is a dark 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
. The show also featured Pokey
, a red clay pony, and Gumby's nemeses, the Blockheads
The characters first appearance was in The Gumby Pilot, November 28, 1954.
Origins of Gumby
Dreamed up by Art Clokey
(from a small town called Millington, MI.), Gumby had its genesis in a 1953 theatrical 3-minute short called Gumbasia
, while studying at the University of Southern California under the direction of Slavko Vorkapich
. It was a surreal short of moving and expanding lumps of clay set to music, in a parody of Fantasia
was created in a style referred to as KINESTHETIC film principles based on camera movements and editing to create the Gumby look and feel. In 1955 Art showed Gumbasia to movie producer Sam Engel
who immediately funded a 15 minute followed, later called Gumby Goes to the Moon. This 15 minute short was ultimately seen by Tom Sarnoff
who loved it so much that he put the wheels in motion for a full audience test during the Howdy Doody
Show. Gumby himself first appeared on the Howdy Doody
show in 1956 and was given his own NBC
series in 1957. Female performers (among them Norma MacMillan
) supplied Gumby's voice during the initial episodes, as well as the child-like voice characterization provided by Dick Beals
. New episodes were added in 1959-64, by which time Dallas McKennon
became the voice of Gumby, and 1965–68. Besides Pokey, voiced by creator Art Clokey, and his dog Nopey (all the dog ever said was "No"), Gumby's friends included Prickle
, a yellow dinosaur
(there are stories that establish him as dragon, and some that establish him as dinosaur - he has been known to breathe fire
); and Goo
, a blue thumb-type mermaid who could fly. (Prickle and Goo together may be a reference to a well-known speech by philosopher Alan Watts
, recently animated
) Other characters are Gumby's mother Gumba, Gumby's father Gumbo, his sister Minga, Denali (a mastodon
), and Professor Kapp (sometimes spelled Kap). Art took inspirations from many sources, including Katzenjammer Kids
when creating characters such as the Blockheads
Alphabetized by city.
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
In 1987, the character appeared in "The Puppetoon Movie
" with Your Host: Gumby and Pokey.
And 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. In 1998, Cartoon Network aired re-runs of Gumby episodes.
By the end of the decade, Gumby and Pokey had appeared in commercials for Cheerios cereal, most notably Frosted Cheerios.
The Library of Congress 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.
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. The video game also featured music by Sevendust and Monster Magnet.
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 ARTS, Atlanta, GA, hosted the most comprehensive CLOKEY/GUMBY Exhibition to date. Entitled GUMBY: Art Clokey the first fifty years. Curated by writer/animator David Scheve, the exhibition featured over 100 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. The Event can still be viewed on line at www.TDAExhibitions.com
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-TV broadcast an hour-long documentary " Gumby Dharma" as part of their Truly CA series.
- Moody Rudy (1977; a new toy created by Art Clokey, introduced by Gumby in commercials)
- Frosted Cheerios (1994; cameo in two commercials)
Henry and Rodgy
Henry the bear and Rodgy the bird appeared in three shorts (billed as "A Gumby Special") in 1959:
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
, a 1988 Colorforms
color foams set, a 1995 Trendmasters playset, and a Kubricks
set by Medicom.
- In the 1990s, employees of The Met (the government run public transport corporation in Melbourne) were referred to as Gumbies due to the color of their uniforms and the "Gumby" television show being in the public's mind due to Australian re-runs.
- "Gumby" is a common nickname for someone who is very flexible in any sense of the word – either double-jointed (someone with very limber joints), or very adaptable in different situations.
- A common saying in the United States Marine Corps is "Semper Gumby" which jokingly translates to "always flexible". The motto of the Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis, or "always faithful".
- The word "Gumby" is now used as slang to describe an act of stupidity or inexperience and is also used to refer to someone particularly uncoordinated (although this refers to Mr. Gumby, one of several characters in Monty Python's Flying Circus).
- UFC Ultimate Fighter Jeremy Horn's nickname is "Gumby" due to his flexibility during ground fighting.
- Prickle and Goo were named after Alan Watts' categorization of the two types of people in the world ("the prickly and the gooey – the rigid, critical and the easygoing and mellow") after Art Clokey heard him lecture at San Jose State University.
- In the Kimberly region of Western Australia "Gumby" is a slang reference to a woman's vagina and is derived from the Aboriginal word Gumbudge. Gumbudge is a phrase that is common to the Kimberly Aboriginal people groups and their languages.