This is a shortish article on one of Winsor McCay's small yet enormously influential œuvre of animated films from the earliest days of the form. It is McCay's second film, and his first that has something resembling a story. I'm hoping to bring the remaining McCay animation articles up to FA status by the 100th anniversary of Gertie the Dinosaur next February (three more including this one). Curly Turkey (gobble) 13:29, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
Canemaker says it was a promotion photo for McCay's vaudeville performances, which he had given up before 1923. The only date he gives is 1906 (which was the year McCay started doing vaudeville). Curly Turkey (gobble) 10:18, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Then that should be noted explicitly at the file page. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 10:36, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
A version of it appeared in the New York Herald for 1907-02-10. I've added that info. Curly Turkey (gobble) 13:36, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Where did you get the 1915 date? I don't see it in your source. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 09:34, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I didn't upload it. I don't know where the uploader got that date, and searching around hasn't turned it up, so I've removed it. Curly Turkey (gobble) 21:41, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
Addressed comments moved to talk page
Support on prose and images. Good job. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 22:28, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
The link (note b) to the Wikimedia commons page of File:Little Nemo 1910-10-23.jpg doesn't work. Other than this the article looks pretty good. Jimknut (talk) 19:26, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Forgot the file extension. It's fixed now. Curly Turkey (gobble) 20:45, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Support Did the ga review for this article. It has only improved since. Meets criteria. A lovely article.--Dwaipayan (talk) 04:38, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
Review by Quadell
This article has lively prose and excellent sourcing. I did spotchecks for 6 of the 31 references, and in every case I found the statements fully supported by the sources. In particular, I was impressed with how well the source material was synthesized and rewritten to avoid any hint of plagiarism, which is always gratifying to see. The images are all free, and the captions, infobox, and categories are used appropriately. The lede is ideal. I couldn't find much to criticize, but I do have one nitpicky concern about reference formats and two questions about sources.
References should only link to a URL if the source contains a digital version of the text in question. Thus the link to Theisen's "History" is clearly correct. In addition, many people choose to link to Google Books previews, even though the whole text is not available, and I suppose that can be valuable. But the link to the Google Books page for Beckerman's "Animation" is not correct, since no portion of the e-book is available online.
I'm in no position to check this. I live in Japan, and many of the books that have previews in the US are blocked in Japan—blocked without any notice that they have been blocked, so the pages just look like any other page that has no preview. I'd rather just link to Google Books for each of them rather than check with a US-based editor for every single book I link to. Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:07, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Vouch that no access in Indonesia either. I personally don't mind Curly's approach to it; at the very least it serves like the ISBN: to show the book exists. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 23:11, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
I can assure you that all Google Book links are to at least previews of the online text, except for Beckerman, which has no preview available. In the "Bibliographies" section of the guideline at Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Lists_of_works, it says "When a book is available online through a site such as Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, or Google Books, it may be useful to provide a link to the book so readers can view it. ... A link to a Google Book should only be added if the book is available for preview." (The ISBN link already provides a way for the reader to get to the Google Book page, should one want to do so.) – Quadell(talk) 10:22, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Okay, I've removed the link to Beckerman. Curly Turkey (gobble) 11:08, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
When I watched the film, I was struck by the amount of repetitive back-and-forth movement in all character motions. To a modern, this is one of the most unusual aspects of the style of animation. Do any of the sources mention this? If so, it could be a valuable addition to the "Contents" section.
It's a traditional animation technique called Traditional animation#Animation loops. I have sources that say McCay used them, but not in the context of Mosquito specifically. It's a technique he used in all his films, right back to the first (Little Nemo). It's actually quite common, but I think it's more obvious in earlier animation in general. Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:07, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
If the sources don't mention it in reference to this film specifically, and if you don't think it's important to include here, that's fine. – Quadell(talk) 10:22, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
At some points the article gives interpretations that are valid only if they are in the sources. I'd love to check the sources myself, but Google Books only partly allows for that, and I don't have access to the printed works. In particular, the article twice refers to the mosquito's "personality" as being "egotistical, persistent, and calculating", citing Canemaker p. 167, and the same source is used to call the insect's actions "horrifying to watch". Can you confirm for me that these interpretations are in the source? How are they worded?
