The Marriage Of Movement And Music And Their First Child Named, Gumbasia

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When Art Clokey was a boy he would spend his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Michigan. He had a good pal who lived on a neighboring farm and, as boys liked to do in those days, Clokey and his pal often played with toy soldiers. Sometimes, when the battles were particularly fierce, they would need more troops. Clokey would raise them up by fashioning them out of a mixture of soil and water known as ‘gumbo’ – clay.

Some years later Art Clokey would create a children’s television icon – a kind of strange little character made of clay named Gumby.

Gumby - he's known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Gumby – he’s known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Before Art Clokey created Gumby he was an early claymation pioneer. It was his 1953 experimental claymation short, Gumbasia, that excited 20th Century Fox producer Sam Engel into giving Clokey his big break. ‘Art, that is the most exciting film I have ever seen in my life,’ Engel said. Engel envisioned a children’s television show using the idea of little claymation figures in various storylines. Giving free reign to Clokey he financed the Gumby pilot, introduced it to Tom Sarnoff at NBC Hollywood, and the rest is history.

Art Clokey’s Gumbasia was a fascinating project. Inspired by his mentor in film making, Slavko Vorkapich, Clokey wanted to work with the idea of ‘kinesthetic film principles’ which enabled him to show film forces through moving objects.

The movements exert a force on your nervous system. They pinch on your nervous system through your eye cells. When you organize the images in the movement from cut to cut, it stimulates the autonomic nervous system. It gives you added excitement and it can start a feeling of movement.

Combining the kinesthetic film principles with Vorkapich’s philosophy of film as poetry and music, Clokey created a short film unique for its time. Music wasn’t used just as a cover – it was an intrinsic part of the experience. The transformation of the objects along with their movements blend with the lyric and the pulse of the jazz. It’s a visual sound experience. It’s also the concept for what would become music video. Gumbasia might properly be considered a prototype for music videos into the future.

Bicycle Safety: Don’t Be A Monkey, Right?

One Got Fat Title
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In an almost fairy tale manner, this [1963] film depicts a group of monkey-like youngsters riding bicycles to the park for a picnic and pictures the violation of various bicycle safety rules. As the youngsters are eliminated one by one because of rule violations, only one arrives at the park for the picnic. Narration: Edward Everett Horton (TV’s Fractured Fairy Tales)

Just looking at screenshots of a few of the characters is enough to give any sensitive child nightmares for a week. (Images via Charm and Poise)

One Got Fat : Screenshot
One Got Fat: Screenshot
One Got Fat: Screenshot
One Got Fat: Screenshot

When Darling Gertie The Dinosaur Ushered In The Character Cartoon Age

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Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 American animated short film by Winsor McCay. Although not the first animated film, as is sometimes thought, it was the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality. The appearance of a true character distinguished it from earlier animated “trick films”, such as those of Blackton and Cohl, and makes it the predecessor to later popular cartoons such as those by Walt Disney. The film was also the first to be created using keyframe animation. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and was named #6 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time in a 1994 survey of animators and cartoon historians by Jerry Beck.

The Public Domain Review

Could This Be The Holy Grail Of Sci-fi Animation Film Posters? – ‘A Trip To The Moon’ 1914

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A Trip To Mars Movie Poster - Lubin 1914

A Trip To Mars Movie Poster – Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1914

This poster would be an eye-catcher even without knowing anything about it. The illustration and graphic design just pop – it’s curious and fun, not unlike a lot of circus posters of the time that were designed to project those very elements. Unfortunately the artist is unknown – to collectors the poster is not. This might well be the Holy Grail of animated film posters. Invaluable, the world’s largest online auction marketplace, has listed this A Trip To Mars poster to go on auction on January 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EST. The auction house hosting the sale, Poster Auctions International, Inc., list the estimated price of this gem as $225,000 – $275,000.

This is their description:

Siegmund Lubin, a Polish Jew who came to this country in the 1870s, founded The Lubin Manufacturing Company, one of the earliest film production firms (later becoming The Betzwood Film Co.), in Philadelphia, and by 1912 was head of America’s first movie empire. He was known as “The King of the Movies,” becoming America’s first cinema mogul.

