Denali the Mastodon

Would you ever expect that one of Gumby’s friends would be a Mastodon? We asked Art where he got this idea.

Some years ago a group of biologists, zoologists, and geologists followed up on a discovery made by a mountain climber in Alaska. He could see a Mastodon in the ice of a glacier that he was climbing. It had fallen into a chasm where it had been trapped in the glacial ice for more than 10,000 years.

Denali the Mastodon
Denali and Tilly
Denali in "Robot Farm"

The scientists had to travel to the location by dog sled. When they arrived they were very surprised and excited by the discovery. The animal was in one piece and its fur was in good condition. They were able to examine it and learn about an animal that lived at the time that mankind was beginning to live in communities. The flesh of the animal had been preserved so well that the guides fed some of the meat to their sled dogs. The dogs appreciated this dinner, which they needed for energy to pull the sleds over the snow and ice, and to keep them warm as they slept outdoors through the freezing night.

This story inspired Art Clokey to invent a character that would mark the event of this important scientific discovery. “I thought that would be interesting to place this little educational thought into the consciousness of the children in my own way. We called him Denali because I learned that Mt. McKinley in Alaska is called Denali by the Eskimos. I think the United States government has changed the name from Mt. McKinley to Denali, which, in Eskimo means ‘The Great One’.”

Art created a Mastodon for Gumby and Pokey to ride as he galloped away from danger. “Part of the reason I put him into the series was that Gumby uses him to overcome obstacles. Later I thought sometimes that all of this came out of my subconscious. I wasn’t really conscious when I was writing these stories. I was daydreaming out of my unconscious mind after reading about Krishna. And there is an interesting parallel to something else, to Ganesha in Indian history. It is the name of the elephant faced man who became a god, and whose role is to overcome obstacles.”