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If Winsor McCay were alive today, he would have doodled this way

October 15, 2012|By Amy Hubbard
  • A portion of the Winsor McCay Google Doodle shows the movement of the animation across multiple panels.
A portion of the Winsor McCay Google Doodle shows the movement of the animation… (Google )

Today's Google Doodle marks the 107th anniversary of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland -- and if McCay were alive today, he might have created this unfolding piece of whimsy himself.

"The way we approached it," said doodler Jennifer Hom, "was we wanted his style definitely ... and his color palettes, but we also wanted to take it from the perspective of how it would look if he designed it for the Internet."

McCay was a turn-of-the-last-century artist. He was a king of comic strips -- his Little Nemo was considered by many to be the pinnacle of an illustrious career -- but he then wanted to make his images move.  Little Nemo, a New York Herald strip that debuted in 1905, became the basis for a Broadway musical, but characters from the strip then made their way into films by McCay.

"Gertie the Dinosaur" is lauded by animation enthusiasts.

"It's the first animation to have a character designed with a unique personality for animation," Hom said.

To bring Gertie to the screen, she added, McCay created 10,000 drawings in six months. "It was crazy how hard he worked."

Hom didn't approach that number of drawings for her McCay doodle, of course, but it definitely was a labor of love. Is it the favorite doodle she's made?

"I think this is definitely one of my top three only for the simple fact that I've been trying to do this doodle since I started working at Google," Hom said.

To create it, she said she did "some frame-by-frame animation. I just drew them by hand one image at a time."

Corrie Scalisi, an engineer on the Google team, tackled what she told The Times was the most intriguing part of the doodle from a technical perspective -- "how to preserve the size and shape of the [Google] homepage to show this huge, beautiful comic."

Hom says the doodle team has found that users may put their mouse over a doodle to see what it's about, but they won't necessarily click.  To pull viewers forward, they add a "call to action, to show it's interactive."

With the McCay doodle, it's an arrow that looks like a small tab. The action passes from panel to panel, then the arrow tab drops down; clicking on it triggers a new series of panels. 

Little Nemo drops, falls and floats in such a way that you may not realize just how much your screen has rolled until it's all done and the little figure in white rolls out of his bed.

Hom called this a "hybrid doodle," both artistic and techie, traits that she said reminded her of the Google Doodle team itself.

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