"McCay's mosquito contains hints of a real personality whose thinking processes produce actins that in turn strongly affect audiences. The mosquito seems to be egotistical, with a fondness for showing off; he is calculating (when he prepares his proboscis on the stone wheel), gluttonous, and doggedly persitent." This is preceded by a couple paragraphs about character animation in general and how McCay's experiments in character animation "reached its apex in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". It's followed by a paragraph that includes: "McCay's tour de force animation is all the more impressive when one cosiders the rather firghtening face of the mosquito, the repulsive, almost sexual action of repeatedly penetrating his host's face with his long beak, and the bloody finale in which parts of the mosquito wash over the screen. Tha McCay's bug holds us fascinated through all of the above is impressivel; it is attributable to the creature's recognizable personality traits but also to McCay's dexterity in alternating ugly or disturbing images with those that make us laugh or impress with their beauty." Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:07, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Yep, that's pretty unambiguous. No problems there. Thanks for allowing me to doublecheck. – Quadell(talk) 10:22, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
This was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to your answers. – Quadell(talk) 19:03, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the kind words! Only my mother has ever called anything I did "ideal" ;) Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:07, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Support, this is certainly among the best Wikipedia has to offer and should be featured. – Quadell(talk) 11:15, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Comments from Lobo
I have a keen interest in film history, so I'm happy to see an article like this at FAC and happy to do a review. I found it a really interesting read, thanks for putting it together. I'm afraid I did have some issues with it when reading through. The order of the material is occasionally strange, and I don't think the lead is a very effective summary of the article: these are expanded on below. I've also listed a few minor prose concerns and some suggestions.
In the "Contents" section, I think it would make more sense to place the synopsis first, and then the other information in contents could perhaps come under a second subheading, "Style"?
"It was released at a time when audience demand for animation outstripped the studios' ability to supply it. When most studios were struggling merely to make animation work, McCay showed a mastery of the medium and a sense of how to create believable motion" - All of this seems a little out of place in "Contents". I think it would be better off integrated into "Background".
Wouldn't the final paragraph in "Background" (and the image) be much better positioned higher up in the section? Currently it is organised: McCay's background, what he wanted to achieve, production, release, then we are suddenly told his inspiration behind the story. It should go: background, aims, inspiration, production, release.
I'm afraid I think the lead talks far too much about McCay's biographical history, and doesn't talk enough about the production of this film. I suggest a rewrite of the second paragraph, where it briefly mentions his success with Little Nemo, then talks about McCay's aims for this particular film (one that told a story, believability and naturalism), its release and reception, and then its legacy.
I've expanded the second paragraph with more film details. I've tightened the background portion into a single sentence, but I couldn't bring myself to drop it. What do you think of it now? Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:09, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
"The second of his films, it is about a giant mosquito who torments a sleeping man; the mosquito's abdomen swells as it draws blood until it explodes." - Personally I think the first half of this sentence is all that's needed for a plot description in the lead.
IMDb lists "The Hungry Mosquito" as another alternative title. Is that accurate, have you come across that in your research?
It's the first I've seen it. This source suggests it was the UK title, but I can't a source that would qualify as an WP:RS. A Google Books search turns up this, but I can't access the book itself to see if "the hungry mosquito" is listed as an alternate title or is just a phrase in the prose. Curly Turkey (gobble) 21:56, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Okay that's fine, lets leave it. --Lobo(talk) 18:48, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
"Inspired by the works of Charlie Chaplin" - Hmm, even though Chaplin didn't make his film debut until 1914? I suppose it's possible that McCay saw CC while they were both on the vaudeville circuit (CC was touring America in 1911), but that should be clarified (ie, "inspired by the vaudeville act of Charlie Chaplin...")
Removed. I don't know how that slipped in. The source says no such thing. Curly Turkey (gobble) 21:56, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
We possibly have a bit too much biographical information in the "Background" section as well...Remember that McCay has his own biographical article, this one is about the film. Context is good, don't get me wrong, but it could be briefer here.
I'm not sure it would be good to shorten it further—it emphasizes his drawing skills, especially his speed, which is important to understand how a single self-taught artist could produce such a film; it gives his newspaper cartooning background, since he derived the story from one of his comic strips; it gives his vaudeville background, important as he introduced the film into his vaudeville show. Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:09, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Alright, that's fair enough. --Lobo(talk) 19:45, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Do we have any information on how long McCay was working on the film? How many frames did he draw?
Added. A claim was made the previous year that the film would contain 6,000 "sketches". It does appear, however, that McCay has exaggerated the number of drawings in his films: Nathan and Crafton have determined that Gertie the Dinosaur likely had a third or less of the advertised 10,000 drawings, and similar claims were made about The Sinking of the Lustania. Either way, I haven't found any actual claims about the number of drawings (just that one projected number), and no artwork is known to survive. Curly Turkey (gobble) 05:29, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Great work on adding some more production information. --Lobo(talk) 19:45, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
"the film relies on physical, visual action—a strength of the film medium." - This stalled me a bit, I don't think it flows very well and it isn't particularly clear. If I'm understanding the point correctly, may I suggest: "The film capitalised on the strength of the new film medium by relying on physical, visual action" (or something like that).
