Moving Image:The Humpty Dumpty Circus

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Humpty Dumpty Circus
Directed byJ. Stuart Blackton
Produced byAlbert E. Smith
CinematographyF. A. Dobson
Distributed byKalem Company
Release date
  • 1908 (1908)
CountryUnited States

The Humpty Dumpty Circus was a short stop-motion film directed by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith, the Anglo-American founders of Vitagraph Studios. The film is considered lost as there are no known copies.

Albert E. Smith claimed in his 1952 book Two reels and a crank: "I used my little daughter's set of wooden circus performers and animals, whose movable joints enabled us to place them in balanced positions. It was a tedious process inasmuch as the movement could be achieved only by photographing separately each change of position. I suggested we obtain a patent on the process; Blackton felt it wasn't important enough. However, others quickly borrowed the technique, improving on it greatly."

The Moving Picture World. Vol. 3. No. 18 reviewed the 885 feet short in October 1908: "It opens with a crowd of children leaving school and marching through the streets to the "Humpty Dumpty Circus." We see them crowd into the tent and at the end of each act they vociferously applaud the performers These are the little wooden toys that are familiar to all, and which are made to perform all the usual acrobatic stunts of the circus performer in a remarkably realistic manner. Some of the scenes are really comical and it is hard to believe that the elephants and donkeys are not alive." Followed by an explanation of how the photographer worked for several months on the negative. Cinematographer F. Dobson was said to be "an adept at this kind of work".[2]

The used toy set was most likely the popular Humpty Dumpty Circus produced by Schoenhut Piano Company from 1903[3] to 1935 (in various styles).[4] Images that have been thought to be stills from the film may well be pictures of the popular toy set.

The short has been thought to have been the first film to use the stop-motion technique, based on an estimated release date of 1897 or 1898.[5][6] This early release date, the use of stop-motion animation and even the existence of the film have been doubted as no proper documentation is known.[7][8]

Another stop motion film with animated dolls called The Humpty Dumpty Circus was released in October 1914.[9] It was made by stop motion pioneer Arthur Melbourne-Cooper.[10]


  1. "The Moving picture world. v.3 (1908:July-Dec.)". HathiTrust. p. 350. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  2. "The Moving picture world. v.3 (1908:July-Dec.)". HathiTrust. p. 339. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  3. Office, United States Patent (1904). Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. The Office.
  4. "Schoenhut Collectors Club".
  5. Ken A. Priebe, The Art of Stop-Motion Animation, Boston, Massachusetts: Thomson Course Technology PTR, 2007, ISBN 9781598632453, p. 9
  6. Nichola Dobson, The A to Z of Animation and Cartoons, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2009, ISBN 9780810876231, p. xxiv
  7. Crafton, Donald (2014-07-14). Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film. ISBN 9781400860715.
  8. Giesen, Rolf (2018-09-27). Puppetry, Puppet Animation and the Digital Age. ISBN 9781351209298.
  9. The Humpty Dumpty Circus at IMDb
  10. Vries, Tjitte de; Mul, Ati (2009). "They Thought it was a Marvel": Arthur Melbourne-Cooper (1874-1961) : Pioneer of Puppet Animation. ISBN 9789085550167.

External links