THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gumby Dharma (****)

Directed by Robina Marchesi
USA, 2006, 54 minutes
Official Website: http://gumbydharma.com

On the Sundance Channel's Monday night "Doc Block," I caught the national broadcast premiere of Robina Marchesi's Gumby Dharma. (It repeats on Friday September 26 at 11 PM and Tuesday, September 30 at 10 AM.) It was great and I learned a lot about Mr. Clokey that I never knew before - like why Gumby was green (it's the color of life), why he has the bump on his head (to make him look less like a big green phallus; also, the bump reminded Art Clokey of his dad's cowlick!), and why Clokey went through his mid-life crisis and hung out with the new agey hippie types - including Timothy Leary and the requisite spiritual trip to India (he fell in love with a younger woman and succumbed to the swinging '60s sexual revolution). During that period, a lot of the Gumby episodes were produced by Clokey's wife, with animation by "Sneaky" Peter Kleinow (later the pedal steel guitar player with The Flying Burrito Brothers, who passed away in 2007). Oh, I and also learned why Clokey always wears that silly hat - he's bald!

Anyway, here's the student film Art Clokey made that started it all:

GUMBASIA (Art Clokey, 1953, 3 minutes)

The other great non-Gumby or Davey and Goliath-related work Clokey did was something called Mandala (1964) - not to be confused with Jordan Belson's Mandala (1952). After seeing clips this very personal film (made following the suicide of his daughter and reflecting the influence of Eastern mysticism and its concepts of life and death), I really want to see the whole work.

Sundance Channel capsule:
Art Clokey, grandmaster of stop-motion animation and the artist behind beloved icons from the early years of children's television - Gumby, Pokey, Davey and Goliath - is the focus of this fascinating documentary by Robina Marchesi. In his 80s when interviewed, Clokey reflects on his playful work and life, which included time in an orphanage, seminary school, divorce, years as a hippie and spiritual quests in the East. Featuring a rich assortment of film clips and interviews with leading animators, including Ray Harryhausen.

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