The Centaurs (partially lost footage from unfinished Winsor McCay animated short; 1918-1921)
Winsor McCay needs little introduction. He was one of the first major players in animation. His shorts, including How a Mosquito Operates and Gertie The Dinosaur, led to innovative animation techniques which were used for decades. His detailed style and passion inspired future animators as Tex Avery, Otto Messmer, and even Walt Disney. The Centaurs was one of the last short films McCay worked on before being forced out of the animation industry in 1921.
After work on The Sinking of the Lusitania was completed in 1918, Winsor McCay began working on a variety of new animation projects, including a sequel to Gertie and several shorts based on his comic Dream of the Rarebit Fiend One of the shorts he worked on was an original piece called The Centaurs. The short features a female centaur as she meets, then engages in a romance with a male centaur.
It is unknown if the short was ever finished and, for many years, what footage was completed fell into obscurity and became lost. McCay himself destroyed many copies of his own films to open up storage space for new projects.
In 1947, a collection of unfinished/unreleased works by McCay were found to be in the possession of long-time collaborator Irving Mendelsohn, who received them years earlier by McCay's son, Robert. Unfortunately, the films (which were recorded on 35mm nitrate film) had not been stored well and deteriorated over time. When they were rediscovered, several portions of the reels had decomposed completely. Among the unreleased and partially destroyed material was 90 seconds of footage from The Centaurs. The fragment showed animated centaurs wandering through a realistic-looking animated forest. The female centaur meets a male centaur, who is then led by the female centaur to her parents, hoping to obtain their consent for a romance.
The production materials found in the surviving film stated that about three minutes of animation was completed for The Centaurs, but only the following footage could be recovered. It is currently unknown why the film was not completed, but it is possible that budgetary concerns and the publisher of his comics, Hearst, forcing him out of the animation industry played a role in the cancellation of the project.
- Winsor McCay: His Life and Art by John Canemaker
- Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson by Tom Sito