Tag Archives: Joe Clokey
Gumby Imagined, Story of Art Clokey and His Creations is in Bookstores Now
Gumby, the world’s original clayboy and legendary pop icon is the subject of a new retrospective art book. Gumby creator Art Clokey was an animation pioneer, and his characters Gumby and pony pal Pokey, along with Davey and Goliath, have shaped generations of childhood memories and have touched the hearts of fans worldwide. In celebration of Gumby’s 60th anniversary, Art’s son Joe and his wife Joan have written Gumby Imagined, a comprehensive biography of Art and his characters. At 300 pages and packed with hundreds of photos and fascinating stories, this is the ultimate compendium. It’s an amazing pictorial history with never-before-seen photos. Get yours here.
“This is the Gumby-lover’s dream come true! The writing is so honest and compelling, and what a life story your family has had, Joe! Hats off to you, Joan for the very loving and deeply honest vibe to the writing,” writes Martin Olsen, Lead Writer for Phineas and Ferb. Olson continues, “You two collaborated so beautifully on this project. Reading the book feels like going into the heart and soul of your family and hearing how Gumby emerged from it, in all Gumby’s incarnations. The photos are absolutely amazing, and what a journey your family had through life. The fun and the love and the creativity are apparent on every page, but especially apparent is the honesty. That’s the unique beauty of this book; everything is told in such a kind, heartfelt way, no holds barred.”
An anonymous fan wrote: “Wow. A big and beautiful retrospective of everyone’s favorite flexible friend! I’m really enjoying the deep dive into the history of this classic character and the people who brought Gumby (and other great characters) to life! Outstanding!”
A Riveting Tale
Gumby Imagined is a complete biography that chronicles the tragedies and triumphs of Art Clokey’s life. It’s a true “American Dream” tale. In the book you’ll see how Art’s life shaped the characters and stories he invented. Hard-hitting childhood struggles resulting in placement in a home for abandoned boys during the Great Depression. A dramatic turnaround. Adventure. World War II photo reconnaissance behind enemy lines. A lucky break. Partnerships made and dissolved. Spiritual seeking. Creative freedom. Art films. Hard work and play. Success and loss. Talented artists and crew…. This personal and inspiring story brings it all together.
“The most fascinating life story I’ve ever known just happens to be about my dad, mom and the world famous characters they created. Art Clokey’s journey intersects and influences major touchstones of our American life. The sixty-year, behind-the-scenes story of Gumby and Davey and Goliath, interwoven with a rich tapestry of photos and rare anecdotes, weds perfectly with Art Clokey and his amazing life,” says Joe Clokey.
“Gumby Imagined is a fascinating ‘page-turner’ with never-before-told stories about this clay animation pioneer beginning with his childhood tragedies. Learn about how Art got his start in the biz, his groundbreaking stop-motion TV commercials, trippy art films, and the most comprehensive look ever presented of the beloved shows. Explore Art’s fascination with the counter-cultural creative winds of the late ’60s and ’70s, infused with his spiritual learning from Christianity, Zen Buddhism and Eastern avatars. All of which provided the foundation for Art’s creative works,” continues Joe.
Having entertained generations of fans since his introduction in the early 1950s, Gumby–unforgettable, kind-hearted, flexible–is firmly rooted in American culture. Art Clokey made an indelible mark in the world of animation and influenced thousands of artists. A teacher at heart, he mentored many creatives who went on to be stop-motion superstars known for their work on iconic films such as Star Wars, Terminator, Beetlejuice, Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story, Kubo, and many other blockbusters.
Dynamite CEO and publisher, Nick Barrucci, said “Art Clokey and Gumby are as important to the history of American animation as the creations of Walt Disney…to be able to tell the story of this man and his incredible cast of characters is a high watermark, both as a publisher, and for me as a fan. Looking through these incredible photos and reading such rich history is guaranteed to make each and every one of us feel like a kid again.”
“Gumby Through the Years” Presentation and Book Signings
Joan and Joe are available for presentations and book signing events. Their “Gumby Through the Years” video/live presentation has sold out at Comic Con, Gumby Fest and other venues. Please contact us here for more information.
