InformationProgressive Silent Film ListLost FilmsPeopleTheaters
TaylorologyArticlesHome VideoBooksStoreSearch
Nosferatu on Blu-Ray Disc
 
Silent Era Home Page  >  Articles  >  Carl Bennett  >  Winsor McCay and His Moving Comics (1911)
 

An archive of articles on the silent era of world cinema.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 

Comparison of Winsor McCay and His Moving Comics (1911)
[
also known as Little Nemo] on Animation Legend:
Winsor McCay
DVD and on the Landmarks of Early Film, Volume 1
and The Movies Begin DVDs

By Carl Bennett

This shot-for-shot comparison of two versions of Winsor McCay’s first animated film Winsor McCay and His Moving Comics (1911), as available on DVD, is intended to give the viewer a guide to the differences between the two versions. It is also to prompt a discovery of the reasons why there are the two different surviving versions of the film.
 

Animation Legend:
Winsor McCay
  Landmarks of Early Film, Volume 1
and The Movies Begin
1. Opening title: WINSOR MC CAY THE FAMOUS CARTOONIST OF THE N.Y. HERALD AND HIS MOVING COMICS. The first artist to attempt “drawing” pictures that will move. Produced By The Vitagraph Co. of America. [Different opening title card from Landmarks version. Cut to next card.] 1. Opening title: WINSOR MC CAY THE FAMOUS CARTOONIST OF THE N.Y. HERALD AND HIS MOVING COMICS. Photographed By The Vitagraph Co. of America. [Different opening title card from American Legend version. Cut to next card.]
2. Intertitle: How the proposition was received by his artist friends. [Intertitle card not in Landmarks version. Cut to next shot.] 2. Intertitle: Winsor McCay agrees to make four thousand pen drawings that will move, one month fron date. [Same text content as shot 9 — Animation Legend version, but a redrawn card. Cut to next shot.]
3. Medium shot: Two men, John Bunny and Winsor McCay are sitting at a table in a large room playing cards. McCay is smoking a cigar. Two other men are standing in the background. There is laughing around the table, the two men come forward to investigate. Bunny explains what McCay has proposed, all laugh. McCay stands up at the table and Bunny rubs McCay’s head. McCay walks around Bunny (to face the camera) and explains the details of his proposal. McCay then walks into the background where a large pad of drawing paper is mounted on the back wall. He raises his hand to draw. [Cut to next shot.] 3. Medium shot: Two men, John Bunny and Winsor McCay are sitting at a table in a large room playing cards. McCay is smoking a cigar. Two other men are standing in the background. There is laughing around the table, the two men come forward to investigate. Bunny explains what McCay has proposed, all laugh. [Same as shot 3 — Animation Legend version, but the shot is cut short here. Cut to next shot.]
4. Medium-close shot: View of McCay’s back as he begins to draw on the paper. [Shot not in Landmarks version. This is the beginning of shot 8 — Landmarks version. Cut to next shot.] 4. Close-up (time-lapse): View of McCay’s hand drawing Doctor Pill with pen and ink on paper. [Same as shot 7 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
5. Close-up (time-lapse): View of McCay’s hand (and occasionally his hat!) continuing a drawing of Impie with pen and ink on paper. He then draws Little Nemo, then draws Flip. With brush and ink he fills in the dark areas of the character drawings. [Cut to next shot.] 5. Medium shot: The men stand and sit around the foreground table. McCay, in the background, rolls up a large piece of paper taken from the mounted pad and turns toward the men. He walks to the table and places the rolled paper on the table. McCay points to the drawing and indicates his intentions to make the drawing move. Bunny especially finds this funny and feels the top of McCay’s head. Another man rises to inspect McCay’s head. [Missing frames here.] McCay turns back toward to paper pad on the back wall. [Same as shot 6 — Animation Legend version, except for the missing frames splice. Cut to next shot.]
6. Medium shot: The men stand and sit around the foreground table. McCay, in the background, rolls up a large piece of paper taken from the mounted pad and turns toward the men. He walks to the table and places the rolled paper on the table. McCay points to the drawing and indicates his intentions to make the drawing move. Bunny especially finds this funny and feels the top of McCay’s head. Another man rises to inspect McCay’s head. The man behind Bunny knocks on McCay’s head. McCay turns back toward to paper pad on the back wall. [Cut to next shot.] 6. Close-up (time-lapse): View of McCay’s hand drawing Flip, with a cigar, with pen and ink on paper. [Same as shot 19 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
7. Close-up (time-lapse): View of McCay’s hand drawing Doctor Pill with pen and ink on paper. [Cut to next shot.] 7. Close-up (time-lapse): View of McCay’s hand (and occasionally his hat) continuing a drawing of Impie with pen and ink on paper. He then draws Little Nemo, then draws Flip. With brush and ink he fills in the dark areas of the character drawings. [Same as shot 5 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
