Humpty Dumpty Circus (lost animated short; 1908)

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

Status: Lost

The Humpty Dumpty Circus is a stop-motion short created by Vitagraph in 1908 that was directed by J. Stuart Blackton and produced by Albert E. Smith.[1] 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. The short likely used the toy set of the same name that was released by A.Schoenhut Company in 1903 that still had wide popularity with children, especially around the Christmas season.[2]

Before the discovery of multiple newspapers from 1908 and 1909 verifying the date in which the short was released, estimates of when the film was produced varied between animation experts and those who had worked on the short. Smith recalled making the film in 1898. Other experts such as Charles Solomon were skeptical of the film ever existing, as they would hypothesize that if the film existed, it would have likely been 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.[3]

Tjitte de Vries, co-author of They Thought it was a Marvel, stated his thoughts on the date briefly when he mentioned 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.[4] In fact, Donald Crafton, another expert in the field, believed 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.