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Pioneer cartoonist Winsor McCay was Gertie’s creator.

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Gertie debuted at Chicago’s Palace Theater on February 8, 1914.

Gertie, the world’s first animated dinosaur, made her screen debut at Chicago’s Palace Theater on 8 February 1914, one hundred years ago today. Pioneer cartoonist Winsor McCay created the animated dinosaur as part of his vaudeville act. At the beginning of the show, a tuxedoed McCay would stand on stage with a whip and other props and lecture his audience about the making of animated films. Standing to the side of the film screen, he would then introduce Gertie, “the only dinosaur in captivity.” Once the animated film was playing, McCay would interact with Gertie, calling her out, giving her commands, even throwing her an apple. Near the end of the act, he would disappear backstage and then seem to reappear in the film. Gertie would then pick her animated master up, put him on her back, and walk away while McCay bowed to the audience.

Reviews were positive and the show was a popular success. Soon, McCay moved his act to New York City. Unfortunately, McCay’s regular employer, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, was unhappy about the time he was spending on stage. Under pressure to curtail the act, McCay agreed to extend the film with a lengthy, live-action prologue, part of which was filmed at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. He also added title cards – a silent film staple – to replace his stage act. The longer film then toured the country’s motion picture theaters as Gertie the Dinosaur.

She was a scream!

The longer version of the film is the best-preserved of McCay’s animated work. It is now listed on the US National Film Registry. Click here to see the entire film.

A cell from Gertie the Dinosaur. Click here to see the entire film.

A cell from Gertie the Dinosaur.

A single panel from McCay's comic strip Little Nemo (1913).

A single panel from McCay’s comic strip Little Nemo (1913).

 

A political cartoon from 1922 on the obsolescence of war.

A political cartoon from 1922 on the obsolescence of war.

 

Siats Meekerorum

Posted: November 22, 2013 by Lisa Herzog in Research Blog, Theropod Dinosaur Evolution

New megapredator of the Cretaceous announced by Lindsay Zanno in the Daily Planet theater.  Super awesome, check it out!  Collaboration with our friends and colleagues at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.  Lindsay’s coauthor is Peter Makovicky.

The big announcement in the Daily Planet Theater at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Discovered in Utah, Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation.  Arrrrrgh.
Discovered in Utah, Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation. Arrrrrgh.

See What’s Going On!

Posted: November 21, 2013 by Lisa Herzog in Lab Blog, Notes from the Paleo Prep Lab

Special thanks to museum volunteer Dick Webb! Visitors can now see the specimens as they are being prepared in the air abrasion chamber.  The previous commercial-grade unit kept workers from breathing the harmful dust created by the process, but it also kept visitors from seeing what we were doing in there.  That’s because the box was all metal except for the glass viewing window on the technician’s side.  With a collaborative design effort by Dick Webb, Lisa Herzog and the folks in the Exhibits department  here at the museum (who also built the box) we now have a fantastic custom built unit that allows viewing from both sides of the abrasion chamber.

Stop by and see what’s going on in the lab!  And see what’s going on INSIDE the micro-abrasion chamber for a change.

Abrasion box

Norwegian-born artist and engraver John Conrad Hansen (1869-1952) drew and painted a series of magnificent restorations of fossil vertebrates during his fourteen year career at Chicago’s Field Museum. Many of his line drawings were eventually published in the scientific literature, especially in papers authored by paleontologists Elmer S. Riggs, Bryan Patterson and Paul McGrew. Others, including an unknown number of beautiful oil paintings, were intended to add a dash of form and color to the fossil vertebrate displays in the museum’s historic Hall 38, the now defunct hall of vertebrate paleontology. Unfortunately, Hansen’s paintings were uninstalled in 1994 when the museum renovated its paleontology exhibits, and, to the best of my knowledge, none are currently on display there.

I remember seeing some of these paintings in the museum when I visited in my youth. I vividly recall a display that explained how fossils are formed, and how they are found and collected by paleontologists. This display featured a memorable series of six Hansen paintings illustrating how an animal carcass enters the fossil record. One of those paintings is featured below.

John Conrad Hansen paints the background for a small, portable diorama. Field Museum photo GN78638

John Conrad Hansen paints the background for a small, portable diorama. Field Museum photo GN78638.

Hansen’s work was much admired by the Field Museum’s paleontology staff. Riggs noted that “Mr. Hansen … has a fine discriminating sense of form in his drawings.” Patterson was even more effusive: “I may say without exaggeration that [Hansen] has no superior and few peers among either contemporary or former illustrators of fossil vertebrate remains.”

A very small sample of Hansen’s work is reproduced here, courtesy of the Field Museum.

This was part of a series of paintings illustrating how fossils form. Field Museum 84471c.

This was part of a series of paintings illustrating how fossils form. Field Museum 84471c.

