The Kid Should See This

Gumbasia (1953), Art Clokey’s first claymation short film

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Art Clokey’s first film brought clay objects to life with jazz music and an experimental approach to editing and movement. Gumbasia, named in reference to Disney’s Fantasia, was made for a class at the University of Southern California in 1953, a film exercise to explore his professor’s kinesthetic film principles.

When Hollywood producer Sam Engel saw it at a private screening between friends, Engel reportedly got up and paced in front of the screen. From Gumbyworld.com:

“In the next sentence he said ‘Can you make little clay figures out of that clay and animate them?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘if you can pick some stories and make the characters I will finance the pilot film. I want to improve the quality of television for children.’”

Gumbasia

“That was his main concern. He wasn’t thinking of earning money. In fact he gave the whole entire film to me—he didn’t want any piece of the action, he just wanted to get me started on doing something for children of high quality. He wanted me to show the pilot film to Tom Sarnoff at NBC and Hollywood. That was in 1956.”

Gumbasia

“When Tom Sarnoff gave us a contract for seven years to produce a Gumby series and put on a Gumby show, Sam Engel just said, ‘You take it Art I don’t want anything from this. I just want to see something good for children put on TV,’ and he achieved that. He was very generous in spirit.”

Gumbasia
Via Animation Obsessive, Art Clokey’s 1980s description of kinesthetic filmmaking:

“‘It’s similar to music. You build to a climax through use of timing and intensity of the stimuli — the duration, syncopation and so on. All deal with the same thing. Slavko Vorkapich, my film teacher at USC, taught that it’s more like poetry and music. He would refer to the shots and the definite cuts as notes. Visual notes to combine and use in various ways, to get across your feelings… It’s the balance of repetition, variety, tempo. And just a split second of rest. It’s all a mysterious combination.'”

Gumbasia claymation
Watch more experimental animation on TKSST, including:
• Rainbow Dance (1936) by Len Lye
Oskar Fischinger’s Optical Poem (1938)
• Norman McLaren’s Boogie Doodle (1948)
• Rythmetic (1956), a numbers film by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart
• Drums West by Jim Henson (1961)
• Cubits (1978) by Al Jarnow

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