Art Clokey Creator of Iconic Green Clay Boy, Gumby Dies at 88

January 11, 2010

(ChattahBox)—Art Clokey, the famed stop-motion clay animator known for his now iconic bendable green cartoon character, named Gumby, died in his sleep on Friday at the age of 88. Clokey, born in Detroit in 1921, as Arthur Charles Farrington, was later adopted when he was about 11, by Joseph Waddell Clokey, a well-known composer at the time. Clokey went on to create the beloved Gumby and his side-kick horse Pokey, as well as the spiritual clay animation series Davey and Goliath. Both animated shows have become cult classics, especially Gumby, which enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s, when comedian Eddie Murphy spoofed the green clay boy on Saturday Night Live, making Gumby and Pokey popular again and retro-cool.

Clokey first created Gumby in 1956, when the quirky and gentle green clay boy appeared on the “The Howdy Doody Show.” The animator has said that he based Gumby’s elongated head on his biological father’s rather large pompadour. His father died in a car accident when Art Clokey was 9. He spent some time in an orphanage, before his adoption by James Clokey. After his father’s death, he returned to live with his mother, but her new husband wasn’t happy with the arrangement and sent him to a boy’s home.

And from that humble beginning Art Clokey created one of the most enduring characters in animation.

Clokey’s character Gumby, became so popular that it received its own series the following year. And at the time, the Gumby Show was the first TV series using stop-motion animation. The 1950s Gumby Show didn’t last long, but the beloved character appeared in new shows in the 1960s, with a lull in the 1970s, and a resurgence in the 1980s that continues to this day. Clokey also produced a full-length movie, “Gumby: The Movie” in 1995.

Besides the popular Gumby animation, Clokey also produced a clay animation show called “Davey and Goliath,” about the the adventures of a boy and his dog, which taught simple spiritual principles of kindness and charity. Davey and the dog Goliath with his adorable singsong pronunciation of “Daveeey,” has also enjoyed renewed popularity over the years. Clokey produced the series with his first wife Ruth.

Clokey’s second wife, Gloria, died in 1998. In addition to his son, Joe, from his first marriage, he is survived by a stepdaughter, Holly Harman; a sister, Arlene Cline; a half-sister, Patricia Anderson; and three grandchildren. A daughter from his first marriage, Ann, died in 1974.

Clokey is no longer with us, but he has left behind an enduring legacy of the sweet, gentle and slightly goofy clay animation characters of Gumby, Pokey, Davey and Goliath, which left a lasting impression on four generations of children.

See the NY Times for more.


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