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Dinosaurs at the Movies!

By: Richard Lausberg (Smaug)

Since the emergence of the film industry at the end of the 19th century, dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. The reconstructions of these animals may not be to the standard that we have now, but compared to the period in which a film is made, they offer a glimpse into the mind of that period.
In this series, I want to address some of the more important films and documentaries on the subject of dinosaurs and / or other prehistoric beasts.

Gertie the Dinosaur

Winsor McCay
February 8, 1914
Running time: ± 12 minutes
See: Youtube

Gertie the Dinosaur is a silent cartoon with texts from 1914, created and shot by Winsor McCay. It is often claimed that this is the oldest cartoon in the world. Hoewever, there are some older cartoons known from the same director. Gertie isnt even the first film with dinosaurs. In the lost work "Prehistoric Man" just before 1900 simplified dinosaurs were also shown .

The cartoon itself (excluding the movie section in which McCay plays in the American Museum of Natural History) is about Gertie, a classic "brontosaur" who plays some tricks for the camera. Besides Gertie, there are also a sea-serpent, a "mammoth" and a four-winged reptilian playing in the cartoon. In the time when the film was released, it was regarded as a very comical story.

A still from the film Gertie "Gertie the Dinosaur".

Winsor McCay had already made ??several cartoons before Gertie, but because of the quality of these cartoons, critics doubted that he made the cartoon himself and that it were in fact traced images of a film. To prove that the drawings were not drawn from a film, McCay wanted a prehistoric animal (which no one could have on a film) as the lead person. The appearance of Gertie was developed in consultation with members of the American History Society, according to the dimensions of recently found fossil bones.

Technically, the film Gertie the Dinosaur was also innovative. Where in previous years cartoons were made chronologically and plate for plate for a scene, McCay first drew a series of different images, and later filled the gaps with intermediate drawings. This technique is now called the "McCay Split System".
The handy thing is that movements can be better timed and therefore look more natural.

The movie was very popular in theaters, and a pirated copy of the film was already shown in theaters after two years. Gertie was also honored in other media such as comics and movies. Buster Keaton rides a clay version of Gertie in the movie "Three Ages" from 1923.

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