A dramatic scene from the La Brea tar pits. Field Museum 84484c.

A dramatic scene from the La Brea tar pits. Field Museum 84484c.

Another installment from a series of six paintings illustrating how fossils form. Field Museum GEO84474c.

Another installment from a series of six paintings illustrating how fossils form. Field Museum GEO84474c.

A shovel-tusked mastodon. Field Museum GEO84491c.

A shovel-tusked mastodon. Field Museum GEO84491c.

Hansen rendered many very small paintings, also. Field Museum GEO80157.

Hansen rendered many very small paintings, also. Field Museum GEO80157.

A scientific illustration showing the skull of the type specimen of Andrewsornis abbotti. Field Museum GEO80035.

A scientific illustration showing the skull of the type specimen of Andrewsornis abbotti. Field Museum GEO80035.

A small ground sloth called Hapalops. Click here to see the specimen this painting was made from. Field Museum GEO84480c.

A small ground sloth called Hapalops. Click here to see the specimen this painting was made from. Field Museum GEO84480c.

I recently spent a week at Chicago’s Field Museum looking through historic photographs and fossils from the Captain Marshall Field Paleontological Expedition to Argentina and Bolivia, 1922-1927. Together with Sergio Vizcaino, an Argentine paleontologist who specializes in fossil mammals, and Bill Simpson, Collection Manager, I looked at every fossil collected by Elmer S. Riggs & his colleagues in the Santa Cruz beds of southern Patagonia. We found many gems, including field number 1001, the first fossil collected by Riggs and recorded in his field notes.

Elmer's first fossil, a distal left tarsometatarsus of Psilopterus australis collected at Killik Aike. Photo courtesy of Bill Simpson.

Elmer’s first fossil, a distal left tarsometatarsus of Psilopterus australis collected at Killik Aike. Photo courtesy of Bill Simpson.

Sergio also took a picture of me with Elmer’s first fossil.

A bird in the hand....

A bird in the hand….

The end of the field season is usually bittersweet. On the one hand, we’ve been gone from our homes for 6 weeks in harsh conditions with not much rest and even fewer showers. We are down to only 4 crew members, all with bent backs and sore knees. Camp food has started to get old and we are longing for our own beds. The sunsets are gorgeous, but it’s been too long since we’ve seen anything green.

On the other hand, we do this because we love the rock, the bone it produces, and the questions those bones raise and may eventually answer. There is still so much to be learned about the mid-Cretaceous dinosaur fauna of North America and its potential interchange with dinosaurs from Asia, as well as the evolution of the feathered dinosaurs, such as our favorite therizinosaur, Falcarius. More data is needed and that’s why we’re out here. It’s hard work, but well worth it.

Last sunset at CGQA sampling of specimens

When we left the Mussentuchit locality 3 weeks ago, we had a wide variety of specimens, including various dinosaurs, turtles, and crocodiles. And as we leave the Crystal Geyser Quarry now, we take with us 170 numbered specimens (some just single bones, some as jackets with multiple bones), from a huge sauropod ischium to a teeny-tiny caudal vertebra (both pictured below). We’ve found bones not previously documented for Falcarius and there’s always the possibility that some of what we’ve found may belong to a previously unknown species. We’ve mapped the location of each and every bone in hopes that their position may tell us what happened to these animals and how their remains came to rest in this place. With all of this new data, we can depart contented.

Sauropod ischiumcaudal vertebra

And so we head home with our trucks “severely overloaded” with fossils. There will be plenty of work to do back at the museum, but our work in the mid-Cretaceous of Utah is over until next year. We are ready to go home.

Final crew shot

The Crystal Geyser Quarry is known for being hot, dry, and dusty. However, this has not exactly been the case this field season. While there have been plenty of hot, dry, and dusty moments, we have also been experiencing an unexpected amount of rain. As I write, I am sitting in our kitchen tent listening to the rain hit the tarp above my head and the thunder rolling around us. Earlier this week, we were lucky to have two cool nights in a row thanks to the evening rains that doused our camp. And our kitchen tent tried to fly away once again in a larger storm last week.
The kitchen tent, home sweet home.

The kitchen tent, home sweet home.

Although the rain is sometimes an inconvenience, it brings much needed relief from the more typical desert conditions. And these storms are an important reminder to always be prepared with a tidy camp and a well organized quarry.
View of camp from nearby the quarry site.

View of camp from nearby the quarry site.

UPDATE: I could not get this post uploaded before going to the quarry this morning, but of course, after only a few hours of quarry work, we were chased out by a massive storm. The whole time we did spend digging was some of the windiest we’ve seen here at CGQ. The storms have continued to roll through all day.

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Image  —  Posted: July 31, 2013 by Susan Drymala in Feathered Dino Death Pit Expedition 2012, Field Blog, Uncategorized
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