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Gumby, the unforgettable stop motion character, has entertained generations of fans since his introduction in the early 1950s. Now, Dynamite will release the essential compendium to his 60-year history in 2017, featuring an incredible retrospective on not only the characters themselves, but a look into the life of their creator: Art Clokey.
New Deluxe Collection to Pay Tribute to The Art and History of the Creations of Art Clokey
“The most fascinating life story I’ve ever known just happens to be about my dad, mom and the world famous characters they created. Art Clokey’s journey intersects and influences major touchstones of our American life. The sixty-year, behind-the-scenes story of Gumby and Davey & Goliath, interwoven with a rich tapestry of photos and rare anecdotes, weds perfectly with Art Clokey and his amazing life,” says Joe Clokey, son of Gumby creator, Art Clokey.
“This book will be a fascinating ‘page-turner’ with never-before-told stories about this clay animation pioneer. You’ll see Art’s friendship with East-West philosopher Alan Watts. His love and partnership with his wife Ruth Clokey and later with Gloria Clokey. Explore Art’s fascination with the counter-cultural creative winds of the late 60s and 70s, infused with his spiritual learning from Christianity, Zen Buddhism and Eastern Avatars,” states Joe Clokey.
Joe continues, “Discover Art’s groundbreaking stop-motion TV commercials in the early 50s (including his work with fellow stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen), along with over 40 hours of Gumby and Davey adventures, and art films, which opened up new avenues for all of us, the texture of which will inspire. See how stop motion superstars got their start with Clokey Productions, and then went on to work on iconic films from Star Wars, Terminator and Beetlejuice to Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story and Kubo. It’s truly an honor to work with Dynamite Entertainment on this very special book.”
“Art Clokey and Gumby are as important to the history of American animation as the creations of Walt Disney,” says Dynamite CEO and Publisher, Nick Barrucci, “To be able to tell the story of this man and his incredible cast of characters is a high watermark, both as a publisher, and for me as a fan. Looking through these incredible photos and reading such rich history is guaranteed to make each and every one of us feel like a kid again.”
Dynamite Entertainment’s beautiful Gumby retrospective will be released in 2017. Look for details on pricing, format, and release in the coming weeks, along with news of other future Dynamite Gumby products!
About Dynamite Entertainment:
Dynamite was founded in 2004 and is home to several best-selling comic book titles and properties, including The Boys, The Shadow, Red Sonja, Warlord of Mars, Bionic Man, A Game of Thrones, and more. Dynamite owns and controls an extensive library with over 3,000 characters (which includes the Harris Comics and Chaos Comics properties), such as Vampirella, Pantha, Evil Ernie, Smiley the Psychotic Button, Chastity, and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. In addition to their critically-acclaimed titles and bestselling comics, Dynamite works with some of the most high profile creators in comics and entertainment, including Kevin Smith, Alex Ross, Neil Gaiman, Andy Diggle, John Cassaday, Garth Ennis, Jae Lee, Marc Guggenheim, Mike Carey, Jim Krueger, Greg Pak, Brett Matthews, Matt Wagner, Gail Simone, Steve Niles, James Robinson, and a host of up-and-coming new talent. Dynamite is consistently ranked in the upper tiers of comic book publishers and several of their titles – including Alex Ross and Jim Krueger’s Project Superpowers – have debuted in the Top Ten lists produced by Diamond Comics Distributors. In 2005, Diamond awarded the company a GEM award for Best New Publisher and another GEM in 2006 for Comics Publisher of the Year (under 5%) and again in 2011. The company has also been nominated for and won several industry awards, including the prestigious Harvey and Eisner Awards.
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About Premavision, Inc. / Clokey Productions, Inc.
Founded by Art and Ruth Clokey, Premavision/Clokey Productions stop motion animation studio is best known for creating the iconic character Gumby—the world’s original clayboy. The studio has produced over 200 Gumby TV episodes and The Gumby Movie, as well as the popular Davey and Goliath show. The company’s productions have aired worldwide for 60 years, and the legacy continues under the direction of Joe and Joan Clokey.
