While it would be an understatement to say that Walt Disney and his artists played a major role in the evolution of the animated cartoon, they were not the first to experiment with this medium. A tribute to the works of one of these pioneering animators whose work predated even Walt’s earliest films can be seen in the Echo Lake area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The brontosaurus-shaped “Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction” is not only an example of “California Crazy” architecture, but it is also designed to resemble one of the earliest cartoon characters: the star of the silent 1914 short film “Gertie the Dinosaur.” New for this year, Gertie has recently received a Santa Hat on her head as part of the new Holiday decorations that have been added to the area of the park.
Gertie was the brainchild of artist Winsor McCay, who had already made a name for himself by creating the popular “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strip before taking an interest in the new field of animation. While “Gertie the Dinosaur” was eventually released as a stand alone short subject, McCay first premiered his cartoon dinosaur as part of a vaudeville act in which he appeared on stage acting as a trainer for the dinosaur projected on a screen behind him. This act would later be recreated and filmed as part of “The Story of the Animated Drawing,” an episode of Walt Disney’s “Disneyland” television series, as part of a segment in which Walt salutes the accomplishments of the early animators who came before him. Over a century after her debut, Gertie still remains one of the influential creations in animation history, and it’s wonderful to see her getting some extra attention at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this Christmas Season.