I have visited Walt Disney World many times. Every time I have wondered why in the Walt Disney World is there a giant Dinosaur in that pond! Well, her name is Dinosaur Gertie. That’s right, it’s a girl and is actually an ice cream stand called Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction. All very cool information, but why is she here? Of course, the history buff in me had to look into this dinosaur further.
The first fun fact I found, Dinosaur Gertie is not a creation of Walt Disney or his Imagineers! Gertie is a creation of 1913 American cartoonist and Vaudeville performer, Winsor McCay. Unlike animators before him, McCay created the first animation with a storyline, which included the well-developed character, “Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur”.
It took 6 months and 10,000 individual drawings later to create “Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur”. However, it was all worth it in the end as Disonsaur Gertie astounded audiences as she moved and interacted with McCay on stage in his Vaudeville act. In 1913, McCay released the 12-minute short called “Gertie the Dinosaur,” where McCay appeared onstage in front of the film’s projection screen and followed scripted lines “directing” the animated brontosaurus to do tricks, including raising her feet and rolling over. The grand finale of the performance involved McCay disappearing behind a screen and “reappearing” in animated form in the film and riding off on Gertie’s back.
The audience loved Dinosaur Gertie so much, that she became a hit cartoon in 1914 when the cartoon was incorporated into a short film by McCay, which largely followed the storyline of his stage act.
So how does this affect Walt Disney? Well, Walt Disney was 12 years old when he went to his local theater to see the film where he walked away inspired. The film remained highly influential to him throughout his early career. He used his influences from McCay and Gertie in some of his own work.
In 1955 Disney recreated McCay’s performance in a segment called “The Story of the Animated Drawing” on his “Disneyland” tv show. During the segment, Walt explained Gertie’s significance, saying, “Winsor McCay’s Gertie and other animation novelties stimulated great public interest and created a demand for this new medium. This, in turn, encouraged other pioneers to creative efforts that in time, led to the establishment of the animated cartoon as an industry.”
Imagineers knew the significant impact Dinosaur Gertie had on Walt Disney and his career. In 1989, during the construction of Disney/ MGM Studios, Imagineers decided to pay tribute to Disney and Gertie, as well as her significance in animation history, by constructing a giant version of her creating“Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction”.
Even though Hollywood Studios has changed over the years with the addition of the new lands, Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, one staple remains consistent, Dinosaur Gertie. What do you think of this Hollywood Studios icon? Are you glad she is here or do you wish she would go?
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