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The Gumby Team Presents ‘Sixty Years of Gumby’
Panel at Comic Con on Sunday, July 12.
Get a glimpse into Gumby’s world during a panel presentation at Comic Con in San Diego on Sunday, July 12, 2015, at 11 a.m. in Room 29AB.
A panel from Gumby’s studio (Premavision/Clokey Productions) and industry experts will discuss the creation of Gumby, stop motion animation and the art and stories of Gumby’s Eisner Award-winning comic books.
The family that created the beloved clay boy will share the inside scoop on how Gumby became such a pop culture icon. Art and Ruth Clokey brought Gumby to life six decades ago in 1955. As the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of Gumby being molded from clay, Joe (Art and Ruth’s son) and his wife Joan carry on the family tradition as they head up Gumby’s studio.
Art Clokey, a pioneer in the field of stop motion animation has inspired generations of artists, animators, photographers, puppet makers, directors and producers. He received the Inkpot Award in 2006 for lifetime achievement.
With new productions in the works, and a newly re-mastered library of episodes being released on DVD, Gumby is poised for a major Renaissance.
The Comic Con panel will feature:
- Joe (President and Producer) and Joan Clokey (Creative Director), who will share some personal anecdotes about Gumby, show behind-the-scene clips and touch on the history of the character
- Gumby Animation Director Anthony Scott (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, Corpse Bride, The Little Prince…)
- Harry Walton (Indiana Jones, Nightmare Before Christmas…), longtime Gumby animator and FX guru
- Rick Geary (National Cartoonist award winner…), Gumby comic book illustrator
- Mary Flynn (NCircle Entertainment)
We’ll see you there!
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Gumby’s Going to College!
Gumby Fest has a new home – Citrus College in Glendora, California. The second annual Gumby Fest is expanding to fill an entire weekend (Sept. 18-20, 2015) and a larger venue. With so much to see and do, you won’t want to miss it.
Gumby turns 60 this year and Citrus is celebrating its centennial, so it’s a great time to bring the two together to present the festival that will feature all the fun from the inaugural festival and much more.
“This is such a fortuitous opportunity for our programs,” says Robert Slack, Dean of Fine and Performing Arts at Citrus College. “We are 18 months away from finishing a new 30,000 square- foot Fine Arts Complex that will have more than 100 Mac stations to teach design, animation and various other digital media classes.”
Gumby Fest will be staged at the college’s existing Performing Arts complex that includes the 1,440-seat Haugh Performing Arts Center, a 150-seat “black box” theater, rehearsal halls, computer labs, classrooms, a large technical theater sound stage, dance studio, and a state-of-the-art audio recording complex.
“There are so many related disciplines in the arts that are part of a stop-motion production, so having Citrus present Gumby Fest 2015 will be perfect,” said Joe Clokey, son of creator Art Clokey. “I’m sure Gumby Fest 2015 will put smiles on a whole new group of families and animation enthusiasts.”
New this year will be the first U.S. Stop-Motion Animation Festival spotlighting the work of students from kindergarten to college, as well as post-collegiate entries.
Festival activities will include more children’s art workshops in classrooms, discussion panels with stop-motion animation professionals, screenings of Gumby cartoons and stop-motion animation submissions, as well as an expanded Gumby Through the Years presented by Joe Clokey, son of creator Art Clokey, and more.
Art and Ruth Clokey founded Clokey Films (later renamed Clokey Productions) when they launched Gumby in 1955. The studio moved from Hollywood to a larger facility in Glendora, California in 1960, when they began production on 85 Gumby episodes and 65 Davey and Goliath episodes.
Gumby debuted on NBC’s Howdy Doody Show and became an instant success to get his own series on the network. Gumby and his friends starred in more than 209 TV episodes and a movie.
Many of the animators, puppet makers and set designers who worked with the Clokeys in Glendora went on to work for Star Wars, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, James and the Giant Peach and more stop-motion animation and other film classics.
