100 years ago, an animated dinosaur became a sensation.

Winsor McCay was an incredible comic strip artist. His detailed creations and wide-scoping stories are still studied and adored to this day. If he did nothing else in his career, his creation of the sleeping imagination of Little Nemo in Slumberland would cement his legacy.

Well, the thing is … Winsor McCay was also a pioneer in animated film. He hand-drew thousands upon thousands of individual artworks on rice paper, photographed them one by one, and created an incredible illusion of a trained dinosaur who could interact with the audience.

Thus begat Gertie the Dinosaur. And Gertie is now entering its 100th year of existence.

Originally the animation was created as part of a vaudeville tour for McCay – he would stand in front of the movie screen and command Gertie to do tricks. Later on, to spread the concept past the vaudeville circuit, he filmed an introductory scene in which he accepted a bet from a fellow comic strip artist to bring a dinosaur to life.

Even today, if you watch this silent film, you will be amazed at the technical achievements McCay put together. Imagine hand-drawing every single background and making them all match perfectly to the previous frame. Imagine understanding the methods of movement and structure and creating what might have been the most lifelike interpretation of a brontosaurus at that time.

Now take in mind – animation has developed light-years past that 1914 film. But just watch this film and understand what McCay created in that moment. And imagine, instead of seeing this film as it exists in story … imagine Winsor McCay himself, in front of a large movie screen, commanding Gertie the Dinosaur to move on command. Incredible.

I should note that this one of the most complete surviving Winsor McCay animations.

Three years earlier, McCay also animated his most famous comic strip character, Little Nemo, along with several of Nemo’s supporting cast members. Take a look at this and be amazed. This is from freakin’ 1911.

One more example of Winsor McCay’s incredible dedication to the animation world. He worked for TWO FREAKIN’ YEARS on creating this film, a re-telling of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania that brought the Americans into the Great World War. Imagine. Two years to create this by hand.

These are absolutely fascinating. And definitely worth your attention. Trust me on this.