In 1902, Georges Méliès created A Trip to the Moon based on Jules Verne’s classic novel. It was the first movie to achieve worldwide fame. Lubin and other iconic contemporaries such as Thomas Edison were cited for rampantly pirating the film. Méliès sent his brother to the United States to stop it, establishing many of the copyright laws that still stand today. However, Lubin decided that he wasn’t going to be stopped, figuring out an innovative way to avoid paying royalties to Méliès: he created one of the earliest fully animated films ever produced, an American version of A Trip to the Moon, in 1914.

Animated films were extraordinarily unusual for the time. This production opened to the public six months prior to the release of WIndsor (sic) McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, which is often (incorrectly) cited as the beginning of movie animation. This, in fact, is the earliest film poster to ever surface representing a significant title in animation. And this is the only known specimen of it.

The design of this poster is noteworthy for its futuristic boldness and graphic clarity. There is no known surviving poster for the Méliès original film (and most probably none were produced). This is the only representation of the famous title, and one of the earliest science fiction artifacts ever discovered. Lubin went all out in this poster. He sensed that the sheer novelty of this animated film (crude and short as it was) would be worth a special marketing effort, therefore this spectacular poster. The A.B.C. company, which handled all of Lubin’s posters, gets design credit. It is doubtful that Vincent Whitman, the animator of the cartoon, had anything to do with the poster. The famed Otis plant in Cleveland (Otis Litho Co., Cleveland, OH – ed.) handled the stone lithographic work with precision.

So there you have it – a truly one-of-a-kind piece of American film history. It will be interesting to see if this rarity sells and by how much. The starting bid is $220,000. Imagine how great it would be to have an extra quarter-of-a-million dollars to spend on a fantastic little item like this.

Salvador Dali – The Dream Designer (Spellbound, 1945)

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Who better to design a dream sequence for a 1945 Hitchcock psycho-thriller than Salvador Dali? Eyes, curtains, scissors, playing cards (some of them blank), a man with no face, a man falling off of a building, a man hiding behind a chimney and dropping a wheel, and wings – psychoanalytic cues all and fab fodder for Dali’s surrealistic vision.

Still From the Dali Dream Sequence - Spellbound, 1945

Still From the Dali Dream Sequence – Spellbound, 1945 (via Unkee E. on flickr)

Below is a video of the scene featuring Gregory Peck as Dr. Anthony Edwardes/John Ballantyne, Ingrid Bergman as Dr. Constance Peterson, and Michael Chekhov as Dr. Brulov. Dr. Peterson and Dr. Brulov are attempting to assist Ballantyne in recovering his lost memory by interpreting a dream that haunts him.

Spellbound is a film that could well be termed an endorsement on the healing virtues of psychoanalysis. While some aspects of the methods seem outdated for today, Hitchcock’s use of this makes for an abosrbing story. If you would like to watch the film in its entirety you can find it on YouTube here.

In Which A Changeling Dinosaur Saves The Day – Rare 1928 Short Animation

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The Land of Wooden Soldiers (1928) Kinex Studios
Distributed by: Kodak Cinegraph
Cartoon Characters: Chip the Wooden Man, Two Dinosaurs, Soldiers.
Directed By John Burton.
Animated By John Burton.
Originally Released c. 1928

h/t Nora Falchero

The Strange Adventure Of Duffy The Mascot (Animated Short – 1934)

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A strange story in which a loving dog puppet, Duffy, literally goes through Hell to get an orange to a dying girl.

 

Duffy The Mascot (1934)
“Fétiche” (original title)
Country: France
Production Co: Gelma-Films
Producer/Director/Animator/Writer: Ladislas Starevich

Ladislas Starevich was a true pioneer in stop-motion animation. His style has been hugely influential on many directors such as Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam. Starevich’s attention to detail, social commentary, bizarre visuals, and fantastical plots inspired an entire generation of animators.
The ANIMATORIUM

H/T to Diane Wanek for the inspiration.