Monday, 11 March 2013

Booting Bobby Bumps

How television has changed since the early 1950s for cartoon lovers. There are more hours of cartoons on TV in a day that anyone could watch. Compare that to June 20, 1953 when Billboard headlined a story “Kids Love Cartoon Film Shows But Few Stations Air Them.” Few aired them because the cartoons simply weren’t available to air.

The article reveals the somewhat surprising fact that “Approximately 90 per cent of the cartoons in TV are silent.” It’s inconceivable to those of us who grew up in the 1960s that there was ever a time people couldn’t sit at home and watch Bugs Bunny or Popeye. But it took some time for the owners of those cartoons to sell them to television. Before that, TV stations could only purchase cartoons that were either obscure (Van Beuren) or from the silent days.

Among the forgotten silent stars who suddenly got exposure again was Bobby Bumps. He appeared in shorts made by animator Earl Hurd for the Bray Studio. You can read more about Bobby at Tom Stathes’ site. J.R. Bray must have been giddy realising that TV offered him a chance to make money from rotting old worthless cartoon negatives and cut a deal in March 1952. Stock music from Chappell or one of the other English libraries was added to old Bray cartoons and they started appearing on TV. One of them was “Bobby Bumps and the Hypnotic Eye,” released in June 1919. The cartoon’s most interesting sequence, to me, is when two ushers boot Bobby and his dog out of a theatre and they fly through the window of a moving street car. Here are a few of the drawings (the digital pixilation makes them a little tough to view).

The cartoon ends with Earl Hurd’s signature on screen. Is it just me, or do pre-1920 smiling cartoon dogs look creepy?

Earl Oscar Hurd was born in Atchison (of the “...Topeka and the Santa Fe” fame), Kansas on February 14, 1880, the middle of three sons of Oscar S. and Georgia Anna (Moore) Hurd. His father was a contractor. The 1900 Census lists the 20-year-old Hurd, now living in Kansas City, as an “artist.” He went into newspaper cartooning there for a time.

Hurd may be best known for combining his patent on cel animation filed in December 1914 with Bray’s, meaning studios had to pay a licensing fee to use their processes until the patents expired in 1932. Hurd carried on at Bray studio in New York City for several years, though he was living in Los Angeles in 1918. Wid’s Daily of June 17, 1919 revealed Bray had “announce[d] the perfection of a new process for cartoon comedies.” Basically, Bray set up a brand-new company, dropped his Paramount release in October in favour of Goldwyn and cagily worked out a deal with Hearst to animate the International Film Service cartoons, including Krazy Kat, Judge Rummy and the Shenanigan Kids. Earl Hurd moved on to Famous Players to supervise production of the company’s educational cartoons (and took assistant Harry Bailey with him). He eventually struck out on his own and when the sound era came in, headed west and worked for, among other people, Leon Schlesinger and Walt Disney; no doubt Disney was acquainted with Hurd through his work in Kansas City. Hurd was making $100 a week for Disney when he died in Los Angeles on September 28, 1940, age 60.

1 comment:

  1. BOBBY BUMPS. A missed opportunity for an acne remedy product! :)