Bug Vaudeville (1921)
This is one of McCay’s last films, is an example of the amazing technique he had developed over ten years of filmmaking, and of course even more cartooning. Yet, its premise is played over and over through different vaudeville acts, given new wrinkles and sight gags by the insect performers. This short echoes McCay’s own experience in vaudeville, where he would put on what was called a “lightning sketch” act and, later, where he would interact with his own animated films.
Most of McCay’s early films present the animated world as the product of him, the artist; most animated experiments from the time did so. In fact, THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA (1918) was the first film to somewhat present an animated world in its own right. Anyways, BUG VAUDEVILLE has some impressive character animation and, most notably, sequences of a tramp before and after his dreams against a beautiful background. Those brief moments especially demonstrate McCay’s fully-fledged grasp of cinematic language; somehow, the shots remind me of a John Ford film for some reason.