Watch Winsor McCay’s “Gertie the Dinosaur” and Emile Cohl’s “Fantasmagorie”. Compare these two early styles of animation. What is similar, and what is different in their approaches? How are lines used? How are backgrounds used? What about the storytelling?
“Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur” and Émile Cohl’s “Fantasmagorie” are two pioneering works in the history of animation, both created during the early 20th century. While they share some similarities as early examples of animation, they also exhibit notable differences in their approaches, the use of lines, backgrounds, and storytelling:
Pioneering Techniques: Both Gertie the Dinosaur and Fantasmagorie were groundbreaking for their time. They were among the first animated films, demonstrating the possibilities of the medium and pushing the boundaries of animation technology. Hand-Drawn Animation: Both films were created using traditional hand-drawn animation techniques. Each frame was drawn by hand, resulting in a fluid but somewhat jerky motion characteristic of early animation. Character-Centric: Both animations focus on a central character: Gertie the Dinosaur in McCay’s work and a stick figure-like character in Cohl’s Fantasmagorie. This character-centric approach was common in early animation, helping to establish the idea of characters as central to animated storytelling.
Artistic Style: One of the most significant differences between the two animations is their artistic style. McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur is more realistic and detailed, with careful attention to character design and background. Cohl’s Fantasmagorie, on the other hand, has a more abstract and surreal style, with whimsical and constantly changing shapes and forms. Use of Lines: In Gertie the Dinosaur, lines are used to create detailed and lifelike character and background designs. McCay’s animation relies on fine lines to depict Gertie’s movements and expressions, giving her a sense of realism. In Fantasmagorie, lines are more abstract and playful, often morphing and transforming to create a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere. Backgrounds: Winsor McCay’s animation incorporates detailed and realistic backgrounds that help establish a sense of place and context. Fantasmagorie, on the other hand, uses minimalist and constantly shifting backgrounds that contribute to the dreamy and abstract quality of the film. Storytelling: Gertie the Dinosaur is more narrative-driven, with a clear storyline involving McCay interacting with the animated dinosaur. The storytelling is more structured, with a beginning, middle, and end. In contrast, Fantasmagorie is more experimental and abstract, with a loose and surreal sequence of events that don’t necessarily follow a traditional narrative structure. It’s more focused on visual experimentation and humor.
In summary, both Gertie the Dinosaur and Fantasmagorie are important early examples of animation, but they differ significantly in their artistic style, use of lines, backgrounds, and storytelling approach. Gertie the Dinosaur is more realistic and narrative-driven, while Fantasmagorie is abstract and experimental, reflecting the diverse possibilities and creative directions that animation could take in its early years.