ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.10 - JANUARY 2000
The Dead Animators Society
(continued from page 1)
Winsor McCay is the father of animated film in the U.S. Starting as a newspaper illustrator, cartoonist (Little Nemo in Slumberland) and vaudeville performer, his films Little Nemo (1910) and Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) gave birth to an industry.
Leslie Carbarga: I've long admired your work! You made it all look so easy.
Winsor McCay: It was a different time then. We had more of a work ethic. I loved to draw and work. It was what gave me my sense of who I was. In fact it was an escape; a hide-out for me. I used to escape into my work and hide from my family. This is why my son Robert became an animator; to try to reach me, to just spend time with me. I never could say the things I wanted. I was henpecked, and I'd felt rather frustrated by what you'd call the Victorian life of those days. I was really very sexually repressed too, for if I ever laid eyes on anything the slightest bit risque I'd turn away and become quite flushed.
LC: What about your film, The Centaurs? There was nudity there.
WM: Yes, this was an attempt to explain the facts of life in my own clumsy way and the artistic aspect of it -- for I was attempting to recreate a Renaissance painting, in my fashion -- was a cover for the nudity. But let's talk about something I want to know. Where are you all headed these days? There is a lack of discipline, no morality, and the jackdaws are everywhere trying to put one over on the other fellow. Really, is this what's become of things? It's just that you must be terribly frightened living in this time of yours.
LC: You are a keen observer. Much of what you mention is kept hidden. We are kept "amused" so as not to focus on the bad aspects of our society. That leads me to ask you what you think of modern animation?
WM: I have not followed closely developments up to your point in time. I have been studying in quite a few other ways, especially fine arts and sculpture. I have also been involved in a sort of three-dimensional architecture of sorts, more having to do with a plotting of the levels of existence and the realms of possibilities, which reveals all the dovetailing and reciprocating actions taking place at any given moment that you in your world are not so aware of. It is like a video game but not on a screen. It is a mental projection and 3D in form so it actually exists though it is but a "model" of reality, you might say, as we here know it to be.
I followed animation in the first years following my death. I was really quite embittered and broken-hearted by that time and felt myself alternately impressed and excited by developments, yet regretful that I had not lived to become more widely appreciated. I also longed to be able to take part again in the creation of animated cartoons as I saw the young Walt Disney bringing the art form to new heights. I was quite jealous of him, actually, because he got to use color, where my productions were more limited.
LC: Why didn't you continue to follow along with the progress of animation past the early Thirties?
WM: I have moved on to other interests and endeavors. There really is more to life than animation as I think you yourself are well aware. Up here we watch the pageantry of life unfold before us in all its miraculous events. You might say it is like watching animation -- only it's the real thing. But here we are not bound by an idea of reality; we may alter our worlds to suit ourselves. You will one day know this.
LC: I really loved your imagination in Little Nemo.
WM: Yes, this was my most successful venture and brought me the greatest acclaim from my peers. It did become an effort, however, to continue the narrative and continually think of new ideas [laughs]. That's the only part I didn't like. The flights of fantasy, the stretching and squashing were attempts at circumventing narrative and substituting instead just wonderful pictures. I think it worked.
LC: What was your greatest wish then, and now?
WM: My greatest wish at that time would have been for more acclaim. I was a hog for it, although I couldn't accept it, really. I was stuck in a dismal marriage that I thought was just the way things were, and saw no "out." I had wished, finally to create an animation studio as I'd seen the other fellows doing, but frankly had insufficient resources to pull it all together at the time. I was not a very happy soul. It took sometime for me to become aware of the full meaning of my journey here, to the "other side" of life, where you find me now. I was, in a manner of speaking, pulled kicking and screaming into it, for I had so many regrets and a mind that was very confused from the effects of drink. It took many years [over here] for me to see things in proper perspective and then I realized that my diligence had been a virtue. And that I led a life of moral servitude and an honorable and decent life that gained me respect for the fortitude it showed in me. I was not one to run around, but instead my art was my mistress and the one I ran to in times of emotional need, for there was not other in my life to give me this. I am thankful you have come to ask me these questions and only hope we may meet again on the other side where you will understand more fully my meaning. Farewell!
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