It's very rare indeed for a single DVD to function as pure entertainment and a valuable archive of animation history, but this award-winning Lumivision disc offers all that and more. Once hailed as "America's Greatest Cart... more »oonist," Winsor McCay (1869-1934) was a master draftsman and illustrator who began his career as a newspaper illustration artist and editorial cartoonist in the late 1890s and later created the milestone comic strips "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend" (1904) and "Little Nemo in Slumberland" (1905). McCay then advanced to become one of animation's true pioneers, and this exemplary DVD collects every surviving film that McCay ever made. His best-known short, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), not only promoted the public's ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, but its title character (a lovable brontosaurus) was perhaps the first prehistoric creature in movie history to be imbued with expressive behavior and human characteristics. Another highlight is The Sinking of the Lusitania, an anti-German World War I propaganda masterpiece from 1918. Lumivision's DVD spans McCay's creative output from 1911 to 1921, and also includes extensive liner notes by animation historian John Canemaker. Predating Walt Disney's earliest efforts by as much as a decade, McCay's amusing and finely crafted films offer a perfectly preserved treat for animation lovers and general viewers alike. --Jeff Shannon« less
"Winsor McCay is the influence and mentor of such greats as Walt Disney and Chuck Jones, and the father of motion cartoons. This DVD contains all known moving cartoons of Winsor McCay, all created between 1911 and 1921.Most of these films come from a stroke of luck: the nitrates were found in a Long Island garage belonging to a friend of McCay's son Robert in 1947. Many of the canisters were in a serious state of deterioration, some of them turning to dust in the hands of the discoverers. The 8-dozen canisters were eventually turned over to La Cinematheque Quebecoise for restoration. Luckily for us, most of them were successfully transferred to safety stock and that's what we see here.To today's standards, much of the animation is quite crude, but it's important to remember we have computers, animation teams, professional storywriters, not to mention almost 100 years of practice. The Winsor McCay cartoons were completed by 1 man who created an entire industry with his pen.Each cartoon is hand drawn by McCay: thousands of drawing in each, and sections of 'Little Nemo', his earliest known work, are even hand colored frame-by-frame!McCay is also responsible for the 1st repeated cartoon character: Gertie the Dinosaur. McCay contructed Gertie to assist him is a vaudeville routine in which he projected the cartoon behind him, stood in front and interacted with the dinosaur, thus creating the first multimedia live and animation interaction in history.Other high points of this DVD are the darkly ominous 'Sinking of the Lusitania', 'The Centaurs' and 'Flip's Circus'.I rated the DVD 4 out of 5 because although this is truly an amazing and complete DVD, the cartoons themselves are not as entertaining as I hoped. They need to be taken in small doeses, otherwise you will quickly lose interest. Their true value comes from their history, heritage and the creative mind of Winsor McCay.I recommend this DVD to those who wish to see history and appreciate innovation. It will bore your average modern child, as the entertainment stimulation factor is quite low."
Every frame is a keyframe...
ewomack | MN USA | 10/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's unbeliveable that one man sat down with ink and pens and cranked out these animations page by page. This was long before cartoons were put on the assembly line by Hannah-Barbera and Warner Brothers. No wonder there are only a handful of Winsor McCay animations.McCay made his fortune from newspaper comics. Little Nemo (which took up an entire page in color) and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend were very successful. It's possible that due to this success he was able to branch out into animation. He was by no means the first to dabble in animation, but he defintely was a pioneer in the popularization of the medium. Donald Crafton's "Before Mickey" is a great place to get some inside info on McCay and his place in animation history.McCay seems to have been obsessed with metamorphosis of shapes, particularly of people. His newspaper comics use metamorphosis (i.e, a tailor is trying to fit a man for a suit, but he keeps changing shape telling the tailor to "hurry now! I haven't all day!") but with animation McCay is able to visually depict amorphous shapes. The "Little Nemo" cartoon on the DVD is packed with characters whose heads expand and contract, then their feet, then their bodies, etc. Drawings were almost limiting for McCay, so animation was a natural progression.One interesting way McCay popularized animation was through a live-action/animation mix, which usually utilized a bet. "Gertie the Dinosaur" is based on a bet McCay (himself starring in the movie) makes with friends that he can make a dinosaur come to life with pen and paper. His freinds have a good guffaw and take the sucker on his bet. Then we visit McCay in his studio surrounded by towering stacks of paper. Someone always enters the room and knocks the stacks over. Lastly, the bet is won after McCay shows his animation and his freinds gaze in wonder and pay their bet. This combination of live-action with a real-life situation animation gave viewers a personal demystified connection with animation that full animation probably did not give in the 1910s.Other fascinating pieces on the DVD include "The Sinking of the Lusitania", a war propaganda movie that McCay evidently felt very strongly about."The Pet" and "The Flying House" are incredible animation by any standards, and are as entertaining without sound or color as any modern cartoon.No, the kids will not be enthralled with this DVD. Nonetheless, it's important to remember that cartoons were not always a medium aimed at children. Entertainment was once aimed more at adults, and cartoons were no exception. The animation on this DVD was made for and by adults (they may seem more for kids because comedy dates badly). Go ahead and enjoy it as an adult."