How's "The film capitalizes on strengths of the new film medium such as physical, visual action."? Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:09, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
"It was distributed abroad by Vitagraph Studios; in the United States, McCay showed the film as he toured his act in spring and summer" - Is the last part needed, when you've already told us that he first showed it on stage? I rather think it would be fine to just have, "McCay put the film together in December 1911, and released it in January 1912—first as part of his vaudeville act, and later in movie theaters. Abroad, it was distributed by Vitagraph Studios." Also, did the film have a distribution studio in the US that we can name? Do we know when it was first released abroad?
I haven't come across any info on international distribution. It appears that McCay's films were released at least in the UK and France (there's a poster of the French release of Little Nemo, not sure of the year). Curly Turkey (gobble) 07:45, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
The way it is phrased at the moment makes it sound like McCay showed the film in movie theatres himself, without a distributor, which can't be right? The new stuff you added mentions him sending the frames to Vitagraph, so it sounds like they distributed it in the US too. And I'm still a bit confused - was he still showing the film in his act (in spring and summer) at the same time as it being shown in theatres? Is that why that is mentioned? --Lobo(talk) 19:45, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
"referring to the final explosive sequence (which McCay had hand-painted red)" - Think this would be better without the parenthesis.
"The technical quality of McCay's animation was far ahead of its time, unmatched until the Disney studios gained prominence in the 1930s with films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)." - Sounds like editorialising, better to add in a "considered" ("considered unmatched until Disney...") And do animation experts really think his level wasn't matched until Snow White? How about the earlier Disney shorts, Betty Boop, etc?
It seems to be the opinion of Canemaker, Crafton, Nathan, and Theisen at the very least. I'd be very surprised to see someone claim the Fleischers were on McCay's level, anyways. Either way, I've yet to encounter a counterclaim. Curly Turkey (gobble) 05:45, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Outside opinion: At first I was skeptical of that as well, but both sources strongly support the claim. – Quadell(talk) 12:10, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
That's fine then, but I do think it sounds a bit too "matter-of-fact". We need to attribute it, ie "Animation experts have said" (and why not name them, like you have here?) --Lobo(talk) 19:45, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Well, it is a statement about technical quality rather than other kinds of quality. Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:14, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
"McCay's biographer, animator John Canemaker, commended him for his ability to imbue a mosquito with character and personality." - Not sure it is very important that he was his biographer; suggest, "Additionally, the animator John Canemaker has commended McCay's ability to imbue a mosquito with character and personality." Also, Canemaker has his own article, it should have a wikilink.
Done. Surprised I didn't link it. I'm pretty sure I did in the other articles. Curly Turkey (gobble) 21:56, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Feel free to argue back with me about any of these suggestions =) --Lobo(talk) 14:40, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Thank you for making some of my suggested changes. I've taken a look, and sorry to be difficult, but...I still think the lead gives way too much background information, and I still don't think the page is organised as well as it could be. I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of playing around with the article in my sandbox. I've changed the lead quite a bit, to show what I think would be more suitable, shuffled some of the material around, and introduced/removed some headers. The prose has been tweaked in a few places as well - all of which I think makes the article more coherent. This may be overstepping the task of a reviewer, but I saw a window for improvement and I really want the article to be as good as possible! I really hope you like this version and will implement it into the article. --Lobo(talk) 18:48, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for putting so much effort into your review! I've incorporated into the article a lot of what you did in your sandbox. A couple of things, though:
"Originally it included a live-action prologue"—My sources don't explicitly say this, but I'm pretty sure the live-action prologue was limited to the theatrical release (this was the case with Gertie, but not with Little Nemo).
My understanding is that the film did not have a theatrical release in the US until McCay had finished "milking" it in his stage act—hence the tour, as his act usually stayed close to home. That was the case with Gertie.
I've tightened up the lead a bit, but not really along the lines of your rewrite. Could you take a look at it?
I'm not sure about mixing "in-universe" and not-"in-universe" prose as you have in the first paragraph of the "Contents" section. I've broken the "Contents" section into "Summary" and "Style" sections. What do you think?
I've changed "The technical quality of McCay's animation was unmatched until Walt Disney's feature films appeared in the 1930s." to "The technical quality of McCay's animation was unmatched until Walt Disney began producing feature films in the 1930s."