8. Medium shot: McCay rolls another large piece of paper up, which he brings to the table at which the men are sitting and standing. Bunny takes the roll of paper. McCay indicates his wager and tries to turn from the table. He is caught by some of the men and turned back to the table. A man sitting in the left foreground produces a decanter of wine, which McCay refuses. He points instead to another bottle — of seltzer water. The man dispenses a glass for McCay, who happily drinks it. McCay then returns to the background, where he picks up some black chalk and begins to draw on the paper pad. [Cut to next card.] 8. Medium-close shot: View over the shoulder of a standing McCay as he draws Impie, Nemo and Flip with black chalk on a much larger piece of paper. McCay turns away from the drawing and walks out of frame. [This is the completion of shot 4 — Animation Legend version, and this shot does not appear in that version. Cut to next shot.]
9. Intertitle: Winsor McCay agrees to make four thousand pen drawings that will move,— one month fron date. [Same text content as shot 2 — Landmarks version, but a different card. Cut to next shot.] 9. Medium shot: McCay rolls another large piece of paper up, which he brings to the table at which the men are sitting and standing. Bunny takes the roll of paper. McCay indicates his wager and tries to turn from the table. He is caught by some of the men and turned back to the table. A man sitting in the left foreground produces a decanter of wine, which McCay refuses. He points instead to another bottle — of seltzer water. The man dispenses a glass for McCay, who happily drinks it. [Same as shot 8 — Animation Legend version, but the shot is cut short here. Cut to next shot.]
10. Medium shot: McCay returns to the table with another rolled-up drawing. One man rises from his seat and McCay stops him, pushing him down, and continues to explain his proposition. McCay pounds the table to emphasize his point. McCay gathers the three rolls of drawings and restates his proposal to the delight of all at the table. McCay shakes the hand of one of the men at the table and leaves the room. With McCay gone, the men indicate that he is crazy and laugh. [Shot not in Landmarks version. Cut to next card.] 10. Medium shot: View of office hallway. In the back wall is a door, with the word “Studio” painted on it. A delivery man rolls a large wooden barrel into the frame and pauses to wipe his brow. Another delivery man waddles a very large wrapped parcel, with the words “Drawing Paper” marked on it, into the frame. The first delivery man goes to the studio door and knocks. The door opens and Winsor McCay, in hat and shirt sleeves, comes out. He indicates to deliver the supplies through the doorway and leads the way. A third delivery man rolls another barrel marked “Ink” into the frame. Another parcel of paper begins to enter the frame. [Same as shot 12 — Animation Legend version, but the shot is cut short here. Cut to next card.]
11. Intertitle: Winsor McCay at desk, showing four thousand drawings ready for Vitagraph Company’s moving picture camera. [Intertitle card not in Landmarks version. Cut to next shot.] 11. Intertitle: Four thousand drawings ready for Vitagraph Company’s moving picture camera. [Different intertitle from shot 11 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
12. Medium shot: View of office hallway. In the back wall is a door, with the word “Studio” painted on it. A delivery man rolls a large wooden barrel into the frame and pauses to wipe his brow. Another delivery man waddles a very large wrapped parcel, with the words “Drawing Paper” marked on it, into the frame. The first delivery man goes to the studio door and knocks. The door opens and Winsor McCay, in hat and shirt sleeves, comes out. He indicates to deliver the supplies through the doorway and leads the way. A third delivery man rolls another barrel marked “Ink” into the frame. A fourth delivery man waddles another parcel of paper into the frame. McCay comes out of the doorway to further supervise the delivery. The four delivery men are nearly in the door when McCay turns to where a fifth delivery man is rolling another barrel of ink into the frame and down the hallway toward the door. [Cut to next shot.] 12. Medium shot: View of office. Winsor McCay is sitting at a desk, surrounded by the supplies of barrels of ink and large parcels of paper. There are several piles of drawings on the desk and another on a stool in front of the desk, with each individual tissue paper drawing mounted on board stock. [This shot is the same as shot 13 — Animation Legend version, except that the beginning of the shot has been edited to begin the action here.] The office door behind McCay slowly opens and an office boy creeps unnoticed to the animation viewer and begins turning the handle. McCay stops the boy and sends him from the room. McCay