I took a stroll through animation history last night with Eric’s Insomniac Theater — I watched Winsor McCay’s “Gertie the Dinosaur” (1914) and his unfinished sequel, “Gertie on Tour” (1921).
“Gertie the Dinosaur” is often thought of as the earliest animated film, but that’s incorrect — McCay himself had made earlier animated shorts, while the work of other creators preceded even these. “Gertie” was, however, the first cartoon to feature a dinosaur.
A version of it was actually part of McCay’s earlier vaudeville act; he “interacted” with his artistic creation on stage. The version you see here shows McCay presenting his character to some friends at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. (It was shot on location — and that made this short a little neater for me, as the museum was my favorite place to go as a boy.)
Can you imagine what McCay, a pioneering animator of his time, would think of the modern “Jurassic World” movies? Or what about today’s mind-numbing animation on “Love, Death + Robots?”
Oil on cardboard mounted on panel.
“When I have found a way to express the inexpressible, I will tell you how I love you.”
— Edna St. Vincent Millay, diary entry circa 1911
Photo: Edna St. Vincent Millay in Mamaroneck, New York, 1914, by Arnold Genthe.
Indian ink and pen and red pencil on canvas mounted on paper.
“Protest,” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1914
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.