Disney World History Parks & Resorts

Why is There a Giant Dinosaur in Hollywood Studios? The Story Behind Dinosaur Gertie

Dinosaur Gertie

Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction is a beloved Hollywood Studios icon. Have you ever stopped to wonder where Gertie came from?

Would it surprise you to know that she is not a creation of Walt Disney or his Imagineers? In fact, she is actually much older than Walt Disney Studios! Take a look at the amazing story of Gertie and her place in history:

In the early 20th-century motion pictures were still relatively new. Animation was an even newer concept. The very first animation, called Fantasmagorie, was created in 1908 by French cartoonist Émile Chol. It featured a stick figure simply encountering random objects (such as a wine bottle that morphed into a flower). The animations that came after largely followed the same concept.

However, 1913 American cartoonist and Vaudeville performer Winsor Mccay had a different idea! He was going to create the first animation with a storyline and a well-developed character. 6 months and 10,000 individual drawings later, “Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur” astounded audiences when she not only moved but interacted with Mccay on stage in his Vaudeville act. The well-rehearsed performance became a hit! In 1914 the cartoon was incorporated into a short film by Mccay, that largely followed the storyline of his stage act.

Walt Disney was 12 years old when he went to his local theater to see the film. He, like everyone else who saw it, walked away astounded.  The film remained highly influential to him throughout his early career. In fact, the parallels between his Alice Comedies and the interaction between Mccay and Gertie are probably a direct result of that influence.

In 1955 he 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 a 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.”

Dinosaur Gertie construction
In 1989, during construction of Hollywood Studios (then called Disney/ MGM Studios) Imagineers decided to immortalize Gertie and her significance in animation history by constructing a giant version of her, thus “Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction” was born.

What better place for her than in the Park that celebrates film and movie history? If you’d like to view the film itself, you can do so here:

This is the short film version that loosely followed Mccay’s Vaudeville act. This is the version Walt saw in theaters. If you’d like to view just the animated portion, skip to 6:15 in the video.

What do you think? Does this give you a greater appreciation for this quirky ice cream stand? I’ll admit until I learned the story behind Gertie, it always seemed a tad out of place to me.

Video courtesy of The Public Domain Review.

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