Art Clokey, the animator who created Gumby and Davey and Goliath, both coming into being by way of stop motion clay animation, died this last weekend at his home in Los Osos, California. He was 88.
Fashioned from a little green slab of clay, Gumby made his television debut in 1956 on The Howdy Doody Show. The following year The Gumby Show premiered. Along with his constant pony pal and sidekick Pokey, together they rambled though what could best be described as a series of gentle but weird LSD trips. Their colorful adventures against a toy strewn landscape often included Gumby's pestering nemseses, The Blockheads. (According to his son, Clokey did try LSD once, but under medical supervision and years after he created Gumby. I like to think he tripped with Cary Grant and Steve Allen.)
Though the initial show was short-lived, Gumby enjoyed a comeback in 1961 running through 1968, then again in the 1980s and once again in the 1995 feature film, Gumby: The Movie, also directed by Art Clokey. Eventually 233 episodes were produced. Davey and Goliath, which ran in the 1960’s and 70’s, had over 300 episodes underwritten by the Lutheran Church of America.
Born as Arthur Charles Farrington in Detroit on Oct. 12, 1921, he lived with his father after his parents divorced. But at age nine Art’s father was killed in an automobile accident and instead of rejoining his mother, he was placed in an orphanage near Hollywood. Art was adopted sometime later by Joseph Waddell Clokey, an established composer and music professor at Pomona College in Claremont.
Art Clokey earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Ohio and later attended Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, intent on becoming an Episcopal priest. He left soon after and entered the University of Southern California, where he studied film with Slavko Vorkapich, a pioneer in modern montage techniques. In 1955, Clokey made a student film, Gumbasia, with animated clay shapes gyrating to a jazz score. The film was the inspiration for the later television series. (The film is included on the DVD Gumby Essentials, released in 2007 by Classic Media.)
In 2006 Art Clokey was the subject of a documentary film, Gumby Dharma.
Art Clokey’s first marriage, to Ruth Parkander ended in divorce. His second wife, Gloria, died in 1998. He is survived by his son, Joe, a stepdaughter, Holly Harman, and three grandchildren. Another daughter, Ann, died in 1974.