reseats himself. The boy creeps into the room again carefully and looks over the shoulder of McCay. He sneaks around to the front of the desk unnoticed looking at drawings on the desk. Inadvertently he knocks over the pile of drawings sitting on the stool. The startled McCay knocks over the remaining stacks of drawings on the desk. The disapproving McCay comes around the desk to the chagrined boy. The door opens and in walks John Bunny. McCay indicates his frustration by waiving his arms. He brings Bunny to the foreground, grabbing a couple of drawings left on his desk and indicating to the boy to pick things up. The boy continues his inspection of the drawings. McCay shows a confused Bunny the drawings he is holding. [The shot is cut short here. Cut to next card.]
13. Medium shot: View of office. Winsor McCay is sitting at a desk, surrounded by the supplies of barrels of ink and large parcels of paper. There are several piles of drawings on the desk and another on a stool in front of the desk, with each individual tissue paper drawing mounted on board stock. McCay stands up and inspects a drawing. He then moves to a crude hand-turned flip viewer sitting on the desk. He inserts the drawing into the circular group of drawings mounted in the viewer and checks the animation sequence. He nods his head in approval and then sits down again. The office door behind McCay slowly opens and an office boy creeps into the room, dusting with a feather duster the parcel of paper behind McCay. McCay turns and shoos the boy out of the office. He returns to his desk and sits. The office boy sneaks back into the room. He creeps unnoticed to the animation viewer and begins turning the handle. McCay stops the boy and sends him from the room again. McCay reseats himself. The boy creeps into the room again carefully and looks over the shoulder of McCay. He sneaks around to the front of the desk unnoticed looking at drawings on the desk. Inadvertently he knocks over the pile of drawings sitting on the stool. The startled McCay knocks over the remaining stacks of drawings on the desk. The disapproving McCay comes around the desk to the chagrined boy. The door opens and in walks John Bunny. McCay indicates his frustration by waiving his arms. He brings Bunny to the foreground, grabbing a couple of drawings left on his desk and indicating to the boy to pick things up. The boy continues his inspection of the drawings. McCay shows a confused Bunny the drawings he is holding. Bunny pulls out a pair of pince-nez eyeglasses from his coat and puts them on his nose to get a better look. Bunny inspects the three drawings McCay is holding. [Cut to next shot.] 13. Intertitle: One month later. [Different intertitle from shot 16 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
14. Close-up: Bunny’s hands at the left are passed a drawing of Flip from McCay’s hands. McCay passes Bunny three more drawings from the small handful he is holding. [Shot not in Landmarks version. Cut to next shot.] 14: Medium shot: [Same as shot 17 — Animation Legend version, except the shot has been edited to begin action here.] In the foreground, a projectionist is fussing over a motion picture projector. McCay and his friends come from the background door and gather around the projector. McCay, with his back to the camera, indicates his work is in the projector. The projectionist begins cranking the projector’s handle and McCay gestures once to the motion picture screen offcamera. [The shot is cut short here. Cut to next shot.]
15. Medium shot: Bunny and McCay turn from the camera toward the office door. Bunny puts on his top hat as McCay indicates to the office boy to continue picking up the drawings. Bunny and McCay shakes hands and Bunny leaves the office. McCay turns to the boy to hurry him on. [Shot not in Landmarks version. Cut to next card.] 15: Close-up (time-lapse): An ink drawing on paper of Flip begins to appear without visible means. A cigar appears in Flip’s month and fills with dark lines. [Same as shot 18 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
16. Intertitle: One month later. Among his friends, and the result of his month’s work. [Different intertitle card from shot 13 — Landmarks version. Cut to next shot.] 16. Tight close-up: Extended shot of a single drawing of Flip, identical to previous drawing except for the words “WATCH ME MOVE” printed in a semi-circle over Flip’s head. [Same as shot 21 — Animation Legend version. Cut to next shot.]
