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Silent Sunday Nights - May 2019
Remind Me

Bobby Bumps Cartoons

Said to be based on the popular early 20th century comic strip (and later shoe company mascot) Buster Brown, Bobby Bumps was the lead character in a series of animated shorts created by Earl Hurd for the Bray Studios, a print comics company that moved into cinema early on with great success.

Bobby Bumps was a little boy who, along with his dog Fido, managed to get himself into mischief over and over. The cartoons weren't his first appearance in popular entertainment. Hurd had originally drawn a very similar character known as Brick Bodkins for a 1910 comic strip. He renamed the character Bobby Bumps for two early shorts made for Universal in 1915 before he met J.R. Bray. Hurd would produce cartoons featuring the character for a few years until he left the studio, possibly over a falling out with Bray, and produced them for Paramount, then for Educational Film Exchange. He retired the character in 1925.

The most significant fact about the Bobby Bumps series was that these cartoons were the first to be produced using the cel animation process developed by Hurd and patented by him and Bray. Up to this point, each frame of an animated film had to be drawn on paper. With Hurd's innovation, the characters could be drawn on clear sheets of celluloid and placed over still backgrounds, cutting down on production time and allowing a more creative and flexible process. The technique revolutionized the industry, and the two men held the lucrative patent until 1932.

Hurd went on to work with Walt Disney in the 1930s, notably on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the first full-length cartoon to be done with the cel process and Disney's first animated feature. He died in 1940 at the age of 60.

The shorts have to be viewed with an understanding of a far different and less enlightened time, considering two rather offensive characters often seen in the films, Bobby's black friend Choc'late and the stereotypical Bumps family maid Goldie.

The shorts in the series to be screened by TCM include:
Bobby Bumps and His Pointer Pup (1916)
Bobby Bumps Helps a Book Agent (1916)
Bobby Bumps' Fly Swatter (1916)
Bobby Bumps Gets a Substitute (1916)
Bobby Bumps Adopts a Turtle (1917)
Bobby Bumps at Fido's Birthday Party (1917)
Bobby Bumps, Chef (1917)
Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider (1917)
Bobby Bumps at the Dentist (1918)
Bobby Bumps Caught in the Jamb (1918)
Bobby Bumps' Last Smoke (1919)
Bobby Bumps in Hunting and Fishing (1921)
Bobby Bumps in Their Master's Voice (1921)

While each cartoon has its own particular appeal, perhaps the most historically notable is Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider, thought to be the earliest fictional depiction of surfing on film and the first in animated form.

by Rob Nixon