November 7, 2007
The Grand Haven Tribune, a West Michigan newspaper, ran an interesting story yesterday. Animation pioneer Winsor McCay was born in the village of Spring Lake, and his earliest drawings date from when he and his family lived there; so the Village Council is mulling erecting a monument to McCay on the former site of Union School, which he had attended.

I love the idea. I'd like to see greater public recognition of the many people who forged this art form aside from Walt Disney. One problem, though: according to the article, the aim appears to be calling Spring Lake "the birthplace of animation," as McCay was animating before Disney. It's true that he was, but as those of us who celebrated animation's centenary last year know, he wasn't the first. (I suppose one could make the case that his films were the first drawn, animated narratives, but that sort of hair-splitting is usually reserved for academics and fans.)

It's hard to say where the misinformation springs from, but the tone of the article suggests that the appeal behind the notion is that McCay's work predates Disney, that Disney "reportedly borrowed techniques" from him, and that, as Spring Lake Village manager Ryan Cotton says, "[t]hey say he didn't make a lot of money like Walt Disney because he was more into the art of it as opposed to the commercial." So what we have here is a mix of hometown pride and supposition, neither of which makes for a great monument. I'd like to see McCay get more recognition, and I like the idea of an annual animation festival to honour him. I just hope that when the council realizes that McCay wasn't the first, and that they're not, in fact, "the birthplace of animation," that they'll still be interested in recognizing his work.

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I think I'd be happy if they sculpted Gertie, that would be worth the trip.

It's interesting that they are basing the monument on the supposition that the unwashed masses believe that Disney invented animation.

Regardless, an animation festival to recognize his birthplace would be cool. Maybe they could have a big screen tournament to play the NES Little Nemo game :)
Hey Emru and toonsmith and animation lovers --

Glad you took interest in the McCay tribute plans! I may be able to shed a little more light on the "misinformation", as I'm part of the small band hoping to get something rolling...

There is a group of Spring Lake residents greatly interested in recognizing McCay -- we are illustrators, cartoonists, film lovers, librarians. But right now there are, like, 4 of us. When we went to the people in the community who could actually put something in motion for Winsor McCay, the response was "Who?"

I would wager that McCay is nearly 100%, universally known in animation and cartooning circles, but unfortunately in his hometown I would bet name recognition is virtually nil.

We realized our first need was for Education. And we had to find common ground to do so -- the community doesn't know McCay, but they DO know animation. We thought that might be a stronger connection.

Mr Cotton is a fellow who has JUST become familiar with McCay, which explains why some statements might appear to be suppositions. However, I am THRILLED with the fact that he seems to be behind this! That is the great encouragement I take from the article.

So perhaps to set your mind at ease -- Yes, we DO know McCay wasn't the absolute first to experiment with animation. And I think the reason Disney's name keeps popping up in the article is (I'm guessing) because it's also a point of reference -- in communicating McCay's significance to the lay-person, names like Blackton and Cohl are as foreign as McCay's. Our desire to see McCay honored is because we really, really, really love McCay - his animation AND cartooning - not because he pre-dates Disney.

As far as I know, McCay doesn't have any physical monuments honoring him anywhere. Obviously there's the Annie's Winsor McCay Award. And there's that Gertie shaped restaurant which is sort of an honor. I'd love to see something physical here in his hometown.

Hope my comment didn't ramble too long. But perhaps here's a question for you: what would be a good Slogan to serve as a rallying point? Looking at the huge leap between what McCay accomplished and what came before him, I personally am okay with saying that he "birthed" animation as we know it today. But if that's bothersome, what alternative, powerful catchphrase should we use instead? (Heck, my problem with "Birthplace of Animation" is that it ignores his cartooning legacy.) So... Any suggestions?

All my best!
Attention all Winsor McCay fans! If you are looking for works of this groundbreaking author/illustrator check out Checker Book Publishing Group’s website We publish numerous Winsor McCay graphic novels. Our list of titles is below.

Winsor McCay: Early Works Volumes 1-9
Little Nemo in Slumberland Volume 1
Little Nemo in Slumberland Volume 2 (the book will be published in winter 2008)
Dream of the Rarebit Fiend: The Saturdays
Winsor McCay: Editorial Works

If you need more information or have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Susan Koller
Publicity Director
Checker Book Publishing Group
2044A. South Alex Road
West Carrollton, Ohio 45449
P: (937)-388-0088
F: (937)-388-0089
Due to the many inquiries about the release date of Little Nemo Volume 2 on the customize, retailers and media representatives, the publisher of Checker Book Publishing Group has written the letter below to inform all interested parties on the progress of this groundbreaking project. If you need more information or have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Susan Koller
Publicity Director
Checker Book Publishing Group
2044A. South Alex Road
West Carrollton, Ohio 45449
P: (937)-388-0088
F: (937)-388-0089>.

An open letter to Comics aficionados:

This is a letter to fans and retailers who have been waiting for our second edition of Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay.

We had been scheduled to print this edition several moths ago and I realize it is running late. I thought out of respect I should discuss the reasons why.

Checker is a specialist in classic illustrated material. As such, we had, of course, ambitiously targeted the watershed publication of the last century and THE all time seminal comics creation- Little Nemo. Our initial plans included a significant amount of original newspapers we have been acquiring over the past two years.

However, in our marketing and press release we warned fans that due to the rarity of this material, this edition was originally planned to contain black and white versions of some of the late Winsor McCay Little Nemo run from 1924-1926. This extraordinary piece of American History has NEVER been collected! This is an astounding embarrassment to the publishing community as a whole because McCay was such a visual pioneer.

Well, as luck would have it, just prior to print dates earlier in the fall we discovered the final pieces we needed to accomplish the collection of the entire 1924-1926 periods in color. This has extended the production by a few months, but we hope you understand. We will refund any orders to any customer who needs to change because of this, but as a historian of this type of material we had to aggressively pursue this late find to include in our omnibus Little Nemo collections…which when published; will be unlike any other Nemo book ever published in fact- be a rare gem amongst ALL books ever published.


Mark Thompson
Checker Book Publishing Group

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