Creating the Art Clokey 'Gumby' Google Doodle

Oct 12, 2011

On Wednesday, Google's home-page "Doodle" celebrates what would have been the 90th birthday of the late clay-animation pioneer Art Clokey with an interactive logo of Gumby & Friends.

Chat with one of the doodle's creators, Nicole LaPointe-McKay, and Art Clokey's son, Joe Clokey, about creating the Google Doodle, Art Clokey's life and work and the importance of today.

Related: ART CLOKEY ?GUMBY? DOODLE: Google celebrates birthday of late clay-animation pioneer

Hi everyone,

I'm here to answer anything you'd like to know about my dad or about Gumby or his Art Films

 

Playing with clay at Gumby Central to bring Gumby to life.

What tools did you use when animating this Google Doodle?

We use sculpting tools and dental tools! There are a lot of other things needed to make the puppets and animate! Including the clay, armatures, rigs for jumping, lighting....so much more has to happen before the animation even starts!

See some behind the scene production videos and photos at the Gumby website!  www.gumbyworld.com

 

How did you go about designing this Google Doodle? What was the process and who all had input? Our lead animator Anthony Scott and the lead creative at Google and I brainstormed to come up with these morphs.  Gumby's a shape shifter, so this made sense to us.  Google wanted them individually animated, and you see why now. 

We wanted to make something fun, and also show off the great morphing nature of our clay characters.  So we came up with what you see.  -Joe

Any plans for a revival? How about a Gumbyland at one of the themeparks?

yes!  A Gumbyland sounds GREAT we would love that!!!

 

Are you following in your father's footsteps?

For the last eleven years I've been working with him.  Before that I had an educational film business where I made over 60 videos for teachers.  Dad wanted me to bring Gumby back. That's my mission.  :)

I grew up watching Gumby and love this! Thanks for the great Doodle today.

You're very welcome.  We're honored that Google wanted to do this.  Gumby loves you.

I didn't even know Gumby was still around! What is going on with that series now?

Currently episodes can be found on DVD at the Gumby Store,

www.gumbyworld.com

We hope to get the old and new episodes on T.V. again soon!

Stay Tuned.

Let the networks know you want more GUMBY!!!

Joe, how exciting for you to see your Dad's wonderful creations come alive again via Google! I always wondered if Pokey was based on a real horse or pony (the one we all wished we had growing up).

It is exciting.  Dad had a wonderful dog in the mid 30's who was his pal hiking in the hills of Claremont.  He wanted Gumby to have  a best friend. Al Eggleston, the Art Director for the 50's series designed pokey, and Dad voiced him.

What other crazy characters did Art Clokey come up with during his career besides the Gumby cast?

David and Goliath are a very well known and they had their own TV series!  He also created Clay Boys, Eager Beavers, Plucky Plumber....so many more!

How would we do that?

get on gumby.com and go to gumbycentral social media sites to become a fan and the more that get on there, the better to show the networks that gumby has a lot of love out there.  Thanks!

No question--I just wanted to say that I loved Gumby when I was growing up. At first, we only had a small b&w TV, so I didn't get him in his full green glory until later. I sent a note with the Google link to all my friends when I saw the doodle in the wee hours of the morning. Since then, we've all been playing with him while we (cough) pretend to be dilegently working. Thanks to the Clokeys and Google for the treat!

I've been remastering the original series from their original films.  The color is vibrant and amazing without any tweaking.  Thanks for loving Gumby.  Gumby and Art love you!

Yes, but what software did you use to create the Google Doodle? Did Google have much say in the creative process?

It was all done in in stop-motion animation, one frame at a time! There are many programs out there to animate like DragonStopMotion

The process of making Gumby takes a bit of time.  There are molds to be made, armatures to be built, clay to be mixed....not to mention the details, face parts for every expression....but it is all worth the time in the end!  Clay has a tangible and real world look to it which draws the eye.

When did Google approach you about doing this doodle? How long did it take?

Google contacted us at the end of August.  We started conceptual work right away!  After we got the storyboards sorted out we began to create puppets, get the set together and start animating. So about five weeks on a part-time basis.

How did your Dad feel about the numerous satires and parodies of Gumby and D&G (Morel Orel particularly)?

He loved Eddie Murphy's.  Because it was on late at night, dad wasn't worried about little kids hearing the "dammit" language. What made it so funny was that Gumby would never be that brash, so when Eddie did it it made everyone roll on the floor with laughter.  "I'm Gumby Dammit"  "I'm show business Dammit".  LOL  Gumby would never swear, but it was so funny.    Some, like mad TV went over the line and dadd didn't like those.

I love Gumby and Pokey!. There. I just really wanted to say that. Oh, and I had forgotten about the blockheads! (Is that what they're called? My childhood was so long ago.) Thanks.

Yep!  The Blockheads!  That is what they are called and they were the mischief makers who were also created in the 50's!

Happy 90th birthday to your dad, Joe.  He was a great man. What do you think he would want to do with Gumby now if he were still alive?

He always wanted Gumby to have a blockbuster feature film.  He'd been trying for years for that.  Dad was always cutting edge, and would have taken Gumby to new levels of surrealism and adventure.

Joe, have you heard the 1989 CD compilation put together by Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa? "The Ballad of Gumby" is a hoot.

It's called "The Green Album" and it was put out by Buena Vista.  I love it. Dad LOVED it.  The Dweezil and Moon Unit one was like SGT. Peppers.  The Frank Sinatra Jr. one of the Gumby Hear Song is a classic.  Yes, I love the "Ballad of Gumby" too.   Let's get that CD on i-tunes.  I'll check into it.

I've heard that claymation takes a long time. Can you give us an estimate of how many frames/scenes (?) and how much time it took to create the Google doodle animation?

