Art Clokey- The man who created Gumby

Over the last week I was able to watch an episode of “Lost” in Blu-ray on a HD TV. You could see in some scenes the fake plants or sets as it was so clear. It reminded me of my early days in religious television.

To new readers of my blog, my day job is working at a large religious TV network. When I first started there I was worried of people being ‘stuck-up’ and lacking any humor. I was proven wrong by the engineering staff. They would pull a few tricks on guests to get them to lighten up and laugh. One thing that they did was to put the department’s mascot on every set they worked on. If you look at the older shows you will see a small Gumby toy in at least one camera shot. He would be in a flower, a window or a bookcase. It is funny looking at the archives and seeing Gumby everywhere.

It was really sad news for me when I heard that Gumby’s creator Art Clokey had taken his Final Taxi over the weekend.

For those who don’t know Gumby, he is a stop-action cartoon character made out of green clay. The bendable figure was the subject of a 233 animated shorts that ran for over 35 years. Clokey created Gumby in the 1950’s and he was first seen on “The Howdy Doody Show” on TV. NBC picked it up as a regular series in 1957.

Gumby was seen most of the time with his sidekick, an orange horse called Pokey. Other recurring characters were Prickle, a yellow dragon, Goo, a flying blue mermaid, his parents and his sister Minga. Others times you might meet Denali (a mastodon), Tilly (a hen), or Gumby’s enemy’s The Blockheads.

After the success of Gumby, Clokey’s was approached by the Lutheran Church in America to do an animated series for them. It was called Davey and Goliath. Clokey used the same stop action clay animation to create Davey Hansen and his “talking” dog Goliath who learned about the love of God through everyday occurrences. The series was sweet and not overly pushy about religion.

Clokey fell on hard financial times after the series ended and it looked like Gumby would be forgotten forever until a 1980’s “Saturday Night Live” skit brought him back. In it comedian Eddie Murphy dressed in a Gumby costume and becomes a crude and angry cigar smoking Gumby. It was a hit and he became a recurring character on the show. The line “I’m Gumby, damnitt” became a catch phase and everyone wanted to know who Gumby was.

The cartoon made a comeback and “Gumby the Movie” did well. Soon you could find Gumby shirts, candy, toys and stickers. My kids fell in love with Gumby and would even pretend to be each of their favorite characters. I loved the comic book that was written by “Mystery Men” and “Flaming Carrot” creator Bob Burden.

During his later years Art Clokey became an active environmentalist. Green was always his favorite color.

Jeff Burson – The Final Taxi

The Man Who Put The Heads On Pez Candy

Who has never seen a Pez head candy dispenser?

They are those tiny plastic colored containers that hold a small brick of candy that are much along the lines of “Sweet-Tarts.” The top of the dispenser has synthetic head that is modeled after a popular character. TV or movies, cartoons or history figures are just a few of the designs these heads have. The odd thing is that the head has to be pulled back for the Pez candy to slip out. It is like the candy comes out of its throat.

The person who came up with this idea is Pez candy company executive Curtis Allina who took his Final Taxi this week at the age of 87.

The first Pez dispenser did not have a head and was initially aimed at adult smokers by looking like a cigarette lighter. Allina wanted to aim it more at children and added Santa Claus, a robot and Mickey Mouse to the top. It soon added more and became a collectible pop-cultural artifact. According to the Pez website the candy company sells tens of thousands of dispensers each year in 80 countries and adds new characters regularly.

Collectors are all over the internet and a few dispensers run as much as thousands of dollars apiece. There even a Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame, California. Imagine all your favorite Pez dispensers under one roof.

My first Pez candy dispenser was bought when I went to a local mall and was waiting for my mother at Newberrys. There I saw a Batman Pez. I remember pretending that every time I took a Pez I would have a super power and could then fight the imaginary villains who were invading our backyard.

Through the years I also remember owning Spider-man, Bug Bunny, Fred Flintstone, Thor, Pluto, Darth Vader and Tazmanian Devil. I have older friends who still collect the Nascar Pez and even the Star Trek Pez.

In 2009 I was out shopping with my niece and found that Pez has a collection out for the anniversary of the Wizard of Oz. She now owns a Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman Pez dispenser. Will she keep them and be a collector as well?

What was your favorite Pez dispenser when you were a kid?