Clokey’s son Joe and his wife Joan employ top animators, puppet makers and set designers in the industry (many of whom were mentored by Art himself) as they continue all things Gumby with Premavision, Inc., and Prema Toy, Inc.
A new generation of Gumby fans are enjoying re-mastered Gumby episodes broadcast on Teletoon in Canada and on Kabillion and Ameba TV here in the United States.
For more information about Gumby Fest, email Matt Jackson, professor of Animation at the Citrus College Fine and Performing Arts Department, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow developments and plans for Gumby Fest 2015 at www.gumbyfest.net.Read More »
Re-mastered Gumby Episodes to Air in November
Big news! Your favorite Gumby episodes will be back on TV! Kabillion, one of the Top 10 Kids Free On Demand TV networks will launch Gumby episodes in mid November. Kabillion is available in over 45 million households in the U.S., so check your cable menu. There is a good chance that you already have this station in the “free” section of the menu. The Kabillion network is provided by most of the major cable companies: Time Warner, Comcast, Verizon, Charter, Bright House, Blue Ridge Communications, and more. Read about Kabillion here. Check out Kabillion’s YouTube station to watch online.
Joe Clokey, son of Gumby creators Art and Ruth Clokey, has recently re-mastered the classic Gumby episodes from their original camera film rolls and included the original soundtracks. Gumby is brighter, more colorful and more fun than ever! You’ve never seen Gumby like this before! With 209 episodes, the longtime hit series has aired in over 146 countries and touched many generations, first airing in the mid 1950s, and continuing into the 2000s.
“My parents created Gumby as a gift of love to children and the child within all of us,” commented Joe Clokey. “People from all generations have been enthralled with these timeless imaginative adventures. Families today want to have 24/7 access to content and we are delighted to be partnering with Kabillion who can now make this happen for our Gumby fans everywhere.”
“For well over fifty years, Gumby has inspired people of all ages and nationalities with the shows central concept of lending a helping hand to others. Gumby has truly become a cultural icon,” commented Nicolas Atlan, Kabillion President & Splash Entertainment co-CEO. “We are excited to bring Gumby to our audience as it is a show that crosses multiple generations and will provide a great co-viewing experience,” added David Di Lorenzo, Vice President Licensing and Digital Distribution for Kabillion.
Stayed tuned… more announcements and official launch dates to come.
P.S. To our Canadian fans: You’re going to love what we have in store for you!
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Gumby has a fun new app! Now you can be Gumby or Pokey as you message or chat. Intel’s new Pocket Avatar app creates instant animation. Simply record a message, and the app maps your voice and facial expressions onto an image of Gumby or Pokey. It’s instant animation. Send the message to friend via text or email to get the conversation started or post to your favorite social media sites.
How it works: The camera captures moving faces, lighting conditions and a range of emotions such as smiles, blinking eyes or kisses. The recordings are processed through an algorithm and then mapped on the avatar in real time to create personalized video messages. Emoticons have been a standard tool for expressions in text messaging. An animated chat that reflects a real person’s mood is more engaging. If a user is angry or happy, the avatar will show it.
“Gumby is thrilled to be one of the first Pocket Avatars! For generations, fans have formed lasting emotional connections with the character. Gumby–the world’s original clayboy–is a timeless icon and natural avatar. He is synonymous with ‘flexibility’ as he can morph into any shape. With his adventurous spirit, bright outlook on life and desire to leave a place better than how he found it, Gumby is loveable and irresistible. As the theme song says, ‘If you’ve got a heart, then Gumby’s a part of you!’ Everyone has a little Gumby (and Pokey) inside.” -Joe Clokey, President, Premavision/Clokey Productions
See Pocket Avatars in action:
Pocket Avatars After Hours with Gumby
Pocket Avatars Intro to the App
Channel your inner Gumby or Pokey, and send messages with more creative flair. Download Pocket Avatars, and chat funner!
