1871: Winsor McCay, Father of Animation, Born in Spring Lake, Michigan

September 26, 2018 all-day

Winsor McCay, pioneering animator and comic strip artist, was a native of Spring Lake, Michigan. Spring Lake is also where he began his career in art. His father, Robert McCay, and mother Janet ran a grocery store in the village. While it is probable that Winsor was born in 1867 during a visit to his mother’s family in Ontario, McCay stated that he was born September 26, 1871, in Spring Lake, Michigan. He always considered Spring Lake his hometown.

In 1880, the Goodrich steamship Alpena, en route from nearby Grand Haven to Chicago, was wrecked in a terrible storm and sank to the bottom, carrying with it nearly one hundred passengers. At the age of thirteen, young Winsor drew a picture of the wreck on the blackboard of Union School, which he attended on Exchange Street. The illustration was photographed and copies were sold as postcards.

McCay’s comic strips included Little Nemo in Slumberland and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. McCay created the very first animated cartoon in America with the release of Little Nemo in 1911 (See video link below).

Many in the animation world hail McCay today as the “Father of Animation.” As a tribute, the highest award that an animator can receive is an “Annie,” which is the Winsor McCay Award for Lifetime Achievement in Animation. When Disneyland first opened in 1955, so the story goes, Walt Disney took Robert McCay, son of Spring Lake native Winsor McCay, on a guided tour. He stopped near the end and said, “You know, this should really belong to your father.”

Winsor McCay passed away on July 26, 1934.

How a Mosquito Operates (1912)

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) – World’s First Keyframe Animation Cartoon.

Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend : The Pet (1921)

Source : Kevin Collier, “The Father of Animation”, Seeking Michigan, September 26, 2011.

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