McCay: The Original Cartoon Genius

Mickey Mouse is an old character; Felix the Cat has been around even longer. But assuming these cartoon greats started the animation revolution would quite frankly be an insult. While great characters in their own right, Mickey (who first appeared in 1928?'s "Steamboat Willie") and Felix are not the first anthropomorphic creatures to grace the projector screen.

Long before Walt Disney ever even considered being the animation great he is known for being today, a comic strip artist was ready to get the cartoon ball rolling. His name was Windsor McCay, and you may be familiar with his work known as Little Nemo in Slumberland. A comic strip which ran on and off from 1905 - 1914 in the New York Herald and New York American. McCay created a film adaptation of this work in 1911 by drawing all 4000 cels by himself. That may seem like a lot of work - and it is - but since film runs at 24 frames per second all those drawings wouldn?'t even accumulate up to three minutes.

Following Nemo and 1912?'s How a Mosquito Operates, McCay created the first true animal cartoon character; an immaculately detailed dinosaur named Gertie. In fact, during showings of the Gertie cartoons, McCay would stand in front of the screen with a whip, pretending to be taming the character. Since the animation was so elegant and realistic, it utterly amazed all who watched.

But it wasn?'t until 1918 that McCay animated what many consider to be the real first animated film. A 12-minute documentary of the attack on and sinking of the World War I-era ocean liner, the Lusitania. The Sinking of the Lusitania was not created by McCay single-handedly, but he did do a good chunk of the work; drawing somewhere around 25,000 frames according to Wikipedia.

Films such as the Dreams of the Rarebit series, The Centaurs, Gertie on Tour and Flip?'s Circus proceeded the landmark Lusitania film; and all completed several years before sound was even on film.

So before you go out and declare that Disney was the first man and/or company to produce high-quality animation, do some extra research and don?'t be biased by your own beliefs. Or else you could find yourself on the losing end of an argument with somebody who actually knows the facts.

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