The Avant-Garde Roots of 'Gumby'
What animation can learn from live-action film.
Happy Thursday! In this issue of the Animation Obsessive newsletter, our subject is a bit off the beaten path. We’re talking about how Gumby originated in live-action, avant-garde cinema.
Right away, that raises questions. First, what could animation possibly learn from live-action filmmaking? Second, how does a goofy, retro TV series for children have anything in common with experimental films? Third, can a technique really be “avant-garde” when it’s decades old and widely accepted by now?
Looking into the weird history of Gumby, you find answers to all three.
The show’s creator, Art Clokey, started as a film student. He learned his craft under a groundbreaking film artist named Slavko Vorkapich (1894–1976) — whose ideas had changed Hollywood between the ‘20s and ‘40s. Clokey turned these ideas into hit TV.
Below, we’re exploring Vorkapich’s style and how Clokey used it — and what its value may be to animation today. Enjoy!