Bobby Bumps was a cartoon character from The Silent Age of Animation who starred in dozens of cartoon shorts from 1915 to 1925. He was one of the first animation characters to star in an extended series, rather than a one-off short.
Bobby has often been described as a proto-Bart Simpson. He is a mischievous little boy who is often pulling pranks and getting into trouble. Accompanied by his dog Fido, and usually carrying his trusty slingshot, Bobby is often antagonizing either his bald, short-tempered father, a local policeman on the beat, or other grownups.
The Bobby Bumps character was invented by animator Earl Hurd. Hurd, along with his producer J.R. Bray, invented something even more important than a character: the process of cel animation. Previous cartoons had been directly drawn to paper, but the labor-saving use of cels, patented by Hurd and Bray, became near-universal in the industry.
- Animation Bump (no pun intended): The use of cels allowed for more elaborate visuals than other cartoons at the time, with more rendered backgrounds and use of grey tones on both characters and settings.
- Beach Episode: "Bobby Bumps Surf Rider", in which comic hijinx ensue after Bobby goes to the beach, and takes Goldie's ironing board to use as a surfboard.
- Brats with Slingshots: Bobby causes havoc with his. In "Bobby Bumps and His Pointer Pup", Bobby starts taking potshots at random people in the neighborhood, like a housewife hanging laundry or a man kissing his girlfriend in the park.
- Captain Ersatz: Bobby was basically a ripoff of comic strip character Buster Brown. Buster Brown is forgotten today except for the line of shoes named after him, but in those days he was very popular. Bobby looks like a brunette Buster with a different hairdo; has a similar name, has a similar dog, also carries a slingshot, and is also a mischievous prankster.
- In Denmark, at least, local distributors simply called Bobby "Buster." The real Buster had live-action shorts, but no cartoon series, so the "Buster" cartoons had no more authentic competition.
- Ceiling Cling: In "Bobby Bumps and His Pointer Pup" (1916), Bobby needs to get at his piggy bank in order to buy a puppy. The piggy bank, however, is on a shelf above the cot where his father is sleeping. Bobby takes a leap, jumps on to his father's big gut, and flies up to the shelf, where he hangs on for dear life while his startled father below looks left and right for the culprit but never looks up.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The opening title card sometimes proclaimed the Bobby Bumps film to be "an animated cartoon."
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Goldie has finally run Bobby down in "Bobby Bumps Caught in the Jam" and is about to give him a spanking when a mouse crawls out of the shattered jam jar. Goldie flees in terror and Bobby is triumphant.
- Fake Rabies: "Bobby Bumps at the Dentist" finds Bobby waiting in line at the dentist to get Fido's aching tooth pulled. To skip to the front of the line, he soaps up Fido's mouth so he looks rabid, which sends all the other patients running.
- Idea Bulb:
- A variation. A demon who is actually labeled "IDEA" pops up in "Bobby Bumps' Fly Swatter" and whacks Bobby's father on the head with a stick, in order to represent the moment where Dad gets an idea.
- A more straightforward light bulb in "Bobby Bumps at the Dentist" when Bobby gets the idea to use a Fake Rabies scare with Fido to get to the front of the line.
- Institutional Apparel: "Bobby Bumps and His Pointer Pup" ends with Bobby and his dog in jail, wearing the typical striped uniform, having finally been caught by the cop.
- Limited Animation: The animation was often rather jerky and limited, as far as movement goes. Interestingly, however, when a character's face was shown in close-up it was drawn in fine painstaking detail, far more detailed than most any popular animation in the following decades.
- Mammy: The maid at the Bumps house, named "Goldie", drawn in a very racist stereotypical manner with a very simple all-black face except for eyes and lips (in contrast to how the faces of white people are intricately drawn), complete with handkerchief on her head. She does have her moments, like in "Bobby Bumps Surf Rider" when she beats up a shark.
- Mathematician's Answer: In "Fido's Birthday Party" Fido is inviting other dogs to his party. He invites a dachshund, aka a "wiener dog."Fido: How long have you been in our neighborhood?
Dachsund: Oh, about four foot.
- Medium Awareness: Many shorts had gags in which Bobby the cartoon interacts with his animator, Earl Hurd. In "Bobby Bumps's Last Smoke" Earl Hurd's hand appears and draws Bobby and Fido before the story starts; Fido says "That tickles!" as the pen draws his belly. All of "Their Masters' Voice" is based around this—Bobby and Fido crawl out of the inkwell, discover Earl Hurd to be absent, and call him on the telephone. (Animation of Bobby and Fido is mixed in with live-action footage of Hurd.)
- Mushroom Samba: In "Bobby Bumps's Last Smoke" Bobby smokes a cigarette—cartoons sure were different back in the day—and has a bizarre "Arabian Nights" Days dream where he rescues a harem girl from an evil sultan.
- Rage Against the Author: "Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum" features the hand of Earl Hurd in live action appearing onscreen and drawing Bobby on a piece of paper. After Hurd draws him, the gag has a rebellious Bobby jump on Hurd's hand. Hurd writes "GET OFF MY HAND" on the paper before flicking Bobby off and drawing the rest of the scene.
- Speech Bubbles: "Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum" does some Lampshade Hanging on their use in animated cartoons of the era; Fido makes a cat literally eat his own words by stuffing his speech bubble (which reads "You Cur!") down the cat's throat.
- Talking Animal: It doesn't happen a lot—there isn't a lot of dialogue in these cartoons, period—but Fido the dog occasionally talks (they're definitely speech balloons, not thought balloons).
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: The female fly cavorting on Dad's head in "Bobby Bumps' Fly Swatter" is marked as being female by wearing a skirt.
- Traveling Salesman: The "book agent" in "Bobby Bumps Helps Out a Book Agent". After Bobby plays a prank on the salesman and his own father, Dad makes Bobby spend his piggy bank money on a book.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Lots of racist humor, often revolving around Goldie.
- Uneducated "sho' nuff" stereotypical style of African-American speech.
- In "Bobby Bumps Gets a Substitute", Goldie has a hold on Bobby, but he escapes by wriggling out of his white pajamas, leaving only empty clothes in Goldie's hand. She takes one look, screams "SPOOKS!", and literally turns white (as in, all the color drains out of the character).
- In "Bobby Bumps Helps Out a Book Agent", a young African-American boy is shown eating a watermelon.
- Where da White Women At?: A different variety of racism in "Bobby Bumps' Last Smoke", where Bobby has a dream in which he rescues a harem girl from a sultan. Notably, the sultan is drawn as swarthy, while the harem girl is white.