Tag Archives: Gumbasia

Meet Gumby’s Godfather Tom Sarnoff

Gumby Central spent some quality time with Tom Sarnoff, Gumby’s Godfather. Tom, a young executive at NBC studios in the 1950s and ‘60s, greenlit the very first Gumby Show, and he’s been involved with Gumby ever since. He has made tremendous contributions to the television industry. Here’s the interview:

GC: When did you first meet Gumby creator Art Clokey?

art-tom-sarnoff-sm

Tom Sarnoff (left) and Art Clokey in the ’80s

TS: I first met Art Clokey in 1955. He had been referred to me by a producer named Sam Engel. At the time I was Director of Production and Business Affairs of NBC, West Coast. Art showed me his Gumbasia film and some film of the Gumby character. I was very intrigued by what I saw, and recommended to the Program Department, headquartered in New York, that we make a deal with Art to develop the Gumby concept. Gumby was first tested on the Howdy Doody Show, and he came across as a winner. As a result, I made a deal with Art for a series.

GC: Why are you called Gumby’s Godfather?

TS: I guess… because I recommended and made the first deal for the series, and because I have been with and have been making deals for Gumby for his whole 61 years. Also, even though Gumby was the creation of Art Clokey, I have always felt something special for him and that he was “a part of me,” too.

GC: You knew Art Clokey for more than 50 years. What was Art Clokey like?

TS: Art was completely dedicated to his creations and very serious about whatever was done with Gumby. On the other hand, he fortunately also had a very good sense of humor, which he used with great success in his Gumby episodes.

I very much enjoyed working with Art. I thought that he was extremely creative, so I gave him pretty free rein in his TV series deal; and, I think it worked out well. I was also very pleased and flattered that Art came to me after we were no longer with NBC and asked me to help him get Gumby restarted. Although we tried to get a movie made, we wound up making a deal with Lorimar for a new TV series.

GC: Tom Sarnoff has worked closely with other TV, Film and Music icons.

He negotiated all of the contracts with Bob Hope for his NBC TV specials and series and all of Elvis’ NBC deals. He worked at NBC for 25 years, and in addition to his television accomplishments, he was instrumental in producing NBC’s Disney on Parade and Peter Pan arena shows. He served as an executive producer for the Bonanza TV movies and a number of Broadway productions. After founding his own company, Tom produced his own world-touring arena shows, such as Yabba Dabba Doo, featuring Hanna-Barbera characters.

Sarnoff has been a keen participant in many activities within the television Industry—he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) and was instrumental in establishing the Television Academy Foundation, among other key roles. He has also played an active leadership role in many civic and community affairs, including the Special Olympics, for which he assisted his wife Jan (President of the California chapter, 1971-85).

GC: Your father David Sarnoff is a legend in the television industry, and he’s credited with founding NBC. He’s mentioned in all the film history books. I’m sure that he influenced your choice of career. Could you speak a bit about him?

TS: My father, who was responsible for the formation of NBC, was also the visionary who envisioned television, brought it to life, and established the television industry.

During the early years of TV development, NBC experimented with showing cartoons such as Felix the Cat. In 1931 they built a studio to experiment with live broadcasting. When they were ready to expose their accomplishment, my father gathered together a group of distinguished citizens including bankers, politicians, etc. and told them what they were going to see. He pulled off a black cloth that was covering the TV monitor and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the first broadcast of live television.” Unbeknownst to him, however, but with the collusion of my mother, I had been sneaked over to the studio. When the black cloth was removed, out popped on the screen a little four-year old boy who waved and said, “Hello, Daddy.” I’m sure that it took a while for my father to recover from that shock when he had expected some dancing girls.

I still can feel the extreme heat of the klieg lights that they used in the studio those days, and that experience will be etched in my memory forever. Unfortunately, they did not pick up my option so I never really became a TV star.

GC: You’re a star in our book. You have an amazing list of accomplishments, too numerous to mention here. We’ve heard you say that Gumby’s strength is his character, and that “he always leaves a place better than how he found it.” You’re definitely a Gumby kindred spirit.

Thank you for joining us Tom. It has been an honor to meet with you.

Read More »

Great Lessons – Gumby in Our School Communities

As we’re settling into the new school year routine, opening our books and our minds, we look at what we have learned and still can learn from Gumby.

Gumby creator Art Clokey was a huge proponent of learning. Early in his career, he spent a few years as an art teacher in Santa Barbara, California. Art loved to read and wanted his Gumby episodes to encourage children to seek out information. He wished to spark their young imaginations and spur them to read into new adventures… just as Gumby and Pokey can walk into any book and find themselves in an historic or futuristic time and place.

