Monday, May 16, 2005

Apple #70: Gumby

At long last, here is the entry on Gumby.

  • Gumby was a stop-animation green clay character with his very own cartoon TV show, which started in 1956 and ran through 1991. Gumby's sidekick was Pokey the horse. I never saw this show growing up, but tons of people did and they still hold a fond spot in their hearts for Gumby and Pokey.

  • Here's one storyline from The Gumby Show, the first time when Gumby meets Pokey, more or less as described at Absolute Gumby:
    Gumby meets Pokey by saving him from an oncoming train as the Blockheads watch on, dumbfounded. Later, the two roll around ridiculously, laughing at each other's names. After a short encounter with a rattlesnake, Gumby takes the lost Pokey back to his ranch and receives a hundred ice cream cones as his reward, which he is forced to eat all at once. The cold ice cream makes Gumby lapse into a coma, and Pokey has to rush to his rescue.
  • Gumby was made by a guy named Art Clokey, who grew up on his grandfather's farm 80 minutes north of Detroit in the 1930s. He used to play soldiers with a neighbor kid and when they ran out of soldiers, they made more out of clay.
  • Clokey studied animation at the University of Southern California and was especially inspired and educated in film arts by an animation guru guy named Slavko Vorkapich.
  • Clokey made his first clay animation film for Budweiser. They wanted a commercial that would show a cheeseburger being eaten, to suggest a cheeseburger is good to eat with a beer. The cheeseburger had Swiss cheese on it, and they used clay to animate bites disappearing from it.
  • After this experience, Clokey had a two-week break, when he used clay to make abstract shapes and set them up on a piece of plywood and shot them in progressive positions, using the principles he'd learned from Vorkapich. That film was called Gumbasia.
  • He called it "Gumbasia" after the word "gumbo," which people back on the farm used to describe roads that got really muddy after the rain. He combined "gumbo" plus "fantasia" and got "Gumbasia."
  • A big-time producer, Daryl Zanuck, saw Gumbasia and asked if he could make that kind of animated film for television, for children to watch. Clokey said sure, Zanuck agreed to produce the show, and so Gumby was born.
  • Clokey studied for a while to be an Episcopalian minister, and his storylines are strongly influenced by a lot of the theology he learned through that experience, and from growing up with his grandfather.
  • Contrary to what some people have alleged, Clokey never smoked marijuana or took any psychedelics, and was in fact afraid to try any sort of recreational drug. The supposedly surreal quality of the show and the vivid colors of his characters came from his daydreams and imagination.
  • Gumby had two other friends, Prickle and Goo. Prickle was a spiny yellow dinosaur, and Goo was a blue mermaid. Clokey once attended a psychologists' convention during which he heard Allen Watts speak, who was known as the Zen Philosopher of Sausalito.
  • Watts told lots of jokes in between the speakers, and in one of these sessions, he said there were two kinds of people in the world, the prickly and the gooey. The prickly people are uptight, analytical and critical, while the gooey people are easygoing, friendly, and ready to move with the flow.
  • So Clokey made characters that symbolized those two types, Prickle and Goo. Prickle tells Goo when he thinks she's doing things wrong. Goo can throw goo balls at people when she they deserve it.

Here are all the figures, from L to R, Prickle, Pokey, Gumby, Goo, and Minga the mermaid.
(Photo sourced from Action Figures on Sale, but it's really from Amazon, where you can buy the whole set of these guys for $22.95)

  • Clokey also made the stop-animation show David and Goliath, in which a boy and his dog, Goliath, talk to each other and face various problems together and handle conflicts based on Christian teachings.
Davey and Goliath, Vol. 1
Here's Davey and Goliath, Vol. 1. I can just hear Goliath saying, "I don't know, Davey," in that slow, dumb voice.
(Available from Amazon for 94 cents. That's right, cheap-eroo.)

  • By the way, the shape of Gumby's head probably has something to do with the shape of Art Clokey father's hair when he was growing up:

For more pictures of Gumby and his friends, go to the Image Archive at gumbyworld. For some short Quicktime video clips, try this page.

NEWS UPDATE: Art Clokey died today, January 9, 2010, at the age of 88.

Hey, Art, wherever you are, I hope you're having as much fun there as you are here.
(Photo from somewhere on the page of That One | EBD)

Absolute Gumby

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