17: Medium shot: In the foreground, Winsor McCay and a projectionist are fussing over a motion picture projector. McCay indicates he has heard a knock at the door and moves to the background where the door is located. The projectionist continues his preparations. McCay and his friends come from the background door and gather around the projector. McCay, with his back to the camera, indicates his work is in the projector. The projectionist begins cranking the projector's handle and McCay gestures twice to the motion picture screen offcamera. [Cut to next shot.] 17. Animation: The cigar in Flip’s mouth begins to move up and down. [This beginning action does not appear in the Animation Legend version, otherwise the shot is the same as shot 22 — Animation Legend version.] Flip turns his head toward the camera and pulls the cigar from his mouth. He continues to turn his head to blow smoke rings, which he waives away. He turns as slices of Impie fall down into the frame and join together. Flip and Impie circle each other. A hat falls onto Flip’s head and Impie finds this funny. Flip moves diagonally forward toward Impie, who disappears only to reappear in the background. Flip begins spinning and evaporates momentarily, as his hat disappears altogether. They both tumble slowly in the air and a cluster of short lines come into the frame and form Little Nemo. Impie, Nemo and Flip line-up and Nemo holds out his arms to stretch and contract Impie and Flip several times, until they disappear. A wand tumbles into the frame and shrinks to a drawing chalk, which Nemo uses to draw a princess. Behind Nemo a single flower quickly grows. Nemo finishes the princess and turns to pluck the flower just as it stops growing. Nemo hands the princess the flower, she performs a curtsy and takes it. Into the bottom of the frame from the left comes the head of a dragon. It opens its mouth the reveal a seat there. The princess and Nemo sit inside the dragon’s mouth. The dragon turns its head toward the camera. The princess waives the flower as Nemo waives his hat. The dragon turns its head away from the camera, hiding the princess and Nemo. The dragon walks away. Into the frame drive Flip and Impie in an automobile marked “Honk Honk.” A puff of exhaust smoke allows the dragon to disappear. Flip turns the car to follow the dragon and the car blows up, sending Flip and Impie into the air. [The shot is cut short here.]
18. Close-up (time-lapse): An ink drawing on paper of Flip begins to appear without visible means. A cigar appears in Flip’s month and fills with dark lines. [Cut to next shot.] END OF FILM   (Duration: 6:44)
19. Close-up (time-lapse): View of McCay’s hand as he draws Flip again, as in shot 18. [Cut to next shot.]  
20. Close-up: The finished drawing of Flip, mounted on art board and held by a human hand, is inserted from right to left into a primitive wooden animation stand. The camera moves in toward the drawing. (Hand-coloring of the film print starts here.) The camera move stops when the thumb and the wood stand are no longer visible. The shot is now in tight close-up. [Shot not in Landmarks version. Cut to next shot.]  
21. Tight close-up: Extended shot of a single drawing of Flip, identical to previous drawing except for the words “WATCH ME MOVE” printed in a semi-circle over Flip’s head. [This shot is not hand-colored. A still-frame inspection of the shot reveals that this section of film was spliced into the print used for the video transfer, probably to replace missing footage or a brief portion of film lost to decompositon.] [Cut to next shot.]  
22. Animation: Flip turns his head toward the camera and pulls the cigar from his mouth. He continues to turn his head to blow smoke rings, which he waives away. He turns as slices of Impie fall down into the frame and join together. Flip and Impie circle each other. A hat falls onto Flip’s head and Impie finds this funny. Flip moves diagonally forward toward Impie, who disappears only to reappear in the background. Flip begins spinning and evaporates momentarily, as his hat disappears altogether. They both tumble slowly in the air and a cluster of short lines come into the frame and form Little Nemo. Impie, Nemo and Flip line-up and Nemo holds out his arms to stretch and contract Impie and Flip several times, until they disappear. A wand tumbles into the frame and shrinks to a drawing chalk, which Nemo uses to draw a princess. Behind Nemo a single flower quickly grows. Nemo finishes the princess and turns to pluck the flower just as it stops growing. Nemo hands the princess the flower, she performs a curtsy and takes it. Into the bottom of the frame from the left comes the head of a dragon. It opens its mouth the reveal a seat there. The princess and Nemo sit inside the dragon’s mouth. The dragon turns its head toward the camera. The princess waives the flower as Nemo waives his hat. The dragon turns its head away from the camera, hiding the princess and Nemo. The dragon walks away. Into the frame drive Flip and Impie in an automobile marked “Honk Honk.” A puff of exhaust smoke allows the dragon to disappear. Flip turns the car to follow the dragon and the car blows up, sending Flip and Impie into the air. Doctor Pill walks into the frame and looks about. He is flattened by the falling Flip and Impie. Doctor Pill sits up and looks around. Animation stops. [Cut to next shot.]  
23. Tight close-up: The final animation frame (labelled “No. 4000”) is revealed as the camera pulls back and shows the thumb holding the card in the wood frame. [Shot not in Landmarks version.]  
END OF FILM   (Duration: 10:17)  

