Friends to the end, Gumby and Pokey, the clay-made cohorts of green boy and orange pony have been entertaining kids ever since Art Clokey created the malleable characters back in the early 50s, utilizing a strange new technique called 3-D Claymation. Gumby first appeared in the 1953 short, Gumbasia, and within four years was a regular on the highly-popular Howdy Doody. Following his success, the Gumbster was given a short-lived series of his own called The Gumby Show, which lasted a mere six months and was hosted by Howdy Doody’s own Bobby Nicholson and later, Pinky Lee.
While many assumed that this was the end of Gumby, it was truly just the beginning. In 1966, Gumby bounced back into syndication, with newly added episodes and a bunch of formable friends that included Nopey (a dog that only knew how to say no,) a female blob named Goo, a dinosaur named Prickle and the Blockhead twins, G and J, soon to become Gumby’s nemesis. The popular show would become a daytime television mainstay for many years.
Then, just when everyone but the most dedicated fans had forgotten about their slant-headed buddy, Gumby made a remarkable comeback in the 1980s – as portrayed by comedian Eddie Murphy in a series of hilariously memorable Saturday Night Live sketches. With Gumby back in the public spotlight, a new kid’s show was soon to follow, Gumby Adventures. And Gumby finally made it to the big screen in Gumby: The Movie in 1995. Gumby and Pokey would also appear in a Cheerios commercial and become the official spokes-clay for The Library of Congress in 1994.
Today, the first two series are available on DVD. Gumby, along with creator Art Clokey were both on hand in 2005 for the 50th birthday bash, held in San Francisco and featuring the band, Smashmouth. That same year, Gumby found a new home in Game Boy Advanced systems everywhere, with his very own Namco video game, Gumby and the Astrobats.
All in all, an illustrious career for the clay critter, said to be named after the southern word, “gumbo” (not referring to the yummy stew but rather, the mucky condition of local clay after a strong rainstorm.) Perhaps more poetic is the fact that Clokey (who passed away in 2010) insisted that Gumby’s dark green, grassy hue was picked because it represented the character’s free spirit, much like American poet Walt Whitman – who had incidentally composed the iconic “Leaves of Grass.” Few characters can boast such lofty comparisons but, then again, few characters are as memorable as Gumby.
Did you grow up watching these clay cohorts on television? Share all of your Gumby memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Art Clokey for giving us these wonderful characters.