exaggerated glimpse at the embryonic animation process but they are nothing compared with the genuinely magical moment when the drawings come to life. Compared with the moving figures that had been seen on screen before, McCay’s Nemo characters were significantly more lifelike and McCay plays with perspective, colour and a greater depth of personality. ‘Little Nemo’ aka ‘Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and His Moving Comics’, more than justifies its self-aggrandizing alternative title as the debut work of one of animation’s masters.