CORRECTION: The children's show whose proceeds helped fund more Gumby television shows in the late 1960s was called "Davey and Goliath." It was produced in the early 1960s by the United Lutheran Church in America, and later the Lutheran Church in America, a predecessor to today's Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Art Clokey, whose iconic Gumby entertained generations of children, died Friday morning.
Gumby the slender, green clay character partly modeled after Clokeys father was a fixture on television through the decades, starting with an appearance on the Howdy Doody show in 1956. Through the years, the stop motion star made several comebacks, including a new show in the 80s, after a Saturday Night Live skit with actor Eddie Murphy made the character popular again. Throughout Gumbys long run, Gumby toys most notably, the bendable have been a staple of toy stores everywhere.
Clokey, who lived in Los Osos, was 89.
Despite Gumbys positive demeanor, his origins stem from tragedy. When Clokey was 9, his father was killed in a car crash. He lived with his mother for a while, but when her second husband made her choose between him and her son, Clokey was sent to an orphanage. Fortunately, he was adopted by a good family. But Clokey wouldnt forget his father, whose head shape characterized by a cowlick hairdo would later provide the inspiration for Gumbys trademark lopsided head.
After studying film at USC, Clokey taught at a private military school, where he tutored the son of Sam Engel, a 20th Century Fox producer. After Engel invited Clokey to the studio, Clokey told Engel about a 3 ½-minute film hed made called Gumbasia, featuring abstract clay objects changing shapes to jazz music.
He said, Art, weve got to go into business, Clokey told the Tribune in 2002. I went back and experimented with clay to make a character, and I took into account the density of clay and figured out how the character would be shaped so it would be easy to animate and easy to duplicate.
While Gumbys head was modeled after Clokeys late father, his walk was modeled after his infant daughter.
By the late 50s, Gumby was off the air, but the Lutheran Church paid Clokey to develop another kids show Dave and Goliath to promote morality themes. Clokey and is wife used proceeds from that to fund more Gumby episodes, which would air again in the 60s.
By that time, Gumby toys were already ubiquitous. But Clokey had mixed feelings about commercialization.
I didnt allow merchandising for seven years after it was on the air, Clokey told the Tribune, because I was very idealistic, and I didnt want parents to think we were trying to exploit their children.