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Biographies of the Stars

Winsor McCay

Winsor McCay was born on September 26, 1867. It is a matter of dispute whether he was born in Canada or Spring Lake Michigan, but none the less we do know that in 1886 he attended Cleary's Business College in Ypsilanti, Michigan at his father's insistance to learn how to be a business man.

After leaving school at the age of 21, McCay went to work at the National Printing Company of Chicago as a commercial artist. He moved to Cincinatti, married and took a job as a cartoonist/reporter for the Cinncinati Commercial Tribune where he created his first experimental comic strip, "Tales of The Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle", based on poems by George Chester. While in Cincinnati he also worked as a muralist to a Dime Museum in downtown Cincinnati that had huge walls painted with McCay artwork. However the museum burned down and all that remains are scattered photographs of this museum.

In 1903 he moved his family to New York to work for the the New York Herald. MCay continued to experiment with original strips, developing the popular strips "Little Sammy Sneeze" and "Dream of a Rarebit Fiend" in 1904.

In 1905 McCay began his most famous work, "Little Nemo in Slumberland".

Little Nemo In Slumberland (later titled "In the Land of Wonderful Dreams") was a combination adventure comedy strip with it's central character a young boy who has incredible dreams of whimsey & fantasy that enthralled millions of readers as soon as it began appearing in 1905. Nemo and his friends would get into ncredible adventures that would last for many months on end and each page always ended with Nemo falling out of his bed or calling for his mother and having her (or his father) attribute his dreams to eating too much cake!

His designs were incredible and his page layouts were revolutionary. His thin line has hardly ever been replicated in the same way that McCay's brush was used so perfectly for the elongated panels and panaramas that he employed to tell the story.

At the same time McCay also illustrated a bevy of other comic strips that have all become classics; Little Sammy Sneeze, Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend, innumerable political illustrations and much more.

Iin 1912 William Randolph Hearst hired the popular artist away from the New York Herald to work for his own newspaper, the New York American and the strip was renamed "In the Land of Wonderful Dreams" to avoid copyright infringement. McCay's arrival was a much publicized event. While working for Hearst, MCay added animated movies to his vaudeville act. Initially he used the popular characters from the "Little Nemo" strip, then produced a humorous short, "How a Mosquito Operates".

In 1914 McCay introduced "Gertie The Dinosaur". Gertie was a cartoon entirely drawn panel by panel by McCay unlike current cartoons that are done by a computer. Rather than just showing the film, as he had with his previous shorts, McCay interacted with Gertie, giving directions and responding to her actions. The act was a great success and is the first original character developed solely for the animated cartoon and not based on a pre-existing comic strip.

Hearst used McCay's contract to forbid him to perform in vaudeville, and Gertie was made into a feature film with a live-action prologue and epilogue and shown around the world. Hearst eventually forbid McCay from even doing daily strips, restricting him to editorial cartoons. McCay continued producing animated films, however, producing "The Sinking Of The Lusitania" and six other films through 1921.

Shortly thereafter "In the Land of Wonderful Dreams" was discontinued so that McCay could work on other projects that he wanted to do and most of the period after 1915 is represented artistically by his political cartoons. Little Nemo was brought back for a short period in the 1920's but the success of the Victorian strip that it repesented was over & it would not be for many years until the strip was rediscovered has since become an icon of American Culture.

McCay passed away on July 26, 1934, but his legacy continues to thrill fans of his work including Garry Trudeau, the creator of the "Doonesbury" comic strip.

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