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Glendora Racer Kenton Koch Promotes Inaugural Gumby Fest at 125 mph
April, 2014 (GLENDORA, Calif) Race drivers come in all shapes and sizes. Glendora native Kenton Koch is tall and lean, just like another famous Glendora native—Gumby. On May 1-3, Kenton will be taking Gumby for a high-speed ride in his ALARA Racing Mazda MX-5 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, California. This community partnership is to promote the June 14th Gumby Fest in Glendora, and help raise money for the Glendora Library.
Kenton will be donating his custom Gumby Fest Mazda Motorsports Sparco racesuit and helmet to the Glendora Library to be auctioned off in support of the library.
Kenton Koch: “Being a native Glendora resident, I jumped at the chance to support this great community event. My plan is to take both Gumby and Pokey to the winners circle in Monterey.”
Joe Cina, Executive Director, Glendora Chamber of Commerce: “The inaugural Gumby Fest is all about fun for the family. It’s wonderful to have young community leaders like Kenton Koch step forward in creative ways to help out. This will be a great photo op for kids of all ages.”
Joe Clokey, Clokey Productions/Premavision: “Gumby is about adventure, and racing is certainly an adventure. It’s great to have a Glendora native carrying Gumby and Pokey at the racetrack.”
About Gumby and Gumby Fest
Memories of Gumby make everyone smile. What most people don’t know is that Gumby is alive and doing well, and we’re here to help promote and educate everyone on the history of Gumby as well as the magic Gumby will create for future generations. Welcome to Gumby Fest Glendora. Many are not aware Glendora, California, is Gumby’s hometown. Gumby was created in the mind of Art Clokey after he graduated from USC in the early 1950s. In 1953, Art produced the first clay animation music video called “Gumbasia,” which led to the Gumby series. Based on a suggestion by Art’s wife Ruth, Gumby’s shape was inspired by a gingerbread man. Clokey’s first commercial production of Gumby was an episode for the hugely popular “The Howdy Doody Show.” Gumby then earned his own spin-off in 1957 on NBC that resulted in 233 episodes. In 1960, the couple opened Clokey Productions on Fleetwood Avenue in Glendora. For the next 18 years, Gumby and the stop-motion animated children’s Christian television series, “Davey & Goliath” were produced quietly in an unassuming industrial building in south Glendora. Since Gumby lived in Glendora during his formative years from when he was 7 until 25, we humbly claim that Glendora is Gumby’s Hometown. In honor of Glendora’s connection to Gumby, Glendora will host the first ever Gumby Fest on June 14, 2014, with film screenings, demonstrations, memorabilia, historical displays and plenty of games, contests and activities for the kids.
About Kenton Koch Racing
19-year old Kenton Koch has been racing for over a decade, starting out in karts at age eight. The Glendora native balanced his school work with racing as he moved up to racing with the Skip Barber Racing School where he won 30 races over three years. Kenton won the 2013 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge to earn a place in the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy. Kenton kicked off the 2014 season with a win and a second place in the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich. When not at the racetrack, Kenton is a full-time student at Cal State Fullerton where he is majoring in Mechanical Engineering.
Learn more about “Gumby Fest” at http://www.gumbyfest.net
Race Questions: Kenton Koch Racing. Kenton Koch, email@example.com, 626-622-5858
Glendora, CA – Several film industry stop-motion animation artists will be joining the fun of the premier Gumby Fest to be held June 14 in Glendora, California.
Gumby, the world’s original clayboy and pop-culture legend who starred in more than 230 TV episodes and a movie, “grew up” in Glendora, where the iconic TV series was produced from 1960 to the late 1970s.
The celebration of all-things Gumby as well as stop-motion animation will take place on the grounds of Glendora City Hall and Public Library at the corner of Glendora Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.
Among the family fun at Gumby Fest 2014:
- “Gumby Through the Years” presented by Joe Clokey, son of creator Art Clokey,
- Gumby Museum with memorabilia provided by the Clokey family and Gumby producer Premavision, Inc.,
- Film screenings of Gumby cartoons, as well as stop-motion animation videos submitted to festival organizers,
- A Kids’ Stop-Motion Animation Studio conducted by animation artists from Stoopid Buddies Stoodios, home to the longest running stop-motion show on television, Robot Chicken. Children will learn how to produce a stop-motion video they can take home after the festival,
- Panel discussions about the past, present and future of stop-motion animation with artists from LAIKA Studios, producers of ParaNorman and next September’s BoxTrolls, along with stop-motion animators who worked with Art Clokey to produce Gumby shows.
