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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 56

In the early twentieth century efficiency in industrial management became extremely popular, in business and in popular culture. F.W. Taylor popularized “stopwatch studies” of worker movement, and Lillian and Frank Gilbreth made films that charted the flow of work against the organization of work spaces, calling their research “time and motion study.”

Compare the Gilbreth set for a cinematic time and motion study of a typist, circa 1914. with Winsor McCay's whimsical parody of failed efficiency in animation. In Gertie (1914), McCay's cinematographer and his assistant pile drawings into McCay's assistant's arms, higher and higher, until the pile falls to the ground, hopelessly shuffled, demonstrating the material enormity of the task of making the film. (McCay's actual assistant was John  Fitzsimmons; in the film the part is played by his son Robert, who would later become an animator.)

(Gilbreth Image Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives and Special Collections.)
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