Study of the information above reveals that little is missing from the Animation Legend version of the film, with the exception of Landmarks of Early Film shot 8. Minor differences are in the opening titles and a couple of the intertitles. The footage missing from the Animation Legend version, present at the beginning of Landmarks version shot 17 can be assumed to have been extracted due to decomposition of the Animation Legend print.

What cannot be explained is why there are significant differences between the two versions at all. Both films appear to feature intertitle cards prepared at the same time and in the same style. We can extrapolate that one print may have been an export version or was prepared at a shorter length for budget-conscious exhibitors. The explanation may be that both films were the same but have been shortened by splices over the years and survive in their current state. Clearly the Animation Legend version has survived with better narrative continuity. These questions may never be answered.

 
Silent Era Home Page  >  Articles  >  Carl Bennett  >  Winsor McCay and His Moving Comics (1911)   ||   Top of Page

The Big Parade on Blu-ray

Silent Era Ads
You Can Reach
more than 25,000
Silent Era readers
each month for less
than a dollar a day
with your
text ad here.
Advertise on
Silent Era

Keaton Short FIlms Blu-ray Disc

Keaton Short FIlms on DVD

Our Hospitality Blu-ray Disc

Our Hospitality DVD

Black Pirate on Blu-ray Disc

Keaton on Blu-Ray Disc

Preorder Chaplin at Keystone!

Complete Metropolis on DVD

Josef von Sternberg DVD

The General on Blu-ray Disc

Battleship Potemkin on Blu-ray Disc

Georges Méliès DVD

Beyond the Rocks DVD

Valentino DVD

Miss Mend on DVD

Chaplin Mutuals on DVD

La Roue on DVD

The Last Laugh DVD Restored

Unknown Chaplin on DVD

Advertise