Bob's Electrical Theatre (1906)

A film by the pioneering Spanish film director and cinematographer Segundo Chomón. With his innovative use of early splice-based tricks and a penchant for optical illusions he is often compared to the slightly earlier Georges Méliès, and indeed has been dubbed “The Spanish Méliès” by some. Though the similarities are clear, Chomón departs from Méliès in his variety of subjects and his use of animation, an art form he played a key role in developing. The then relatively new technology of electricity was a particular fascination of Chomón's — its enigmatic qualities particularly apt for exploration via the medium of animation, allowing as it did the visibility of manual force to be lost amid the cuts to leave only objects moved by some mysterious means, i.e. electricity. In 1905, he created The Electrical Hotel, a short about an ultramodern hotel, in which he made luggage appear to be unpacking itself. The following year came Bob's Electrical Theatre (also referred to as Miniature Theatre) which sees puppets get up to various routines, including wrestling, fencing, and what appears to be a short bout of bum smacking. The version we are featuring here comes from a copy preserved and restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Of the film, Jerry Beck from the UCLA site comments:

Although this is one of the earliest stop-motion puppet films ever created, it is quite sophisticated and loaded with charm.... The lifelike use of puppet dolls here predates the work of Ladislas Starevitch (pioneering stop-motion puppeteer) and Willis O’Brien (The Lost World and King Kong).

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