Last night I watched a documentary called Gumby Dharma about Art Clokey, the man who created Gumby and Davey and Goliath. The film has received an Emmy award and has played on the Sundance Channel.
Among the more interesting features of the movie are the “interviews” with Gumby, Pokey, and other characters created by Clokey. We certainly see a lot about the creation and evolution of Gumby and Clokey’s development of stop motion animation, but it is Timothy Hittle’s own animation of these characters recounting stories of their association with Clokey is most arresting. Some viewers might be put off by Gumby’s discussion of the depression Clokey endured after his daughter’s suicide, and others may not feel comfortable with Clokey himself discussing the way he left his family or his anger when he found out that he was not properly credited for Davey and Goliath. One might get the impression that Clokey could not tell the difference between childlike and childish. However, the movie shouldn’t be comfortable for everyone just because memories of these shows make us feel good.
The movie does mention other projects in Clokey’s oeuvre. We see how he made Gumbasia, the short that got him his big break. Probably the most interesting material might be about the making of Mandala. He made this film with the help of his family, and seems to incorporate much of Clokey’s spiritual vision at that time.
I would have liked more in this movie about Davey and Goliath, but that is probably because I have the strongest emotional connection to this series. I watched these episodes as often as I could as a child, and they made a huge impact on me. I did notice that the timeline on the “official” website for this program barely mentions Clokey. Sad. Apparently there is a documentary about the series, however, that includes interviews with him.
Gumby Dharma was directed by the late Robina Marchesi. This film was, according to the website, her first full length documentary. At the time of this writing, I could find very little information about her, but I am sad that her life was over before she could make more movies.
Gumby Dharma isn’t always pretty, even if Clokey seems to want at times to quickly pass over some of the events of his life. And I suppose that the movie doesn’t quite end as I would have wanted. But the film is not so much about the characters Clokey created, but the character he has made of himself. It is the story of a spiritual journey, one that does not gloss over the suffering and folly that is a significant part of such a trip.