Long before Terminators 1, 2, 3, and 4, a revolt of the machines was successfully quelled by the Great Green Hope otherwise known as Gumby, aided by his four-legged comrade-in-arms, Pokey. Robot Rumpus is one of the earliest and best of the Gumby stop motion shorts directed for television by Art Clokey in his 1950s heyday. It was, in fact, the second Gumby short produced by Clokey, and the first one to be broadcast (on NBC’s Howdy Doody Show).
Robot Rumpus introduces us to two of Gumby’s many worlds: the suburban home world where Gumby lives with his parents, Gumba and Gumbo, and the land of toys that is the source of most of his adventures. (In the suburban home world, Gumby and his parents appear human-scaled, while in the toy world, Gumby and Pokey are no bigger than the toys.) Like most of the early Gumby shorts, Robot Rumpus is sweetly innocent without being syrupy or overly sentimental. The visual gags are plentiful and inventive, with the action occasionally taking place on several planes. I am particularly charmed by the renegade robot who proclaims his existential identity by painting his name, ROBOT, on the side of the Gumby family’s house.
Gumby was created by Clokey while studying at the University of Southern California film school, a favorite pupil/disciple of montage theorist Slavko Vorkapich. For those interested in learning more about Clokey, his proto-hippie lifestyle (he was an associate of Timothy Leary and Alan Watts), and his various claymation creations, I highly recommend the featurette, Gumby Dharma, which has been broadcast on the Independent Film Channel.