Animating History: “Gertie the Dinosaur” (1914)

More about the artists, inventors, magicians and madmen who pioneered the art of animation

It’s amazing that, despite our great technological advances, the animators bringing Sgt. Stubby to the giant screen will be using techniques developed before Stubby’s own lifetime. Before Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks sketched their first mouse, comic strip artist and vaudeville performer Winsor McCay revolutionized the industry by giving life to hand drawn characters.

The history of animation IS the history of cinema, with magic lantern shows and zoetropes generating the illusion of movement well before the advent of still photography and serving as the inspiration for the motion pictures to follow.

Praxinoscope slides by Émile Reynaud, 1880 (h/t The Verge)

As with so much of today’s daily technology, Gilded Age cartoons were a scientific marvel but presented to the general public as a fairground curiosity. They required an astounding amount of technical knowledge, but the end result was the projected equivalent of a flipbook.

In 1914, Winsor McCay set out to create a character that had genuine personality. His 1914 film GERTIE THE DINOSAUR was the first to feature “keyframe animation,” where McCay would draw the main scenes and have an assistant – later referred to as “inbetweeners” – fill out the motion and backgrounds. By utilizing basic industrial assembly techniques, he maximized his drawing output and allowed for far more complex interactions than had previously been attempted. All in all, over 10,000 drawings went into making Gertie dance!

Today, McCay is the namesake of the prestigious Winsor McCay Annie Award given for lifetime achievement in the animated cartoon industry.

For more, check out these articles from Public Domain ReviewArtograph, The Richard Balzer Collection, and the Professor Joshua Mosley/University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Thanks to the Internet Archive for hosting the public domain video.


Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is an upcoming computer-animated feature film based on the incredible true story of America’s most decorated dog. After being rescued off the streets by a young Soldier on the eve of World War I, Stubby is given a home, a family, and the chance to embark on the adventure that would define a century. For his valor and courage, Stubby is recognized as the first dog promoted to the rank of Sergeant in U.S. Army history.

Starring Logan LermanHelena Bonham CarterGérard Depardieu
Music by Patrick Doyle
Animation by Mikros Image

The film is slated to theatrically debut on April 13, 2018. For exclusive production updates, follow Stubby’s big screen adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest!

Sgt. Stubby marches into theaters April 13, 2018!


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