Saturday, September 26, 2009

Winsor McCay: One Talented Hard-Working Sum-Bitch!

Winsor McCay lived from September 26, 1867-July 26, 1934. An artistic innovator who changed the face of both the newspaper comics page and the animated movie screen.

Appealingly stylized and detailed with a talent for perspective and page layout, Winsor's comic strips looked like none other at the time. See, how even early on he was toying with the new format, treating the panel borders as props.

He had a number of comic strips in the 1900's and 1910's, above is an example of "Little Sammy Sneeze". A Sunday strip which revolved around the simple premise of a child who sneezes and the resulting destruction. Hey it was early on in the days of newspaper one was sure of the depth of story that would be acceptable to the public...but man did he draw good!

Below are two examples of another recurring theme strip, "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend". This centered around different characters each episode, but all afflicted with the same penchant for Welsh Rarebit (a melted cheese sauce with porter that's served over toast) before bedtime, which would then result in nightmares. This gave McCay the boundless world of fantasy to create whatever reality he felt like.

Keeping with his "dream" idea, his true masterpiece in the comics field was "Little Nemo in Slumberland". The continuing adventures of a young boy named Nemo who visits a fantastic surreal world in his slumbers. Beautifully rendered and engrossing to view. It's amazing to think that this is what used to arrive every week in the Sunday Funnies when you compare it to things like "Garfield" today. Makes me want to dry heave.

Winsor McCay was also interested in the fledgling film arts, most specifically animation of drawings. These films are extraordinary if you stop and think that, this is the era before cel animation...every drawing was completely redrawn for every frame...24 frames per second. And McCay did them single-handedly.


Here's an early one, even dramatizing his pledge to take on this herculean task and showing the work in progress. Animation sequence features Little Nemo and cast. This version is black and white, the original was hand colored, also by McCay.

The guy must never have slept!

McCay was also a showman and traveled the vaudeville circuit displaying his cartoons.

Another amazing innovation was employed for his tour with his ground-breaking cartoon, "Gertie the Dinosaur".

Watch this with your imagination running. McCay would actually appear on stage while this was projected on the screen and he would interact with Gertie as she performed tricks. The pumpkin you see her catch was matched by one thrown by McCay. Now THAT's Show Bidness!

A Great combination of creativity, artistic talent, mechanical talent and patience. We won't see another like him.

Thanks Winsor!

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