Horror History: Happy 100th Birthday to Gertie the Wonderful Trained Dinosaurus

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gertie ss - Horror History: Happy 100th Birthday to Gertie the Wonderful Trained DinosaurusWith Godzilla and even Gamera getting all the giant monster love lately, we’d be remiss if we didn’t wish a hearty HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the big screen’s most incredible creatures, Gertie the Wonderful Trained Dinosaurus!

From Wikipedia: Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 animated short film by American cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay. It is the earliest animated film to feature a dinosaur.

McCay first used the film before live audiences as an interactive part of his vaudeville act; the frisky, childlike Gertie did tricks at the command of her master. McCay’s employer, William Randolph Hearst, later curtailed McCay’s vaudeville activities so McCay added a live-action introductory sequence to the film for its theatrical release. McCay abandoned a sequel, Gertie on Tour (c. 1921), after producing about a minute of footage.

Although Gertie is popularly thought to be the earliest animated film, McCay had earlier made Little Nemo (1911) and How a Mosquito Operates (1912). The American J. Stuart Blackton and the French Émile Cohl had experimented with animation even earlier; Gertie being a character with an appealing personality distinguished McCay’s film from these earlier “trick films.” Gertie was the first film to use animation techniques such as keyframes, registration marks, tracing paper, the Mutoscope action viewer, and animation loops. It influenced the next generation of animators such as the Fleischer brothers, Otto Messmer, Paul Terry, and Walt Disney. John Randolph Bray unsuccessfully tried to patent many of McCay’s animation techniques and is said to have been behind a plagiarized version of Gertie that appeared a year or two after the original.

Gertie is the best preserved of McCay’s films—some of which have been lost or survive only in fragments—and has been preserved in the US National Film Registry.

When her master McCay calls her, the frisky, childlike Gertie appears from a cave. Her whip-wielding master has her do tricks such as raising her foot or bowing on command. When she feels she has been pushed too far, she nips back at her master. She cries when he scolds her, and he placates her with a pumpkin. Throughout the act, prehistoric denizens such as a flying lizard continually distract Gertie. She tosses a mammoth in the lake; when it teases her by spraying her with water, she hurls a boulder at it as it swims away. After she quenches her thirst by draining the lake, McCay has her carry him offstage while he bows to the audience.

gertie - Horror History: Happy 100th Birthday to Gertie the Wonderful Trained Dinosaurus

gertie poster - Horror History: Happy 100th Birthday to Gertie the Wonderful Trained Dinosaurus

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Written by Steve Barton

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