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February 1, 2013

Art Clokey began experimenting with stop motion clay animation in the early 1950s, producing the film Gumbasia at USC film school in 1955. Sam Engel of 20th Century Fox enjoyed the film and formed a partnership with Clokey, leading to the creation of Gumby. The character made his first appearance as a test in a 1956 Howdy Doody show and proved popular enough that NBC gave him his own show.

Hosted by Pinky Lee, the series began in 1957. Twenty-two twelve minute shows were produced, then these were recycled into 44 six minute episodes in the 1960s. The cast included Gumby, Pokey the Horse, Nopey the Dog and their enemies the Blockheads.

Gumby went into semi-retirement in the late 1960s but was revived by Eddie Murphy in the early 1980s when Murphy portrayed him as a cigar smoking, disenchanted, character on Saturday Night Live. Ninety-nine new Gumby shows were syndicated by Lorimar in 1987-1988 and Clokey Productions released Gumby: The Movie, a ninety minute feature film in 1995.

Comico released two comic books, Gumby’s Summer Fun Special in 1987 and Gumby’s Winter Fun Special in 1988. Both have art by Art Adams. A new comic was launched in 2007.

Gumby, after being molded and shaped into a pop culture icon over the last fifty plus years, has achieved iconic status. Clokey passed away in early 2010.

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