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Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum

1918. Bray-Hurd Studios. Directed by Earl Hurd.

First, a decrypt of the labored title: Bobby Bumps was a character in a series of cartoons; a beanery is a cheap restaurant; and putting something "on the bum" means breaking it. This is indeed the plot of this cartoon: Bobby gets a job washing dishes at a greasy spoon and he and his dog more or less wreck the place.

Before any of this can happen, Bobby must be created. Into an empty frame comes a filmed human hand holding a pen. The hand draws a little fellow (supine and asleep, interestingly) who wakes up and starts moving. The inking-in process can't continue without Bobby's cooperation, so the cartoonist gives him instructions-—"Hat off!" and "Turn over"—-by writing in the white space beside him. This is where we get the marvellous scene shown at left: Bobby has hopped aboard the hand that created him, and the cartoonist has to use his other hand to flick him off. The cartoonist draws Fido and Bobby points out that he has forgotten Fido's tail. Finally the artist—I guess we can call him Earl Hurd—draws in the background, the eponymous Beanery, and with a flick of his pen adds shading and texture to what has been until now just a line drawing.

Now the story proper begins. There are some funny gags: Fido gobbles up eggs from the grill and when it's time to flip the eggs, Fido rolls over. A customer asks for a slice of raisin pie that turns out to be plain custard pie covered with flies. Fido makes donuts using a drill. The cook tells Bobby, his dishwasher, "When I call, drop everything and come," and guess what happens.

The cartoonist more or less disappears until the end, when he draws a ladder to enable Bobby and Fido to escape from the angry cook. He hands Bobby a bottle of ink, which Bobby pours down on the cook, blacking out the scene and ending the cartoon.

Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum may be the first cartoon where animator and character "play a scene" together. Gertie the Dinosaur has some drama between Winsor McCay and Gertie the Dinosaur, but McCay is present in that cartoon only as words on intertitles (originally this was a stage act, with McCay in person speaking to the projected Gertie). In Bobby Bumps, animator Hurd (at least his hand) shares the frame. There is actual physical interaction between the cartoon world and the photographed world—Hurd sends Bobby flying, pulls Fido away from a fight, and passes Bobby the ink jar. Gags seem to arise naturally at this intersection of these two worlds. Hurd also pioneers the formula of making the animator sometimes a mischievous joker and sometimes a benevolent deus ex machina. The Fleischers grabbed this strategy and ran with it.

Hurd is not present, at least not apparently, at one of Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum's best moments. A cat is provoking Fido and calling him a dirty cur. "I'm gonna make him eat them words," says Fido, and the next time it happens he grabs the dialog balloon containing the words "You dirty cur," rolls it up, and rams it down the cat's throat.


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copyright ©2005 Barbara Bernstein