Art and Ruth Clokey founded Clokey Films (later renamed Clokey Productions) when they launched “Gumby” in 1955. The studio moved from Hollywood to a larger facility in Glendora, California in 1960 when they began production on 85 “Gumby” episodes and 65 “Davey and Goliath” episodes.
Clokey’s son Joe and his wife Joan employ top animators, puppet makers and set designers in the industry (many of whom were mentored by Art himself) as they continue all things Gumby with Premavision, Inc., and Prema Toy, Inc.
Gumby Fest is produced by the Glendora Chamber of Commerce, Glendora Community Services, Glendora Library, Glendora Rotary and Glendora Kiwanis.
Sponsors include A1 Rentals, The Glendora Library Friends Foundation, Southland Properties, NJ Croce, Undercovers, Crazy Dog Ladies, Alta Pacific Bank, and TAS Advertising Specialists.
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The Clokeys (stewards of the Gumby brand and Clokey Productions/ Premavision Studios), were the Saturday night headliners at the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival in October, 2013. The Clokeys, along with director Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas), were the festival jurors.
What an inspiring event! It was a stop motion marathon—over 300 short films were submitted to the competition. Producers, directors, animators, puppet makers, writers, set designers and crew from around the world attended to premier their new films.
The Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival, which was launched five years ago, is the first festival in the world dedicated solely to stop motion animation. Founder Erik Goulet, an animation professor at Montreal’s Concordia University, frustrated with the lack of attention that stop motion films received at regular film festivals, decided to start his own. He has been generating international attention for this unique art form. Other stop motion animation festivals are now springing up around the world: Poland, Brazil and Mexico.
Festival goers learned more about stop motion pioneer Art Clokey and the impact Gumby had on the development of animation during the “Gumby through the Years” presentation. The montage included a sampling of Gumby and Davey and Goliath episodes and excerpts, Art Clokey’s art films and his early commercial work. While a few film and commercial makers were experimenting with stop motion animation in the 1950’s, Gumby was the first stop motion character to have his own TV series. Many of today’s acclaimed animators attribute their break in industry to Art Clokey, who was known for hiring and training young art school graduates. Gumby has inspired thousands in the animation business and continues to stir imagination and creativity.
Henry Selick’s presentation included a screening of Nightmare Before Christmas (celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary) and scenes from his features: Coraline, James and Giant Peach and Monkey Bone. Animation Director Anthony Scott, who learned to animate under Art Clokey and later worked on many of Henry Selick’s films, joined in the presentation to share his anecdotes and perspective on how stop motion has evolved in the last 20 years.
You can read more about the Montreal Film Festival and the winners at http://www.stopmotionmontreal.com/index.php/en/
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We caught up with Gumby puppet maker Nicole LaPointe-McKay to get the inside scoop on making puppets as a profession. Part One of our interview follows, and Part Two will appear in a future blog post, so stayed tuned; you’ll want to read the full story.
GC: Welcome Nicole. Thank you for taking time to join us at Gumby World today to tell us more about yourself and your experiences as a puppet maker.
NLM: I’m happy to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
GC: How did you become interested in being a puppet maker?
NLM: I’ve been interested in puppets since I was a kid. I was obsessed with the Muppet Show and stop animation programs. I watched Gumby on TV with my little brother. My mother would craft puppets for me to use in plays that I made up. I put on shows with hand puppets, my favorite monkey puppet, and a few marionettes. I always volunteered to get up in front of people to perform and lead others, such as the Girl Scouts, in plays. I was a thespian in high school, and it seemed natural that I would go on to study theater in college.
GC: How did you get involved with Gumby?
