ART CLOKEY ‘GUMBY’ DOODLE: Google celebrates birthday of late clay-animation pioneer
In the words of his own merry theme song: “Just see what Gumby can do today.”
On Wednesday, Google’s home-page “Doodle” celebrates what would have been the 90th birthday of the late clay-animation pioneer ART CLOKEY with an interactive logo of Gumby & Friends.
The clickable animation also marks the launch of the website GumbyWorld, which features anecdotes, pictures and rare film clips.
The Gumby Doodle — which starts off with several clay balls and a child’s wooden block — was created by top animator Anthony Scott (“Coraline,” “Corpse Bride”) and puppet/prop maker Nicole LaPointe-McKay for the Clokey Productions Premavision studios.
(Click on each ball or block and a figure springs to life — including the galloping Pokey, Prickle the yellow dinosaur, the Blockheads and Goo, the flying blue goo-ball mermaid. Or click on Gumby himself and he bounces into a ball, a block and then a heart. Because, as the theme song says: “If you’ve got a heart, then Gumby’s a part of you.”)
“The Google Doodle is the perfect tribute to my father’s work,” Joe Clokey, Art Clokey’s son and creator of Gumby’s new website, said in a statement. “Art’s life and film career were ahead of their time. My dad would have been thrilled to be connected with Google in this way.”
This is the second ‘50s-born, good-spirited green character to be recently featured by Google; last month, the California company celebrated Kermit’s creator, Jim Henson.
Clokey — whose name fittingly rhymed with “Pokey” — pioneered stop-motion clay animation. And it all began with a Budweiser.
Clokey was working on commercials when a Bud ad called for using Swiss cheese as represented by clay. Tapping techniques learned from his USC Film School professor Slavko Vorkapich, Clokey was soon animating with his moldable medium.
Starting with abstract figures, Clokey shaped Gumby’s head in tribute to his late father’s “cowlick hairdo.”
Gumby first rolled onto the air in the ‘50s — on TV’s “Howdy Doody” — after Clokey created the short student film “Gumbasia,” which was a clay parody of Disney’s hit film “Fantasia.” (According to GumbyWorld.com, “Gumbasia” was the first “music video.”)
In the next decade, Clokey was able to finance additional episodes of “Gumby.” During this time, he and his first wife, Ruth, also created the animated “Davey and Goliath” for the Lutheran Church.
Gumby enjoyed a profitable pop-culture revival in the ‘80s, after Eddie Murphy began doing his loud-mouthed, cigar-chomping “I’m Gumby, dammit!” character on “Saturday Night Live.” In the ‘90s, Gumby enjoyed popular reruns on Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network.
Clokey also lent his voice to the 1995 feature film “Gumby: The Movie.”
More recently, the Emmy-winning documentary “Gumby Dharma” took a close look at “The Gumby Show’s” philosophical depth. And in 2007, the Gumby comic books won a prestigious Eisner Award for Best Title for a Younger Audience.
Art Clokey died in January of 2010, at age 88. But generation after generation, his little slab of creation called Gumby has proved culturally evergreen.