LITTLE NEMO AND COMPANY
Lollipop | 05/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember reading LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND from a big book of early turn of the century comics. I was fascinated by the sheer amount of detail that the strip had... its vision... and its sense of wonder.With 'Animation Legend', I now know a great deal more about McCay. The animation given the period is truly inspiring. Thankfully, most of the transfers, where possible, have utilized 35mm prints. Unfortunately, some of these have been lost to the ravages of time, and in their places we have been given 16mm prints... and I guess I would rather watch these than have nothing at all.There are ten shorts included in this DVD, and fragments of one of them in a 35mm version (you can see the difference easily). They are in chronological order, so you can feel the way that his animation evolved. One short, 'Centaurs', only exists in fragments... which is sad, because it looks very beautiful. McCay even tackles newsworthy pieces, such as 'The Sinking of the Lusitania'. Very powerful stuff, indeed.Anyone who is interested in the pioneers of early cinema, and especially animation, will enjoy this DVD."
Great Transfers And History...
Edwin Graf Diemer | Red Bank, NJ USA | 10/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I unexpectedly ran across a copy of this at a store that was closing it out, and wouldn't part with it for anything. Anybody who has seen a documentary about the history of animation has seen clips from these films, and here they are complete and in one place! Amazing stuff. The version of "Gertie The Dinosaur" here is the later one-when McCay wasen't using it as part of his act, the additional material was needed for it to make sense. (The titles fill in for his spoken words). Grab this by any means-it is beautiful, surreal, and beyond historic."
For Hardcore Animation Buffs
W. G. Blodgett | North of Detroit | 07/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm glad to have this in my collection. It sheds light on the origins of animated films of today. However, as others have said, it is not a film to watch all in one sitting. There are some incomplete bits salvaged from private collections when the original highly flammable negatives turned to dust. While being a fascinating glimpse into what the original films must have been, I can not call them entertaining.
It's true that Mr. McCay drew an awful lot of pictures to complete his films, one minute used 1080 pictures, but he often ran the sequence of pictures backward and forward a couple of seconds to "fill screen time". Thus, some sequences would require half as many pictures, or less. Gertie the Dinosaur might sway from side to side once, taking 2 seconds, or 36 pictures, and Mr. McCay would repeat that movement 10 times, to expand to 20 seconds of screen time. Instead of having to draw 360 pictures, he only had to draw 36 pictures, and reuse them, saving having to draw the other 324. Today's viewer catches on to the trick, and the result becomes tedious very quickly. A prime example is "How a Mosquito Operates" where the animation is repeated, reversed, and reused to possibly triple the the length of the cartoon. Audiences of 1912 would have been stunned watching projected drawings come to life. I had a difficult time sitting through it.
The music at first is a treat. But by the end of the DVD, I thought it better to turn off the sound altogether. The same three of four themes kept being used over and over again. That coupled with the repetitive images became maddening!
If you are an animation history buff, buy this DVD. If you are looking for entertainment, run fast, and far, and never look back!"