The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)
This is ultimately, maybe McCay’s most incredible work. Essentially a propaganda piece released near the end of World War I, McCay made the most dramatically affecting animated film to date, and for some time, with this, the first animated documentary. That’s still not a common genre, but The Sinking of the Lusitania, in spite of its patriotic, impassioned intertitles, is a sober view of a tragedy that no one could have witnessed in this manner.
The short’s function as a piece of propaganda actually weakens the impact of the incredible images that McCay brought to life in a stunning approximation of realism, the most notable of which are a torpedo speeding towards the camera and the sight of a mother and child sinking to the bottom of the ocean. The film is incredibly compelling, but it’s ultimately made dry by its lengthy proselytizing.