The Pilot Episodes
Of the three pilot episodes of Gumby, the first was done by Art on his own, and the next two were done for NBC and shown on The Howdy Doody Show to test the audience’s reaction. Here’s the story in Art’s words:
“I took the Gumby pilot to Tom Sarnoff at NBC, who was immediately charmed by the character and the style of clay animation. He signed me to produce the series The Adventures of Gumby. Roger Muir, the producer of Howdy Doody, agreed after seeing the film that it would be a winner, and decided to introduce Gumby on his show. Gumby then graduated to his own show, The Gumby Show, with Pinky Lee as the emcee. Pinky Lee may have chafed under that title: I think that he resented playing second fiddle to a piece of clay.
Art won a seven-year contract to do The Gumby Show on NBC.
“NBC gave me complete artistic freedom, which is something almost unheard of now at a network. I would just fantasize and daydream. Some of the people I meet today say that I must have ‘taken something’ to do all those surrealistic things in Gumby. I have to tell them that I never did. I never smoked marijuana or taken psychedelics while making the films. I was very afraid of drugs during those creative years in the 50’s and early to mid sixties.
“Moon Trip” was the first NBC Gumby film, and the second pilot. Art proudly points out that “Gumby was on the moon long before anybody else really thought about it.” Gumby went to the moon in 1956. Here’s what Art had so say about it:
“Well, you know, the spaceship had four modules on spokes like a wheel. The fifth module, that is the central module, was spherical. The idea was that they would rotate in space and create artificial gravity with centrifugal force. I studied physics and chemistry and so on. I taught chemistry and physics in high school at one time. So I had the knowledge at that time, in 1956.”