Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Remembering Art Clokey, Part 1
"There was nothing else like it being made in America for Americans." Henry Selick
On a very short list of films that instantaneously send Mr. Blogmeister straight to Happyland: the inventive clay animation of Art Clokey.
Art's very creative "let's see what we can do with clay, unfettered imagination and a hip soundtrack" film GUMBASIA and the earliest Gumby cartoons (from 1956-1957) rank, in this blogger's opinion, among the greatest stop-motion films ever made. Clokey had a unique and uncanny ability to combine the experimental and exploratory with pure entertainment.
The earliest Gumbys possess an expressive, beautiful and genuine quality akin to primitive art and offer a childlike sense of innocence and wonder. No film before or since has merged futurism, fantasy elements and a child's eye view of the universe quite like Clokey's Moon Trip and Gumby On The Moon.
Clokey taps into the creativity that exists in the heart and soul before, inevitably, the unimaginative, the well-meaning, the insensitive, the authority figures attempt (too often successfully) to beat it out of us.
Clokey's films, especially Gumbasia and the first series of Gumby cartoons, made in 1956-1958, express his vision and sense of wonder in a most direct and straightforward way.
In direct opposition with the gentle, good-natured ambiance that were a hallmark of the Gumby cartoons, Art Clokey's long life was filled with tragedy. Art's mother left his dad for a policeman who was renting a room from them, ran away and abandoned Art, only to reconcile decades later. Art's father died in a car accident soon afterwards. Much of this is covered in the late Robina Marchesi's documentary Gumby Dharma, which offers both a biography and a quick overview of Clokey's clay animation innovations.
In a curious stroke of luck and serendipity, Art was subsequently adopted by composer Joseph W. Clokey and his wife: both avid travelers, adventurers, endlessly curious and film nuts. When Art met Dr. Clokey's 16mm camera, a creative artist was born.
The world travels with the Clokeys were the cornerstones of Art's identity as a filmmaker.