Humpty Dumpty Circus (lost animated short; 1908)

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The Humpty Dumpty Circus 1898 film still.jpeg

The Humpty Dumpty Circus toy set release by A.Schoenhut Company.

Status: Existence Unconfirmed

The Humpty Dumpty Circus was a stop-motion short from 1898 that was directed by J. Stuart Blackton and produced by Albert E. Smith. The short, widely believed to be the earliest known example of stop-motion animation, used Smith's daughter's toys which were photographed scene by scene to create an illusion of constant movement.

Dating and Skepticism

Though the film is often dated as being made in 1898, estimates vary between experts in the field of animation. Smith recalled making the film in 1898 by using his daughter's toys which were able to create movement through their flexible joints. Though expert Charles Solomon is skeptical of the film ever existing, he and Donald Crafton both hypothesize that if the film existed, it was likely produced in 1904 due to both an evolution in toy manufacturing, as well as Vitagraph Studio's three-and-a-half year hiatus due to legal issues.[1] Tjitte de Vries, co-author of They Thought it was a Marvel, states his thoughts on the date briefly when he states that Britain's Arthur Melbourne-Cooper's The Humpty Dumpty Circus from 1914 should not be confused with Blackton and Smith's work from 1908.[2] In fact, Crafton believes that Blackton and Smith were inspired by the works of Melbourne-Cooper, as foreign filmography was making its way into the American market during Vitagraph's hiatus, and that they claimed to make the film at an earlier date in order to improve their reputation. Solomon goes on to state that the film, if it existed, would possibly be the first stop-motion animation film in America as opposed to being the first to have ever existed due to Smith's wording.[3] If the film was released around 1904, it would line up with the timeframe Albert Schoenhut was manufacturing his "Humpty Dumpty Circus" toy sets from 1903-1935.[4]