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The little train robbery / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1905.

[Detail] The little train robbery / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1905

Comedic Genre: Mischievous Children

In 1902, cartoonist Richard Outcault brought Buster Brown and his dog Tige to readers of newspaper comics pages. This trouble-making duo moved to the medium of film in 1904 with the "Buster Brown Series", in which Tige's athletic ability allows him to overcome almost any obstacle that the two face during their misadventures. (A few months after the films, the Brown Shoe Company purchased the rights to the characters for its children's shoes and dispatched midgets wearing Buster Brown costumes across the country to peddle their wares.)

Buster Brown was one of the most recognizable comic characters of its era, but he also fit well within the comic tradition of mischievous children. Many of the collection's films feature "bad" kids wreaking havoc on the adult world. Titles available in this collection include Little Mischief, Maude's Naughty Little Brother (1900), and Love in a Hammock (1901). In the latter film, two boys upset a happy couple's time together under an oak tree.

  • What types of pranks do these children play on their elders?
  • How do the adults become susceptible to these pranks?
  • How do the adults respond to the children?
  • What do these sketches suggest about the behavior of adults and children and their relationships with each other?
  • How do these films use physical comedy in their gags?
  • How do these films compare to the works comprising the literary tradition of mischievous children, such as Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
  • Are there any contemporary films, comic strips, or cartoons in which this tradition continues?
  • Write a short story or comic strip imitating these films.