NLM: After college and having gained a few years of experience in puppet making, set design and animation, I applied to a posting on AWN.com (Animation World Network), not knowing what the studio was. I didn’t get that particular job, since it had already been filled, but I kept in touch with the studio—Clokey Productions. When studio producer Joe Clokey had an opening for a set designer, he called me. I worked on the Gumby Namco game commercial and have been with Gumby ever since. You can see some production photos here: (http://www.gumbyworld.com/gumbys-studio/)
GC: What kinds of puppets do you make?
NLM: I’m trained to work with just about any material and style of puppet. In my studies I was exposed to puppets from around the world and different time periods. Some of my favorites were the Japanese bunraku, the French Guinol and the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. Currently I fashion a lot of clay puppets for stop motion. I do have some personal projects in the works that involve hand-rod, big-mouth puppets (like the Muppets-type puppets.) I’m doing some new clay animation, too.
GC: How do you make a Gumby puppet?
NLM: Gumby is made of mostly Van Aken clay—a secret recipe! I whip up a batch following his unique recipe, mix, and boil it down in a double boiler to a unified color and the right consistency. I prep the silicone/stone mold with a floating armature. This is Gumby’s skeleton. I then pour the mixture into the mold and let it cool. Sometimes I chill it in the fridge to speed the process. Next, I pop him out of the mold and clean him up by trimming the seams and patching the bubble marks. Gumby gets an oil massage to make him smooth. I then drop a faceplate on him to mark where the features will go. Finally, I add the delicate clay features of his face.
GC: How many Gumby puppets does it take to make a Gumby TV episode?
NLM: More than you would think. The number of puppets needed really depends upon the storyline and type of morphing and movement that the puppet does. When Gumby morphs and changes shape, he needs to be replaced after every few seconds of animation, because the clay loses its shape. One minute of animation can require 20 Gumbys, sometimes more. The lights can also melt the clay, requiring a change of puppets. Because we go through so many puppets, it’s critical that they are all identical and made to the same specifications.
GC: You were involved in the Gumby Google doodle that appeared on October 12, 2011 to honor Art Clokey’s 90th birthday. Tell us about that.
NLM: It was a collaborative effort, involving a small subset of the Clokey Productions’ crew. We worked long distance—by phone, Skype and email. With the short deadline, I made puppets non-stop for a week before the animator could do his part. We used 3-6 puppets of each character for about 4-6 seconds of animation per character. The individual segments of animation were then sent to Google, where their programming team integrated them into their home page. It was exciting to see the characters come to life and move with the click of a mouse. The interaction was really fun! I think this was the first clay animation doodle that Google has used. The doodle was online around the world, so I hope that it inspired a renewed interest in clay animation. You can view it live and interact with it here: http://www.gumbygoogle.co.cc/
GC: What do you do for fun?
NLM: I’m always brainstorming and designing puppet shows and animations based on the interests of little kids that I know. I watch a lot of cartoons with my two-year-old daughter. I love to create (working in clay, painting…) and most enjoy brainstorming creative ideas with my artsy friends.
GC: What are your favorite recent animated productions?
NLM: I’m into watching Timmy Time, a stop motion animation with clay, foam, and rubber puppets done by the Aardman studio in England. I like this style of animation, because there is little speaking; it’s simple and tells the story through actions. Rather than a lot of words, they use onomatopoeia. Timmy Time is a preschool of animals, which children of all ages can enjoy watching. It’s cute, funny, has bright colors and teaches a lesson.
GC: What inspires you about the future?
NLM: Giving back is essential. I grew up in an area that did not provide many opportunities for kids to learn the arts. I still remember a week in my fifth grade class when our teacher had us make puppets and do a book report using them. That changed my life I think. You never know how you can have a positive influence on the next generation. To do my part, I teach stop motion animation classes and workshops at summer camps for kids.
Today, kids are animating with their phones and digital SLR’s. They have so many opportunities to create animations or other imaginative works. The tools are readily available. I love to help spark their imaginations.
GC: You can see some of Nicole’s work and read more on her blog:
Learn more about the career of puppet making in the second segment of our interview with Nicole. Look for it in a future blog post.
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