Okay, things are looking better. I'm being a bit more bold with the article and making some changes there, all of which I've explained with an edit summary. I'm also going to continue arguing for the inclusion of more of my changes...
Particularly the lead. Sorry to be blunt, but I'm really not understanding why you prefer it to have more information about McCay's history in animation than production information about this film...at the moment, I don't see it as a full, proportionately accurate summary of the article, which means it is failing WP:WIAFA criterion 2a. There is no mention of the release or reception, for instance. And I honestly think the line I wrote about his background is all a reader needs to know at this stage of the article: we want to get that stuff out the way as quickly and smoothly as possible. Why go into specifics about the "the technical dexterity of his cartooning" here, all that needs to be said (as I had) is "his talent". That alone tells us that he was an excellent cartoonist. Why do we need to know about his chalk talks? Mentioning that the film was released as part of his vaudeville acts speaks for itself (although the current version doesn't even include that). I also don't think mentioning "McCay displays his attention to detail as the titular mosquito's body fill consistent with its bodily structure, rather than balloon-like" is the most interesting thing to mention (I think most artists would have done this?); the fact that he managed to give the animation "realistic timing, motion, and weight" (as I wrote) is by far more impressive. And doesn't the article say that this was one of McCay's main concerns, along with wanting to have a story? So it should be mentioned in the lead.
I'm sorry, but I don't really see what the issue is with McCay's history—it makes it clear that he was a "name" long before the film came out. The second paragraph gets to Mosquito by the end of the second sentence. That's a pretty conpact history, considering McCay had been a professional artist for twenty years before Mosquito came out
Two long sentences though, in a pretty short lead. My point is that his back ground isn't essential information for people wanting to find out about this film. I completely agree it's worth mentioning that he'd been a successful cartoonist and already produced one film, but I think it should be said as quickly and concisely as possible. I really don't think the vaudeville act and chalk talks need to be mentioned, especially as it says later that he released the film on vaudeville (which indicates that area of his career to readers). You've now added info on the release/reception to the lead, so the balance is looking better, but...I've just never come across a film article that gives so much of the creator's history in the lead, even ones with a large lead.
McCay had a long, busy career. Out of that career, certain things, I think, have bearing on this article. He achieved his greatest fame with Little Nemo, which was at its peak when this film came out—there's certainly no dropping that (you've kept it in your version). Vaudeville is obviusly important, as the film was included as part of the show. When I think of vaudeville, though, I think of singing, dancing, acrobatics, and joke-telling. What would a cartoonist be doing on the vaudeville stage? Without mention his chalk talks, we're only going to leave question marks floating over the heads of the readers. It may be possible to snip a word or here to tighten it up, but I think it would be a big mistake to remove any of the actual content from that sentence. Curly Turkey (gobble) 22:01, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
"consistent with its bodily structure" is definitely unusual in animation, especially pre-Disney. I've dropped it, though, and replaced it with "naturalistic timing, motion, and weight." I've otherwise tweaked the lead. Could you take another look? Curly Turkey (gobble) 03:21, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for taking on this suggestion.
As for the first para of the lead, I tweaked that because having two sentences beginning "The second...", "The film..." sounds a bit stilted. I really think the one in my sandbox reads better. I wonder if the other people who've commented here, or anyone else reading this, could chip in over all this?
I agree that "The second of his films, it..." is a little clunky. It's a minor point, but it could be improved. I'm not sure whether the sandbox version of the lede is the best way to go or not, but I do encourage the nominator to reword that bit, one way or another. – Quadell(talk) 13:45, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I thought the "Contents" stuff worked pretty well the way I had it, no? The main thing is that you've switched the info around so that the synopsis comes first (before, it was weird to read about the style of the film before we'd been told what happens in it), so I'm glad about that. But the "Style" section on its own is very short, which is why I decided it probably wasn't worth having. It is all relevant under "Contents", anyway. Apart from, actually, the sentence, "It has also appeared under the title The Story of a Mosquito." This has nothing to do with its style or contents, which is why I had deleted it - and honestly, I think just referencing the alternative title in the lead is all that's necessary. Otherwise, the sentence should be moved to the "release" part of the article.
I actually thought it read a lot better the way it was—giving a short introductory section before the synopsis. I don't think having the synopsis and style mixed together is good at all, expecially mixing "in-universe" and not-"in-universe" writing in the same paragraph. The lead is supposed to do no more than summarize the contents of the body. If Story of a Mosquito doesn't appear in the body, it shouldn't be in the lead—and, really, refs should be avoided in the lead except as a last resort (as in for controversial statements). Curly Turkey (gobble) 06:23, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Alright, I'm content with this. --Lobo(talk) 20:29, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
"The film capitalizes on strengths of the new film medium such as physical, visual action." > This sentence reads awkwardly, because it talks in present tense but then describes the film medium as "new". The way I reworded this solved that problem, and I'd strongly suggest doing something similar.
