- GUMBY DHARMA - REVIEWS -
From the ASIFA-SF newsletter
I was quite surprised and impressed with the content of the film. The film focuses on Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, and is an honest look at a life that includes several painful moments. Gumby fans will enjoy charming sequences with the green clay boy, Pokey, the Blockheads and other figments from Art's imagination, and will learn about how Gumby got his start, but the real story is who Art is and how his life story shaped and nurtured his imaginary friends.
The film is about where his creativity comes from, but instead of this being a cute charming story about inspiration, it is a biography involving several deaths, a childhood interrupted by a broken marriage, a cruel stepfather, rejection and other non-Disney elements. There is much joy in it including Art being adopted by Dr. Clokey, a relative who provided him with a new lease on life. Art explains that Gumby is his vision of a world where he can safely celebrate life and that he and all of us can be Gumby. The Gumby episodes are his daydreams of a world he missed growing up.
This unusual biography also tells how Art has been confronted with several personal hardships since the creation of Gumby. You may be surprised at his reaction to his being awarded the contract to do Davey and Goliath (he couldn't work with the church officials producing the series so he took a hike and left the project to his wife) or how the 1960s counter-culture changed him (he got a divorce and became a hippie - in the documentary he isn't proud of this period). Having read a somewhat flowery biography of Clokey, I was expecting to hear lots of dubious tales of his career, but instead I was confronted with a somewhat sad life. He found great pleasure in his family and in the world he created on film but the positive things are punctuated with personal memories that remind us that life can also be difficult.
The film has lots of other surprises. One is Art believing his luck changed for the better after a guru in India blessed Gumby. Another is his going through life hiring people based on his intuition rather than on resume reviews, checking references, etc. Several of today's best animators got their start thanks to Art Clokey's hunches.
It appears that Art is first and foremost a fine artist. His son talks about how his mother took care of business matters while his father was the creative energy behind Gumby and their other projects. She raised the family while dad was off hanging out with Frank Zappa and other members of the counter-culture.
If you see a Gumby episode in the future you will probably get more out of the experience after seeing Gumby Dharma.