Gertie the Dinosaur is an animated film by Winsor McCay. Gertie debuted at the Palace Theater in Chicago in 1914 as part of McCay’s vaudeville act. The performance involved McCay appearing in front of a projection screen and interacting with the animated Gertie through a series of tricks that included McCay tossing an apple (which he palmed) which the dinosaur caught. The film concluded with McCay moving behind the screen and then reappearing in cartoon form. He then climbed up on Gertie’s back and together they rode off the screen.
To produce his film, McCay drew thousands of frames on 6 ½ by 8 ½ inch rice paper. He hired his neighbor, John Fitzsimmons, an art student, to draw the backgrounds. Several now standard techniques were employed in the creation of the film including registration marks to maintain alignment and cycling of some previously drawn sequences.
While Gertie the Dinosaur is not the first animated film ever made, it is the first using “keyframing”. Keyframing is a technique in which every frame is directly modified or manipulated by the creator. In McCay’s case, he drew the key frames first then went back to draw the in between frames. It differs from traditional hand-drawn animation where a “key” artist would draw a series of key frames that would then be passed to an assistant, or “in-betweener” to complete the scene.
Gertie can be visited on the shore of Echo Lake. She stands as a tribute, not only to the earliest days of animation, but also to the “California Crazy” architectural style. You can also find a nice ice cream of extinction where she resides.
More to follow…
Note: for more on Gertie and on Disney’s Hollywood Studios, be sure to listen to WDW Radio Show episode 117 for May 3, 2009. Jim Korkis joins my friend Lou Mongello for a look at the park and the stories behind the stories.