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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 46

In 1914, a young vaudevillian named Buster Keaton shared the bill one night with performing animator Winsor McCay. Keaton later used McCay's Gertie (1914) as inspiration for parts of his Three Ages (1923). One of the elements of McCay's Gertie act was the back-and-forth between the man and the dinosaur. The trope of the comedic duo, which derived in part from minstrelsy's Tambo and Bones, circulated freely on the vaudeville and minstrel stages. A classic example of the vaudeville two act was Abbott and Costello, whose routine "Who's On First" is considered paradigmatic. This comedic dynamic was later translated onto the medium of animation through the struggle between the performing animator and his seemingly autonomous creation.
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