The Sunday Intertitle: Another Unpleasant Cartoon

I have discovered Bobby Bumps. But I’m not sure how I feel about it.

BOBBY BUMPS STARTS A LODGE, directed by Earl Hurd in 1916 is one of the earliest cel-animated films. Hurd and his boss, John R. Bray held a patent in the process that paid off ever time another studio used it, until 1932 (five years later, when Disney made SNOW WHITE, that patent would really have been worth something). The “inspiration” is the newspaper strip Buster Brown, and just to nudge the viewer into that favorable comparison, the characters communicate in speech bubbles even though they’re not from the funny pages themselves. True, a lot of the early animated characters did this, but most of those I’ve seen WERE from newspaper cartoons — The Katzenjammer Kids, Krazy Kat, etc.

But there are intertitles for the bigger speeches, some in dialect, since the toon is all about Bobby trying to induct his black friend into a lodge, but sneakily trying to get the poor kid butted by a goat. Yes, Bobby is a nasty little bully.

I like thought bubbles with pictures in them. Here, Bobby’s over-inked pal imagines he’s merely going to get spanked with a two-by-four, as Bobby the sadistic racist lines up billie. I think he’s supposed to be whispering in the animal’s ear, or maybe sighting along its horns, but either the cels didn’t align perfectly or the drawing wasn’t clear enough so it looks like he’s whispering in its ass. Serves him right.

Further developments see Bobby’s buddy outsmarting him, then a chase, then a menacing bear. Bobby, still fervently wishing to see his little playpal struck by goat horns, tries to blackmail him into a repeat performance as payment for rescue from the devouring caniform.

I was watching with trepidation to see just how racist this thing was going to get. The ending is somewhat redemptive. True, Bobby’s pal is like a negative image of him, but with blackface clown lips stuck on. And he talks in Amos ‘n’ Andy patois. But, in the end, he’s just another kid. And the message seems to be, kids will try whatever nasty shit they can get away with, and hopefully they’ll learn it doesn’t fly, and become more civilised and considerate. Except to goats.

2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Another Unpleasant Cartoon”


    I may have pointed this one out before. First saw it at a college showing in the 70s. The waitress gag at 2:30 got a solid laugh. The cat and dog bit at 3:29 brought down the house.

  2. That’s much more charming and inventive! I’ve never seen a speech balloon used that way. The Inkwell-style interventions from the drawing hand at times anticipate Duck Amuck. Was it a rule that all early cartoons had to show how the drawings came to be there?

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