I agree it's awkward, but I don't think "Capitalizing on strengths of the film medium, which was in its infancy, the animation makes use of physical, visual action" solves the problem—somehow it doesn't seem clear to me that it's saying the "physical, visual action" is the strength that's being capitalized (it feels somehow ambiguos to me). How about: "The film capitalizes on strengths of the film medium, then in its infancy, by making use of physical, visual action."? Curly Turkey (gobble) 08:15, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Yep, that's perfect. --Lobo(talk) 20:29, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
You don't think there's enough information for a separate "Production and release" section? I definitely do, and it's helpful to break that up for the reader. I definitely recommend doing this.
Done. Sorry, I didn't even notice that. I do think it's a good idea. Curly Turkey (gobble) 06:23, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
It doesn't sound like it would be inaccurate or misleading to say "Originally it included a live-action prologue"? The fact is we know there used to be a prologue but now it is lost. I think it makes all that stuff flow better, so if it can be added that would be good.
"Originally" suggests it was there from the first. There's no evidence one way or the other that it was. In Gertie the prologue was not added until nine months after the original release. Curly Turkey (gobble) 03:21, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Ah okay, I see. --Lobo(talk) 20:29, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
"The film was released at a time when audience demand for animation outstripped the studios' ability to supply it. When most studios were struggling merely to make animation work, McCay showed a mastery of the medium and a sense of how to create believable motion." - I had moved this to the legacy section, since I thought it was a pretty interesting point about the importance of the film. And of course, its talking about McCay's achievements (possibly in an overly-peacocky, POV way...even if accurate)
You're right, I've moved it. I've missed some of the edits you made in your sandbox, partly because I can't see the differences in a diff. If you do this kind of thing a lot, maybe it would be a good idea just to paste and save the whole article into your sandbox and then make changes, so they show up in a diff.
No I haven't done this before, but you're right - that would've been better! I should've thought of that, sorry. --Lobo(talk) 20:29, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
"peacocky": well, yeah, that's how the sources tend to talk about McCay. I'm open to a rewording. Curly Turkey (gobble) 23:23, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
I don't doubt that the sources talk about him in this way, but WP can't adopt such a definitive voice on these matters. Like WP:PEA says, "Instead of making unprovable proclamations about a subject's importance, use facts and attribution to demonstrate that importance." Or at the very least, indicate that people think he showed a mastery of the medium, rather than stating flat out that he did show a mastery. --Lobo(talk) 20:29, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I've added an "According to animator Chris Webster, ", though I don't thik a technical mastery of a medium is an "unprovable claim"—we're talking about something technical: either your perspective is consistently correct or it's not, etc. Curly Turkey (gobble) 22:15, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
The line about his talent not being matched until the Disney features would carry far more weight, and be 100% convincing, if you mentioned the names of those scholars who believe this (like you did here at the FAC). Again, strongly recommend doing this.--Lobo(talk) 17:39, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
Yep, much better. We're getting there, honestly! The only thing I still have issues over now is the lead... --Lobo(talk) 20:29, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Can you let me know what needs to be fixed? I'd like to give it a shot and help the article hit FA.--Rsrikanth05 (talk) 14:16, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
If you see somewhere you think it can be improved, please take a stab at it! Curly Turkey (gobble) 21:34, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
I've done a bit of tweaking here and there; I feel it makes the text clearer. If it isn't, feel free to undo and lemme know. --Rsrikanth05 (talk) 13:07, 6 September 2013 (UTC)
Support. Okay, I'm happy with the article now. It looks much cleaner and better organised; it's brief, but surely as comprehensive as an article on this little film could be. One thing I still find awkward is talking about the prologue in the present tense when we're discussing what was seen 100 years ago (the whole section is talking about the release 100 years ago - everything there is past tense), and since the prologue doesn't exist anymore, it doesn't feel right for it to be in the present. I would strongly recommend changing this, but I'll put you out of your misery and support anyway. ;) I hope you haven't seen this review as a nuisance but agree that the article has improved as a result. --Lobo(talk) 21:17, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
I always find these things a "nuisance" while they're happening, but appreciate them when they're done ;) Thank you! Curly Turkey (gobble) 21:33, 5 September 2013 (UTC)