Simply put, Little Nemo revolutionized the comic strip. At 38, McCay was at the very peak of his talent and the New York Herald had the most talented and creative colour printing staff in the business. Together they crafted a weekly fantasy that week by week revealed Slumberland to be more magical than even L. Frank Baum's Oz (created in 1899) and more wonderful than Lewis Carroll's Wonderland (1865). Books and websites abound praising Nemo far more than I could possibly do in this short bio. Nemo was published in the New York Herald until July 23, 1911. The strips have been reprinted many times. Find them and lose yourself in this masterpiece.
Unfortunately, the strips were not as popular during McCay’s own era:
The strip was not a great popular success in its time. Most readers preferred the slapstick antics of such strips as Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, and Buster Brown to the surreal fantasy of Nemo, and other comic strips like Krazy Kat.
Therefore, although some of the contemporary viewers will have been familiar with McCay’s work, others audience members would have been unaware of McCay’s background as a cartoonist. This meant his background was similar to that of his co-director J. Stuart Blackton, who also began his career as a cartoonist. Furthermore, the symbolism of America’s earliest animation pioneer passing the baton to his immediate successor is evident with the co-direction credits for both Blackton and McCay.
One of the reasons the film portrays McCay’s thought process behind his creation of his ‘moving pictures’, is that as well as being a cartoonist McCay was also a vaudeville artist. McCay had begun his vaudeville act five years earlier and the film served as a great promotional tool for his act.
Unfortunately, the weakest part of the film is this lengthy explanation of why and how he went about creating the 4,000 images that began his career as an animator. The section is overtly long, which often undercuts the intended effect of a particular scene. For example, the audience is presented with the fascinating image of McCay surrounded by his thousands of drawings (see image below).