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Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date:1911
Stars: Little Nemo, Flip, The Imp
Rating: ★★★★

Still from 'Little Nemo' featuring Flip‘Little Nemo’ was master comic artist Winsor McCay’s first animation film. It’s also one of the first drawn animation films ever made. However, unlike most pioneer animators, McCay already displays a tremendous control of form and material.

Star of the film is his world-famous comic hero Little Nemo, the little boy who always dreamed to be in Slumberland, only to awake abruptly at the end of each comic. He’s joined by Flip, the Imp, the princess and the doctor from the same comic. Nevertheless, they’re not the stars of the narrative, because that is their creator, Winsor McCay himself.

‘Little Nemo’ is a film with two clear sections:

the first half is filmed in live action and tells in three scenes about Winsor McCay’s plan to make moving drawings. In the first scene he proposes his idea to make 4,000 drawings in only one month. This only makes his friends laugh at him. In the second scene he orders three barrels of ink and two enormous packages of drawing paper, and in the third scene he can be seen in his drawing room, between huge piles of drawings and a primitive flipbook-like apparatus to preview his film. A young man, who has come to dust the place makes the piles of drawings fall.

In all, these scenes are slow, hardly funny and look as from an era long passed. But when the result is shown, one’s opinion changes completely…

The actual animation itself, completely hand-colored, is as startling and fresh as it was almost a hundred years ago. After an infectious “watch me move!” we see Little Nemo, Flip and the imp move in 3d, Nemo and the imp being build from blocks and lines respectively, Flip and the imp stretching like mirror images, Nemo drawing the princess himself, Nemo and the princess riding a dragon that disappears into the distance, and Flip and the imp crashing with a car, landing on the doctor.

It may not make any sense, but the mastery of form, perspective and movement is astonishing. After McCay no one would surpass this high quality of animation, until Walt Disney’s innovative strive to realism in the late thirties.

Watch ‘Little Nemo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Winsor McCay’s first film
To Winsor McCay’s second film: How a Mosquito Operates

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