Saturday, January 09, 2010

Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, is no longer with us

As a kid, my entry point into the Gumby world was via Eddie Murphy's portrayal of Gumby as an aging, bitter show business hack. I was too young to catch the original Gumby show on TV as a kid. Later I rented some videos of the best of Gumby, and I very much enjoyed the claymation and rich imagination of Art Clokey, Gumby's creator. The real Gumby was nothing like the bitter jerk on Saturday Night Live. He was a cute and curious character, loyal to his pony pal Pokey.

Since then I have been a big fan of animation in general, including claymation. While I do love Pixar movies that are made by teams of hundreds using the latest technology, I have a soft spot for animation that seems to be the product of one or perhaps a few imaginative minds, like Gumby or Wallace and Gromit. The relative simplicity and the more down to earth nature of these cartoons has a special charm not found in bigger productions.

Just 2 days ago I was reading an interview with Clokey in a compilation of the writing and comics in WFMU's 'LCD'. Although Clokey was involved with the preachy and much lampooned (see 'Moral Orel') Christian cartoon Davy and Goliath, the man was in fact very open minded:
LCD: We talked a little bit before about if you used psychadelic drugs.

AC: From 1955 through 1966-67, I didn't touch the stuff. Then I got caught up with the Flower Children in San Francisco. I met Alan Watts - we smoked hash together in Japan!

LCD: Did you think that the drug experience would open up your creative powers in some way?

AC: I think it probably loosened up and broadened my imaginative inclinations. Actually, it made me more interested in how Gumby acted, how he acted toward other people.
Gumby also inspired the collective PaperRad, who have done their own Gumby cartoons, and no doubt many of the creators of claymation and animation in general of the last 40 years were inspired in some way by Clokey.

The day after reading the interview with Clokey, I read a post in the Cartoon Brew blog informing readers that Clokey had passed away at 89. While he led about as long a life as any of us can hope for, and was recognized for his talents and skills, as we all hope we will be, I'm still sad to hear about his passing. RIP, Mr. Clokey, and thanks.

No comments: