Winsor McCay

Winsor McCay influenced the world in many ways and was even acknowledged by Walt Disney. However McCay started small; he began as a talented young man who studied art in Michigan. He began to develop the skills needed to succeed in the art world and by 1891 moved to Cincinnati to began his career as an artist. McCay had an amazing ability to draw at an abnormally fast pace. It perplexes me how he was able to depict at such a quick rate, but the public loved it. This led to his practice being publicly displayed and McCay gained an astonishing amount of popularity. His publicity resulted in countless magazines swarming in from all over the country to hire him as an illustrator.

McCay’s career as an illustrator really took off and led to the creation of many renowned comic strips at the time. His first breakthrough was the comic “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, first published by the New York Evening Telegram in 1904″(Canemaker 11). This comic depicted the surrealistic dreams of an adult that exist in a mundane setting. McCay soon became a household name and I really admire his recognition at the time, especially because his art was still a novel concept. McCay’s success grew even more just a year later when he published the comic Little Nemo in Slumberland for the New York Harold (Canemaker 11). Similar to his first publication this was also depicted in a dream state however now from the point of view of a young boy named Nemo. The popularity of this work pushed McCay to try something new, which led hime into the film industry.

McCay’s contributions to the film industry vastly effected the majority of animators and was even praised by Walt Disney himself. Winsor McCay moved into a new frontier animating original cartoons and comics. His career led to the creation of a total of six animated films. However his most famous one Gertie the Dinosaur was the first animation to include dynamic backgrounds that simultaneously change with the subject. This innovation pushed the limit of animation at the time that allowed companies like Disney to produce the kind of films they are most known for. His impact has influenced many illustrators, including me, but in 1934 Winsor McCay died of a sudden paralysis that spread from his right arm to his face in a matter of days.

most of the information was gathered from Winsor McCay by John Canemaker


a segment from Little Nemo in Slumberland 1905-1925 by Winsor McCay
a segment from Dream of a Rarebit Fiend from 1904-1913 by Winsor McCay

3 thoughts on “Winsor McCay”

  1. It seems as though he became very famous very abruptly. I wonder how he felt when he became a household name so quickly. He could have been very excited but he could have also been very overwhelmed. I wonder how he handled that amount of work because he was so desired.


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