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Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Performance, Page 52

Gertie is a film version of Winsor McCay's celebrated live vaudeville show, which shows off his animation and his showmanship. Given six months to fulfill a bet made with his friends that he can make drawings move, McCay seems to create Gertie through a lightning sketch, but also puts the "dinosaurus" through her paces as if she were a circus animal. 

In the emergent performative tropes of American animation, McCay also acts as interlocutor, a bridge between Gertie and her audiences—onstage, in the filmic framing story, and watching the film. Resistant and disobedient, Gertie displays behaviors that became standard in animated lead characters, and which borrow heavily from the traditions of blackface minstrelsy.
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