Clay animation does take time but when you start a project there is so much more work to be done before hand!  A concept, storyboards, puppets fabricated, sets built, rigs for different things(like a jumping character), lighting to get correct and stable....as for the animation frames per a second can vary as to the speed at which the character moves...generally 30 frames per a second.

I know that technology has changed since the first Gumby episodes were changed. How would you update Gumby to take advantage of the new technology?

Stop Motion Animation has improved a lot through the years.  The video feedback helped a lot for Nightmare Before Christmas, and these days we use Digital Still cameras instead of the huge Mitchel film cameras that made it harder to do wild angles.  Dad and I have always felt that Stop Motion animation is it's own unique art form.  It's using real puppets, with real sets and real light hitting those sets.  There's a texture there that takes tens of millions more to do in Computer animation.  Check out our Gumby vs. the Astrobots spot we animated a couple of years ago at gumby.com under the studio section

When I was little, I used to have a tiny Gumby figurine--I think I got him out of a gumball machine. Are Gumby (and friends) figurines/toys still being made?

Gumby and friends are still being made!  Check out

www.gumbyworld.com

Everyone loves a Gumby!

 

No question, just thought I'd mention that I've got a Gumby and Pokey hanging on my computer monitor at home.

Me too!!!!

 

Is this the first stopmotion doodle Google has done?

We are not sure but we think it is.

 

 

What makes Gumby different from the other Clay animation series? When making something new, would you update Gumby and the other characters to make them look more realistic?

He's Gumby.  He's clay.  He's evolved through the years as far as his shape.  In the 60's, the incidental characters were Davey puppets, so that was a different look.  In the 50's and 80's the incidental characters were clay.  Different looks.  What do you like best?

How long can you work with a clay figure before it gets too soft and you need to start over with a new piece of clay?

The clay can get soft in front of the lights so it depends on the time it takes to animate, but it doesn't melt into a puddle (unless we animate it that way!) I sometimes toss it in the fridge to chill it up a bit!

I did not know your dad did the voice of Pokey. Who did the voice of Gumby?

Ruth Eggleston was the voice in the 56 series.

Dal Mckennon was the voice in the 57 series and in the early 60's series and in the 80's and 90's.

Dick Beals was the voice in the mid 60's

Norma McMillan was the voice in the late 60's.

 

I didn't realize Davey & Goliath were part of Gumby's extended family, too! I loved how Goliath said Davey's name--Daaaaavy. It would be great if both Gumby and Davey & Goliath got picked up by a network. They're cult favorites. Cartoon Network seems like the obvious choice, but there are other family networks that would be a good match, too. I'd love to watch the old shows, plus new ones. (And, no, I'm not going to say how old I am. But you're never too old for Gumby.)

That is so true and we hear you on that!

We can't wait to get Gumby and Friends out there soon!

 

What was your Dad's original inspiration for Gumby? I mean, how did he think up the green guy? Thanks for the chat.

we put up a great Art Clokey and Gumby section at gumby.com that answers that in detail.   Gumby Dharma is an amazing movie about my dad and his creative process.  He wanted to improve children's TV and settled on geometric shapes and bright colors that showed off his love of kinesthetic film principles.  My mom suggested to start with a gingerbread shape.   Dad then added the bump which was like the hair style of his dad's high school portrait.   Like Conans..  :)

What are your thoughts on Eddie Murphy's portrayal of Gumby?

Dad loved it.  It was so funny in that Gumby would never be brash like that.  If Gumby was like that, it would not have ben so funny.  Dad always said that we're all Gumby and that Eddie Murphy was expressing that.  

Did the voice actors from Gumby crossover and do work for Davey and Goliath? I seem to remember that the characters sounded similar. Thanks, Fan from PA!!!

Dick Beals was the original voice of Davey.  He also did a few mid 60s Gumby voices.  

Norma McMillan did Gumby and Davey at the same time in the late 60's.  Her real life daughter was "Nellie" on little house.  Norma also was the voice of Casper.

You think Pokey ever gets tired of having Gumby riding on his back? He's just a little pony after all. I mean, Gumby is plenty mobile with that whole one legged skating thing and all.

I agree.  We'll have to talk to Gumby about that.  :)

Go Huskies! When did you develop an interest in clay animation and did you learn anything at UConn that you apply to your work?

Yeah! Go Huskies!  I apply a lot of what I learned at UConn!  Went there to learn more about puppets and get a Masters Degree and I am still working in the puppetry field!   The Puppet Arts program at UConn is a great start to getting into puppetry of any kind!

Do you already have some script ideas for the potential Gumby movie, or it is still too early for that?

We've been working on that.  Stay tuned.  :)

Thanks for the info on Gumby's origins. I always wondered if he was based on the old gum erasers kids used in school, but green!

you're welcome.  Have a Gumby Day!  Dad loved all Gumby fans as do we.  

Thanks for all of the great questions. Enjoy dad's 90's and the Gumby Doodle and new website!   -Joe

Thanks for chatting with us and have fun with the Gumby Doodle! We are so glad you all love Gumby as much as we do!

Nicole

In This Chat
Joe Clokey
Son of Art and Ruth Clokey, the pioneering creators of Gumby®, Joe Clokey was raised as Gumby’s brother. In fact, Gumby came to life in bedtime stories that Art Clokey created for his children. Today, Joe carries on his parents’ legacy as the head of Gumby Studio and business affairs, introducing Gumby to the next generation of fans.
Nicole LaPointe-McKay
Nicole LaPointe-McKay recieved her Masters Degree in Puppet Arts from University of Connecticut in 2000 and has been working in Stop Motion ever since. GUMBY has been her gig for almost five years. LaPointe-McKay recently created "The Original Clay Dudes" clay puppets for beginning clay animators.
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