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For the Monty Python characters, see Gumbys.
Gumby in the episode "Lost Treasure".
Gumby is a green clay humanoid figure who was the subject of a 233-episode series of American television which spanned over a 35-year period. He was animated using stop motion clay animation.


Gumby's principal sidekick is Pokey, a talking pony voiced by Art Clokey and Dallas McKennon at different times, and his nemeses are the Blockheads, a pair of humanoid, red-colored figures with block-shaped heads, who wreak mischief and havoc at all times. The Blockheads were inspired by the Katzenjammer Kids, who were always getting into scrapes and causing discomfort to others. Other characters are Gumby's dog Nopey (who responds to everything with a gloomy "nope"); Prickle, a yellow dinosaur or dragon, who often declares himself as a detective, sporting a pipe and a hat in the likeness of Sherlock Holmes; Goo, a flying blue mermaid who spits blue goo-balls and can change her physical shape at will; Gumby's mother Gumba; Gumby's father Gumbo; his sister Minga; Denali (a mastodon); Tilly (a hen); King Ott; and Professor Kapp.

Origins of Gumby

Gumby was created by Art Clokey while a student of Slavko Vorkapich at the University of Southern Californiamarker. Clokey's first animated film wasa 1953 3-minute short called Gumbasia, a surreal montage of moving and expanding lumps of clay set to music in a parody of Disney's Fantasia. Gumbasia was created in a style Vorkapich taught called Kinesthetic Film Principles. Described as "massaging of the eye cells," this technique of camera movements and editing was responsible for much of the Gumby look and feel. In 1955 Clokey showed Gumbasia to movie producer Sam Engel, who encouraged him to develop his technique by adding figures. Of the three pilot episodes of Gumby, the first was done by Art on his own, and the next two were done for NBC and shown on The Howdy Doody Show to test the audience's reaction. Clokey and his wife Ruth (née Ruth Parkander) came up again to the character Gumby, and Clokey. He made a pilot with Gumby, but they later made a second 15-minute pilot later titled Gumby Goes to the Moon. NBC executive Thomas Warren Sarnoff liked the idea but rejected the pilot episode. The third Gumby episode, Robot Rumpus, made a successful debut on the Howdy Doody Show in August 1956, and in 1957 Gumby was given his own NBC series.

Gumby was inspired by a suggestion from Clokey's wife Ruth that he base his character on the Gingerbread man. Gumby was green simply because that was Clokey's favorite color. Gumby's legs and feet were made wide for pragmatic reasons: they ensured the clay character would stand up during stop-motion filming. The famous slanted shape of Gumby's head was based on the hair style of Clokey's father in an old photograph.

Female performers (among them Ginny Tyler and Norma MacMillan) supplied Gumby's voice during the initial episodes. New episodes were added from 1961 to 1963, at which time Dallas McKennon became the voice of Gumby. Production continued through 1966-1968, by which time Dick Beals voiced Gumby with his child-like voice characterization.

The Lorimar Years

By the 1980s, the original Gumby shorts had enjoyed a revival, both on television and home video. This led to a new incarnation of the series for television syndication by Lorimar-Telepictures in 1988 that included new characters such as Gumby's sister Minga, Tilly the chicken, and Denali the mastodon. Dallas McKennon returned as the voice of Gumby in new adventures that would take Gumby and his pals beyond their toyland-type setting and establish themselves as a rock band.

In addition to the new episodes, the classic 1955-59 and 1961-68 shorts were re-run as part of the series, but with newly recorded soundtracks, including new voices and synthesized musical scores (Clokey's rights to use the original Capitol Records production tracks could not be renewed at the time, due to legal issues.)

Art Clokey reportedly gave many movie industry talents their first break in the business. A number of the clay animators who worked on the new series went on to work for Pixar, Disney and other studios.

The movie and beyond

Screenshot of the video game, Gumby vs. the Astrobots.

In 1987, the character appeared in The Puppetoon Movie. In 1995, Clokey's production company produced an independently released theatrical film, Gumby I (aka Gumby: The Movie), marking the clay character's first feature-length adventure. In it, the villainous Blockheads replace Gumby and his band with robots and kidnap their dog, Lowbelly. The movie featured in-joke homages to such sci-fi classics as Star Wars, The Terminator, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Starting in 1992, Cartoon Network aired re-runs of Gumby episodes.

The Library of Congressmarker had Gumby as a spokescharacter from 1994 to 1995, due to a common sequence in his shows where Gumby walks into a book, and then experiences the world inside the book as a tangible place. By the end of the decade, Gumby and Pokey had appeared in commercials for Cheerios cereal, most notably Frosted Cheerios.

Although no new animated Gumby material is planned for the foreseeable future, most of the episodes (with a few exceptions) of the two series are available on home video and DVD.

In August 2005, the first video game featuring Gumby, Gumby vs. the Astrobots, was released by Namco for the Game Boy Advance. In it, Gumby must rescue Pokey, Prickle and Goo after they are captured by the Blockheads and their cohorts, the Astrobots. Also in the summer of 2005, an event produced by TheDeepArchives/TDA Animation was held in New York. The exhibit featured props, storyboards and script pages from various Gumby shorts over the past 50 years, as well as toys and other memorabilia that had appeared during Gumby's "career," including a reproduction of Eddie Murphy's Saturday Night Live Gumby costume. The centerpiece of the show was an actual complete set used in the production of a TV commercial for "Gumby vs. the Astrobots."

In San Francisco, California, Studio Z held "Gumby's 50th Birthday Party" with Gumby creator Art Clokey. The bands Smash Mouth and Remoter played at the party, hosted by comedian Kevin Meaney. The party/comedy tribute was written by legendary comedy writer and stage director Martin Olson (Screen Actors Guild Awards, Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular etc.) and Gumby's creative director and composer Robert F. Thompson. It was produced by Missing Link Media Ventures and Clokey Productions.

In 2006, The Center for Puppetry Artsmarker, Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker, hosted the most comprehensive Clokey/Gumby exhibition to date. Entitled "Gumby: Art Clokey - The First Fifty Years," the exhibition was curated by writer/animator David Scheve, and featured over one hundred puppets and many of the original sets from the 1980s television series, as well as the 1990s full length theatrical film. The exhibition ran from August 2006 until March 2007.

Bob Burden wrote Gumby comic series with art by Rick Geary, colors by Steve Oliff and Lance Borde, edited by Mel Smith and published by Wildcard Ink. The first issue dated July 2006. It won an honor for Best Publication for a Younger Audience at the 2007 Eisner Awards.

The Gumby images and toys are registered trademarks of Prema Toy Company. Premavision owns the distribution rights to the Gumby cartoons (having been recently reverted from previous distributor Warner Bros. Television), and has licensed the rights to Classic Media.

On March 16, 2007, YouTube announced that all Gumby episodes would appear in their full-length form on its site, digitally remastered and with their original soundtracks. This deal also extended to other video sites, including AOL.

In March 2007, KQED-TVmarker broadcast an hour-long documentary " Gumby Dharma" as part of their Truly CA series.

Toys and merchandise

Various Gumby merchandise has been produced over the years, the most prominent item being bendable figures. Several single packs and multi-figure sets by Jesco, as well as a 50th anniversary collection, have been made of the Gumby characters. Also included in the Gumby merchandise catalog are plush dolls, keychains, mugs, a 1988 Colorforms color foams set, a 1995 Trendmasters playset, and a Kubricks set by Medicom.

A tribute album, Gumby, was released in 1989 by Buena Vista records.

See also


  3. Gumbasia (available in 2 video formats)
  4. Gumby, a segment of NPR's "Present at the Creation" series

External links

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