Gumby is an American clay animation franchise, centered on the titular green clay humanoid character created and modeled by Art Clokey. The character has been the subject of two television series, a feature-length film and other media. Since the original series aired, Gumby has become a famous example of stop-motion clay animation and a cultural icon, spawning tributes, parodies and merchandising.
|Created by||Art Clokey|
|Original work||Gumbasia (1953)|
|Films and television|
|Film(s)||Gumby: The Movie (1995)|
Gumby follows the titular character on his adventures through different environments and times in history. Gumby's primary sidekick is Pokey, a talking orange pony. His nemeses are the G and J Blockheads, a pair of antagonistic red humanoid figures with cube-shaped heads, one with the letter G on the block, the other with the letter J. The blockheads were inspired by the trouble-making Katzenjammer Kids. Other characters include Prickle, a yellow dinosaur capable of breathing fire and who sometimes styles himself as a detective with pipe and deerstalker hat like Sherlock Holmes; Goo, a flying blue mermaid who spits blue goo balls and can change shape into essentially any object (including machinery) at will; Gumbo and Gumba, Gumby's parents; and Nopey, Gumby's dog whose entire vocabulary is the word "nope". The 1988 syndicated series added Gumby's sister Minga, mastodon friend Denali, and chicken friend Tilly.
Clokey's first animated film was a 1953 three-minute student film 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 the "kinesthetic" style taught by Clokey's USC professor Slavko Vorkapić, described as "massaging of the eye cells." Much of Gumby's look and feel was inspired by this technique of camera movements and editing.
In 1955, Clokey showed Gumbasia to movie producer Sam Engel, who encouraged him to develop his technique by animating figures into children's stories. Clokey moved forward, producing a pilot episode featuring the character Gumby.
The name "Gumby" came from the muddy clay found at Clokey's grandparents' farm that his family called "gumbo". Gumby's appearance was inspired by a suggestion from his wife, Ruth (née Parkander), that Gumby be based on the Gingerbread Man. The color green was then chosen because Clokey saw it as both racially neutral and a symbol of life. Gumby's legs and feet were made wide for pragmatic reasons; they ensured that the character would stand up during stop-motion filming. Gumby's famous slanted head was based on the hairstyle of Clokey's father, Charles Farrington, in an old photograph.
Clokey's pilot episode was seen by NBC executive Thomas Warren Sarnoff (the youngest son of RCA and NBC founder, David Sarnoff), who asked Clokey to make another one. The second episode, Gumby on the Moon, became a huge hit on Howdy Doody, leading Sarnoff to order a series in 1955 entitled The Gumby Show. In 1955 and 1956, 25 eleven-minute episodes aired on NBC. In early episodes, Gumby's voice was provided by Ruth Eggleston, wife of the show's art director Al Eggleston, until Dallas McKennon assumed her role in 1957. Gumby's best friend, an orange pony named Pokey, was introduced during the earliest episodes. Because of its variety-type format, The Gumby Show featured not only Clokey's puppet films, but also interviews and games. During this time, the show went through a succession of two hosts, Robert Nicholson and Pinky Lee.
In 1959, The Gumby Show entered syndication, and more episodes were produced in the 1960s. Production started in Hollywood and in 1960 moved to a larger studio in Glendora, California, where it remained until production ended in 1969. During this time, Gumby was primarily voiced by Norma MacMillan, and occasionally by Ginny Tyler. The cartoon shorts introduced new characters including a blue mermaid named Goo and a yellow dinosaur named Prickle.
Beginning in 1982, Gumby was parodied by Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live. According to Murphy's parody, when the television cameras were turned off, the sweet Gumby reverted to his true self: an irascible, cigar-chomping celebrity who was highly demanding of the production executives. Whenever the executives refused to give in to his demands, Gumby would assert his star status by saying "I'm Gumby, dammit!" in an exaggerated Jewish accent. According to Joseph Clokey, Art's son, both he and Art "thought Eddie was a genius in the way he played that character". In 1987, the original Gumby shorts enjoyed a revival on home video. The following year, Gumby appeared in The Puppetoon Movie.
This renewed interest led to a reincarnation of the series consisting of 99 new seven-minute episodes produced for television syndication in association with Lorimar-Telepictures in 1988. Dallas McKennon returned to voice Gumby in the new adventures, in which Gumby and his pals traveled beyond their toyland-type setting and established themselves as a musical band. Gumby Adventures also included new characters, such as Gumby's little sister Minga, a mastodon named Denali and a chicken named Tilly.
In addition to the new episodes, the 1950s and 1960s shorts were included in the series, but with new audio. The voices were re-recorded and the original music was replaced by Jerry Gerber's synthesizer score from the 1988 series. Legal issues prevented Clokey from renewing rights to the original Capitol Records production tracks.
