I originally saw a series of these animations at the Bloor Theater on one of those rare nights that legendary cinematic showman Reg Hartt would rent the place out and show some of his rarer prints. McCay is most famous for Little Nemo in Dreamland. Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend is the adult equivalent. These are some of the first excursions into surrealism put onto film, predating Un Chien Anadalou by at least eight years.
The strip had no continuity or recurring characters. Instead, it had a recurring theme: a character would have a nightmare or other bizarre dream, usually after eating a Welsh rarebit (a cheese-on-toast dish). The character would awaken from the dream in the last panel, regretting having eaten the rarebit. The dreams often revealed the darker sides of the dreamers’psyches—their phobias, hypocrisies, discomforts, and dark fantasies. This was in great contrast to the colorful, childlike fantasy dreams in Little Nemo.
I also found this recipe for Welsh Rarebit on the Food Network site. Just in case you want to try having a few of these dreams yourself.
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2003
Prep Time:15 minInactive Prep Time: — Cook Time:10 min
4 servings as a side dish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup porter beer
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (approximately 1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar
2 drops hot sauce
4 slices toasted rye bread
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth. Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce. Pour over toast and serve immediately.