Monster of the Day #114

Although no longer credited with being the first cartoon (at least over at Wikipedia), Gertie the Dinosaur is still considered “the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality.” Created by Winsor “Little Nemo” McCay in 1914, Gertie astounded audiences back in those very early days of film by walking around, eating a tree, and even interacting with a human. Gertie also kicked off, obviously, cinema’s and moviegoers’ yet ongoing love affair with dinosaurs.

  • BeckoningChasm

    I have a whole DVD of Windsor McCay’s films. Amazing stuff. (Despite the “Hey, we’ll reverse the film to make it longer!”)

  • I found her interactions with the mastodon (Jumbo was it?) to be funny.

  • Gamera

    I’ve seen clips and not the whole cartoon but Gertie seemed years ahead of her time- galivanting around in a very active sort of way unlike the dull dinos when I grew up where she’d be up to her neck in a swamp eating all day. I’m not going to go near her hanging out with cavemen and other mammals though after all it’s a cartoon- does it have to be totally realistic?

  • John Campbell

    I never realized that’s what this is!

    Feeling umworthy!

    Every MoTD is a definite educational experience!

    Keep ’em rolling!

  • Rock Baker

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Gertie also the first cartoon character to appear in a sequel cartoon?

    Oddest thing about Gertie was her coming out of retirement to do that comic book gig with Roger Rabbit!

    I can’t remember the title, but I saw a McCay short made a couple years later that seemed a blueprint for every monster-on-the-loose story to follow, from a giant monster wading through a major city to being immune to modern weapons. Even the it-starts-out-small-after-hatching-from-an-egg-and-grows-into-an-unstopable-menace setup seems to show up here first. I wish I could recall the title, but it seems like the word ‘egg’ was in there. BC, is it on the compilation disk you have?

  • BeckoningChasm

    Alas, Rock, my DVD is currently in storage and access to it is…well, not impossible but not that easy. It’s complex.

    I do seem to recall that it was absolutely loaded with stuff, one of the best DVDs of its kind and pretty much all a Windsor McCay fan would ever need.

  • Rock– Probably not what you’re thinking about, but the Superman cartoon The Arctic Giant covers a lot of that ground.

    So did the Wallace Beery, 1925 version of The Lost World. So the cartoon would have had to have come out before then.

  • Rock Baker

    Gertie was 1909, right? I think this other short was from somewhere between then and 1920 (I’d almost say 1915 or so, but I’m not sure enough to commit. I believe the date on it was, in fact, earlier than The Lost World). It was the date that made the cartoon stick with me so much, as it truely seemed the genisis of so much we know of from monster movies. I really need to watch it again, but it almost seems like I can recall AIRPLANES being brought in to fight! Unless my memory is faulty (which I admit may be the case here), that element predates Kong with this cartoon! It doesn’t make sense, does it? Maybe the short was younger than I thought it was, but it does seem like it beat King Kong to the screen.

    If this helps, the monster looked a lot like Gertie, but with a short neck and I think it had ears like a horse. (Come to think of it, Gertie’s second cartoon may’ve included a scene in a city too.) I’m going to dig that short up and screen it again tonight to be sure!

  • Solid Jake

    When I first glanced at this pic I thought Gertie was shooting some sort of Godzilla-style fire beam out of her mouth.

    Oh well. Still pretty cool, despite the lack of fire-breath.

  • Rock Baker

    Okay, the short was called Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend (1921), apparently the first in a series of cartoons where a man gorges on rarebit despite his wife’s warning that it always gives him strange dreams. In the first one, known informaly as ‘the Pet’, the dream concerns a weird little dog-like creature that wanders into the yard and the wife adopts it. It grows every time it eats, and is soon the size of a great dane. It eats the family cat, in an act unseen by the wife. By the time it reaches the size of a horse, the man attempts to kill it with rat poison. This fails and the creature wanders into the city, getting larger and larger as it eats a car, a streetcar, buildings! The authorities move in, attacking from airplanes and dirigibles, but it seems unstoppable. Finally, a steady bombardment results in the creature exploding, levelling the city in the process.

    I was wrong about there being an egg, but you can see how this template seems to set up the 50s giant monster cycle. And the 1921 date means it prefigures both the Lost World and King Kong. Incredible, is it not? Also of note is the title card. Under the title it reads “Drawn by hand of Winsor McCay – Inventor of Animated Drawing.”

  • There is no guarantee that Wikipedia is correct in any case. It’s wrong incredibly often. I don’t let my students use wikipedia as a source.

  • Rock Baker

    That’s true. They have several AC-owned characters listed as being in public domain, and this after AC presented them with documented proof of ownership! I try to stay away from Wikipedia’s ‘information’ at all costs.

  • Some genuinely nice stuff on this site, I love it.