Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's Gumby Dammit!

I stumbled across this collection of minor classics the other day at my local retail store, just sitting there among a gaggle of boring modern movies featuring real people (more or less). My attention was instantly on the little green clay boy and his his reddish clay horse.  I had to have The Gumby Show.

Art Clokey works on the first Gumby adventure.
Gumby and Pokey are a thoroughly infused part of the American culture, a classic TV show produced by the dedicated talent of Art Clokey, a classic toy, and thanks to Eddie Murphy's sardonic presentation so many years ago on Saturday Night Live, the character was reinstalled in the popular imagination.

Eddie Murphy reintroduces everyone to Gumby.
The story of how Gumby came to be a TV show is fascinating and points back to a time when TV was a territory occupied by pioneers before it became dominated by play-it-safe-executives. The Gumby TV show, presented on this dvd in its original uncut glory is weird and fascinating, an American Alice in Wonderland-style mini-epic which plays with visual imagery and our expectations of same much the same way Lewis Carroll did with words in his classic children's tomes. Later Gumby shows (produced in the 60's and afterwards) were captured (necessarily I'd argue) by narrative as story became primary and visual splendor came second, a nod to variety. But these first ones are all about the visual, with story (such as it is) taking a decided back seat to tricks of the eye the animators can pull off.

The original visual spectacle - "massaging the eyeballs".
Clokey began with Gumbasia, a wild animated short which rips its name from Disney's Fantasia and its hallucinatory rhythm from jazz.  Check it out. This little bit of oddness caught the fascination of TV types and a kid's show was ordered. Gumby really has more in common with Jack Cole's wild and wacky Plastic Man than anything else, a tendency to allow his form to follow his feelings, and he's often all too subject to the environments he's in. For more on the history and lore of Gumby, Pokey, the Blockheads, and his other multi-colored associates see the website called appropriately enough Gumbyworld.

The adventures here are reassembled as they were originally. The first episode, in later years divided into three parts runs its original eleven minutes here, as do the other 50's episodes included. There's not much in the ways of extras, but Gumbasia is included as well a glimpse of a modern Gumby cartoon being shot.

What I got - two dvds and a little doll...ahem...action figure...too.
Recommended if you're in a whimsical mood. And if you're not, it might make you that way.

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