Blockhead classGumby’s fun adventures give us a glimpse into history or introduce us to other cultures and people. Gumby has helped George Washington, he whirled with the Dervishes, tamed dinosaurs and chanted with Kachinas. What a creative introduction to significant people, places and events of the past!

This image from the 1980’s Gumby episode, “Blocks in the Head,” reminds us of the significance of the name of the two mischievous trouble makers in Gumby’s world… the Blockheads. Art shaped their heads into blocks to represent square thinking! Gumby models being flexible, creative, using imagination and diving into books as the alternative to being a Blockhead.

Even today, Gumby continues to be an inspiration in our schools…

Musical Creativity

Last spring the Gumby Central gang had the privilege of attending an amazing musical performance inspired by Art Clokey’s works. Secondary school band director Ralph Martin, at the Vacaville Christian Schools in California, obtained permission from the Clokey family to use the musical scores from “Gumby on the Moon” and “Gumbasia” in his lessons and for a non-profit concert.

Radio Jazz performance

The sixth through twelfth grade students in the school’s jazz ensemble, Radio Jazz, practiced for months. They transposed and performed the actual music from “Gumbasia” at their concert in March 2012. View the “Gumbasia” performance.

After listening to the original music to “Gumby on the Moon” and watching the episode on video over and over, the students composed their own original music with several movements to correspond with the passages in the video. The episode was shown on the large screen behind the band as they soulfully blended the hip and mysterious melodies they had written to evoke Gumby’s extraterrestrial experience. See the “Gumby on the Moon” performance.

What talent and creativity! The professional performance quality earned the band gigs as an opening act at the world-famous Yoshi’s jazz club in San Francisco. Congratulations! We applaud Ralph Martin for his dedication and unique approach to teaching. We know the talented students in Radio Jazz will go far.

Stretch for Excellence

In Florida a number of school districts are participating in a program called Stretch for Excellence, a campaign to motivate students and staff to stretch beyond the normal, expected outcomes and to never give up. It is designed to foster that “can do” life attitude that helps a person excel in our information age.

Gumby Stretch for Excellence in Florida schools

The program started first with teachers and support staff in a public school in Florida. They received much needed recognition through the 3” and 6” bendable Gumby, a token or reflection how “flexible” they had been.

Each month honorees were awarded the coveted “Gumby Award.” The program was so successful that it expanded to include students and has been used each year since its initiation in 2009. Gumby green can be found in almost every office and in many classrooms. More and more enthusiastic students challenge themselves as the concept continues to spread to new districts.

Keep on stretching for excellence! As Gumby has shown, learning can be fun.

Read More »

Introducing: Gumby Dharma

Gumby Dharma DVD Biography of Art Clokey, Gumby Creator

Documentary – Available on DVD.

In honor Art Clokey’s many creative accomplishments and impact on the film industry, we are proud to introduce Gumby Dharma. This Emmy Award winning documentary captures the fascinating life of Art Clokey and his famous creations Gumby and Pokey and Davey and Goliath. From the mud (called gumbo) on his grandparents’ farm in the Midwest to his many adventures with his adopted father out west, you’ll see the myriad of influences on Art’s life and how they translated into iconic characters, which the world has embraced.

Art’s life takes us from the seminary to the Hollywood movie business, and from traditional Episcopalian values to Buddhism and Indian Holy men. His world famous stop motion animation characters reflect the message of love that Art and his wife Ruth wanted to give the world, while at the same time, his revolutionary kinesthetic filming techniques combined with a real life clay animated world is still ahead of its time. Interviews with contemporary leaders in animation including Director Henry Selick (Coraline, Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach) and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, Adventures of Sinbad), along with Art himself give texture to this riveting movie. From his groundbreaking art film Gumbasia to his surrealistic masterpiece Mandala, you’ll see a life that is honest and rich with art. The tapestry of Art’s life is a classic American story of growth and transformation. With all of life’s tragedies and triumphs, Art finds the nuggets to create a rich mosaic of adventure and joy for all of us to enjoy. Also interviewed are his stars Gumby and Pokey (featuring new stop motion directed by Academy Award© Nominee Timothy Hittle) who come “offstage” to reveal the more personal facets of Clokey’s story. In this film, we uncover how Art’s animation and personal brand of love of life has influenced millions of TV and film viewers and filmmakers across the world for more than half a century.

A Clip from Gumby Dharma

View Larger

DVD: 54 min. Includes a restored print of Gumbasia.

Available in the Gumby Store.

Read More »