Gumby

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Gumby TV Poster Image
Surreal Claymation adventures, ideal whole-family viewing.

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Kids say

age 5+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational Value

For every educational lesson Gumby teaches (It's too cold on the moon for Earthlings!), there's an absurd counterpoint (so Gumby's dad rescues his son from the moon by using a firefighter's extension ladder!). Don't look to Gumby for education, just for delightfully weird and innocent entertainment. 

Positive Messages

Gumby and his friends are always willing to help a fellow creature in need -- many episodes begin with Gumby and Pokey finding a sad king, a lost little girl, a confused dragon, etc., and then trying to help them get what they need. On the other hand, Gumby, Pokey, and their friends often fight with the Blockheads (who are, admittedly, pretty destructive), and win the day through trickery and sabotage rather than reason. Some episodes also feature period racism -- a series of episodes concerning "Indians" has the Native Americans using arrows and smoke signals to communicate, and speaking in pidgin English: "Helicopter come, take children away...children no like Indians." Period sexism too: female characters are often only supportive to male ones rather than having their own adventures. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gumby is a friendly, cheerful character who's got a zest for life; he's always eager to give new things a try. He can be a little foolhardy, jumping into situations without thinking. Pokey is often more cynical and suspicious -- he keeps Gumby from making mistakes, but can also be a little cranky when he encounters new characters or worlds. 

Violence & Scariness

Gumby and the Blockheads frequently clash, but their "battles" are almost never physical. Instead, the Blockheads will do things like trying to steal Gumby's ice cream cone, or programming robots to knock down Gumby's house. Even the worst Blockhead misdeed is never scary to young viewers. 

Sexy Stuff

Romance is infrequently referred to. A female character, Goo, sometimes says or acts like she has a crush on Gumby, Pokey, or Prickle. 

Language

No cursing, and characters are usually very polite to each other. Infrequently, they may say things like "You blockhead!" to each other. 

Consumerism

All sorts of Gumby/Pokey merchandise is out there for sale: backpacks, cups, plastic figures, T-shirts, and the like; this show doesn't advertise it. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gumby is a children's show with stop-motion-animated clay figures that's gentle enough for very young viewers, but weird enough for teens and adults. Characters are polite, thoughtful, and kindly; their adventures consist of things like hopping into books to live the stories in them, running for office, or exploring a mystery connected to a Ferris wheel. Some episodes feature vintage racism or sexism -- male characters are at the center of most storylines, and female characters are sidelined; a running storyline about "Indians" has the Native Americans shooting arrows, sending smoke signals, and talking in stereotypical pidgin English. Parents may wish to explain to their children that many of these episodes were made in the 1950s, when people thought differently than they do now. Besides that, Gumby is lots of fun, with no iffy language, no scariness, and imaginative, surreal adventures. It's not educational -- unless you want your children to think they can fly, get stuck in gumball machines, or eat a haunted hot dog -- but it's interestingly odd and innocent. 

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Teen, 15 years old Written byNna12 August 26, 2018

What's the story?

First aired in 1955, GUMBY still has charms for young children -- and for people of any age with an appreciation for oddball entertainment. Gumby (voiced by Ruth Eggleston in early shows, later by Dallas McKennon, among others) is a green clay figure with many magical abilities, who usually hangs around with a cynical orange pony, Pokey (voiced by Art Clokey, Dallas McKennon, and Norma MacMillan). As the show's early theme song tells us, they can walk into any book -- and frequently do, running into stop-motion claymation figures like knights and dragons, sad kings, lost little girls, and dogs who can talk (but can't say anything besides "Nope!"). It's pretty weird in Gumby's world. And that's just what fans like. 

Is it any good?

Colorful, deliciously bizarre, cute, and gentle, this claymation show has an almost mystical ability to enchant people of all ages. A big part of the allure is Gumby's world, which is clearly hand-built and sometimes even a little clumsy. When Gumby wants to take a look at what some faraway friends are doing, he winds up a gadget clearly made from a repurposed cocoa tin, some glued-on bolts, and -- is that? -- yes, painted elbow macaroni. Every frame is alive with weird little details. While your children may be paying attention to a plotline about Gumby's missing ice cream cone, you'll be scrutinizing the edges of each shot for strange things (and finding them). 

After watching, it probably won't surprise you to learn that in the 1970s, Gumby's creator Art Clokey took Beatles-like journeys to India to study with gurus (and to experiment with LSD) -- nor that Clokey's other best-known series, Davey and Goliath, was a squeaky-clean lessons-and-morals filled show. You'll see both of these Clokey sides in Gumby, his creator's towering curiosity and imagination, as well as compassion and kindness. The show's classic theme song says it best: "If you've got a heart, then Gumby's a part of you." 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this particular animated show has endured, while other children's shows of the 1950s have faded into obscurity. Gumby got its start as a segment on the children's show Howdy Doody. Have you heard of that show? Seen it? Why has this show survived to be watched today while the much-more-popular-in-its-time Howdy Doody hasn't? 

  • Some of the stereotypes and characters are somewhat dated today. Which parts of the show still stand up today and which ones are outdated? What can we learn about a particular moment in time from the entertainment it produced? Does this series give you any clues about how people thought and felt during the 1950s and 60s? What do you think people 50 years from now will think of us based on the shows you watch?

  • How does Gumby demonstrate courage in this series? Why is this an important character strength? Does Gumby's curiosity ever lead him into trouble? Is it valuable nonetheless? 

TV details

For kids who love classic cartoons

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