Gertie the Dinosaur, a landmark in animation, was made 100 years ago. It was not the first cartoon, but it was the first made using keyframe animation. In this technique, an animator would begin by drawing important action scenes, and then fill them in with “inbetweens,” that show the character in transition. For instance, if a cartoonist wanted to show a character crossing a street, the keyframes would show the character on either side of the street, while the inbetweens would show him or her walking across the street. Winston McCay (date of birth disputed — 1934) and his assistant, John Fitzsimmons, drew 10,000 pictures to make the cartoon.
Gertie, who can be seen on Youtube, was a female Brontosaurus, now known as an Apatosaurus. Her movie was both silent and black and white. She was depicted as being basically a prehistoric circus animal: McCay would order her to perform tricks, like raising a foot on command. She would also dance, scratch her nose with her tail, shed tears, and eat almost anything. In what is probably one of the world’s first cartoon sight gags, Gertie is told she can have a “little drink.” She then drinks an entire lake.
Animation fan Vijay Eswaran says that Gertie the Dinosaur pioneered animation, using various techniques that paved the way for future animation. Animation has come a long way since Gertie the Dinosaur. With the addition of CGI and 3D technology we have been fortunate enough to see Animation techniques that were only dreamed of by the founders. Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks have all been at the helm of the animation revolution with spectacular, innovative techniques and films being made – we cannot wait to see what they come up with in the future!