1990–2021: feature film and rerunsEdit
Starting in 1992, TV channels such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network aired reruns of Gumby episodes. In 1995, Clokey's production company produced an independently released theatrical film, Gumby: The Movie, marking the character's first feature-length adventure, with John R. Dilworth, creator of Courage the Cowardly Dog, as the film's animation consultant. In it, the villainous Blockheads replace Gumby and his band with robots and kidnap their dog, Lowbelly. The movie featured in-joke homages to science-fiction films such as Star Wars, The Terminator, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1998, the Gumby episode "Robot Rumpus" was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
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-TV broadcast an hour-long documentary Gumby Dharma as part of its Truly CA series. In addition to detailing Clokey's life and work, the film also featured new animation of Gumby and Pokey. For these sequences, animator Stephen A. Buckley provided Gumby's voice while Clokey reprised his role as Pokey.
2022–present: Fox ownershipEdit
In February 2022, Fox Entertainment, the TV production division of the Murdoch family's Fox Corporation, announced it had acquired the Gumby intellectual property from the estate of Art's son, Joseph Clokey, encompassing all rights including "film, TV and streaming, consumer products, licensing, publishing and all other categories", with plans to launch new series across linear and digital platforms, while adding to the classic Gumby material available on its free streaming platform Tubi.
- Dallas McKennon: Gumby (1957, 1960–1967, 1987–1989, 1995), Pokey (1960–1969), Gumbo (1960–1962), Prickle (1964–1969), Professor Kapp (1964–1989, 1995), Denali (1987–1989), Nopey (1964–1969), Henry (1987 re-dubbed), Rodgy (1987 re-dubbed), Additional voices (1957–1995)
- Ginny Tyler: Gumby (1968–1969), Gumba (1957–1962), Granny (1960–1962), Witty Witch (1960–1962), Additional voices (1957–1962)
- Norma MacMillan: Gumby (1964–1969), Pokey (1964–1969), Goo (1964–1969), Gumba (1967–1968)
- Ruth Eggleston: Gumby (1955–1956), Gumba (1955)
- Betty Hartford: Gumba (1956)
- Art Clokey: Pokey (1955–1989, 1995), Prickle (1964–1969, 1987–1989, 1995), Gumbo (1955–1989, 1995), Additional voices
- Don Messick: Henry (1963), Rodgy (1963), Additional voices
- Paul Frees: Professor Kapp (1963), Additional voices
- Gloria Clokey: Goo (1987–1989, 1995), Gumba (1987–1989)
- Janet MacDuff: Gumba (1987–1989, 1995), Granny (1987–1989), Additional voices (1987–1989, 1995)
- Holly Harman: Minga (1987–1989), Tilly (1987–1989), Additional voices
- Hal Smith: Prickle (1964–1969), Additional voices (1964–1969)
- Taig McNab: Additional voices
- Camden Angelis: Additional voices
Reception and legacyEdit
Beginning in 1994, the Library of Congress used Gumby as a "spokescharacter" for Adventures into Books: Gumby's World, a traveling exhibition that promoted the Center for the Book's national reading campaign from 1997 to 2000. By the end of the 1990s, Gumby and Pokey had also appeared in various commercials for Cheerios cereal, most notably Frosted Cheerios.
On August 4, 2006, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta opened Art Clokey's Gumby: The First Fifty Years. This exhibition featured many of the original puppets and sets, along with screening of Art Clokey's films. This event was conceived by David Scheve of T.D.A. Animation and Joe Clokey of Premavision, and was one of several exhibits that opened around the country, celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Gumby Show. The children's book Gumby Goes to the Sun was also published that year to commemorate the anniversary. The book was originally created in the 1980s by Clokey's daughter, Holly Harman (who voiced Gumby's sister, Minga in the 1980s incarnation).
On October 12, 2011, Google paid tribute to Art Clokey's 90th birthday with a doodle featuring clay balls transforming into characters from the show. The doodle was composed of a toy block with a "G" and five clay balls in the Google colors. Clicking each of the balls revealed the Blockheads, Prickle, Goo, Gumby and Pokey.
Various Gumby merchandise has been produced over the years, the most prominent item being bendable figures by Lakeside Toys, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Several single packs and multi-figure sets by Jesco (later Trendmasters), 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 set, a 1995 Trendmasters playset and a Kubricks set by Medicom. A tribute album, Gumby: The Green Album, produced by Shepard Stern, was released in 1989 through Buena Vista Records.
In August 2005, the first video game featuring Gumby, Gumby vs. the Astrobots, was released by Namco for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. In it, Gumby must rescue Pokey, Prickle and Goo after they are captured by the Blockheads and their cohorts, the Astrobots.
The Gumby images and toys are registered trademarks of Prema Toy Company. Premavision owned the distribution rights to the Gumby cartoons, having been reverted from previous distributor Warner Bros. Television in 2003, and had licensed the rights to Classic Media until September 30, 2012. At this time, Classic Media was officially acquired by DreamWorks Animation and branded as DreamWorks Classics, which became a subsidiary of NBCUniversal in 2016. As of April 2015, NCircle Entertainment owns home video and digital distribution rights to the cartoons.
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