Tommy Jose Stathes is best kind of film historian. His work makes you see what he sees, feel how he feels, love what he loves about the subject. He shares his passion with audiences both of like-minded movie buffs and interested neophytes – both groups coming away with new found appreciation for his hard work, whatever the subject of his latest presentations.
Unlike other historians who spread their knowledge mainly via books and articles, Stathes concentrates on reviving the actual experience of his passion: the silent-era animated cartoon. He does this monthly via local theatrical screenings (using rare film prints, projected on vintage movie projectors) and by restoring brittle 16mm prints (sometimes 35mm) to (most times) pristine condition.
His series of self-produced (and crowd-funded) DVD/blu-ray Cartoon Roots collections are vital. They are must-own to any school or institution that teaches animation. They are must-haves to everyone reading this website, anyone who cares about the history of cinematic storytelling and/or the animation medium. Artists of any type who wish to be inspired or those who simply want to watch some innovative cartoons. All of the above are in for a treat.
Tommy’s latest release is here at last – and its a gem. Bobby Bumps and Fido collects 15 shorts from the series, from 1916 till 1923, and let me make it clear – anyone expecting a funky collection of old silent films – filled with lines, splices and jump cuts – is out of luck. Tommy and his restoration team have done an incredible job of film clean-up and restoration, several prints look as good as they did the first time they were projected over a hundred years ago. Mint! Others have been tinted in hues as per their original release showings. All of them feature vintage musical soundtracks, ten of them featuring original organ scores by colleague and musician Charlie Judkins.
Consider me a convert to the ‘Bumps Brigade’. The films themselves are quite a delight. These cartoons are the first to use the Hurd method of cel-animation and while the animation is limited in that herky-jerky way most early cartoons were, Hurd and Bray understood that appealing artwork was half the fun. There is such personality and charm to every drawing of Bobby, Fido and their harried housekeeper, you can’t help following their misadventures with a smile.
There are so many good ones, it’s hard to select but a few to highlight. Bobby Bumps Last Smoke features Booby and Fido on an multi-tinted Arabian nightmare after inhaling a rogue cigarette; Bobby Bumps Surf Rider has what seems to be the first film depiction of surf boarding – albeit hilariously spoofing the then-new American fad; And then there’s Fresh Fish, with some of the zaniest live action/animation combination bits I’ve ever seen.
Bonus content includes a section on vintage Bobby Bumps publicity (poster art, reviews, publicity drawings, etc.), a Behind The Scenes section which includes rare Hurd comic strips, production notes, 35mm frames, alternate title cards — even Bray film cans! Additional bonus material includes Hurd’s 1908 political cartoons, his 1911 Pudge Perkin’s Pets comic strip and selections from Herd’s 1912-14 Brick Bodkins Pa comics. An informative liner notes booklet is also enclosed.
Here are a few tantalizing frame grabs:
No more talk! Time to go silent, and order this set right now! It’s only $18.95 on Amazon.com.