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.

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Will You Take The Video Ranger Oath?

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Captain Video Official Video Ranger Card

Captain Video Official Video Ranger Card

Now repeat after me, the oath:

‘We, as official Video Rangers, hereby promise to abide by the Ranger code and to support forever the cause of freedom, truth and justice throughout the universe.’

And just like that you are one of the members of the 22nd century crime fighting force on the children’s science fiction series Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1947-57).

(Source: The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

The ‘Rolling’ Ralston Rocket Clubhouse – The Story Of A National Sensation

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The science fiction adventure series, Space Patrol, was a television phenomenon that ran from March 1950 to February 1955. It began as a local daily 15-minute live TV show aimed at children on KECA – an ABC network affiliate in Los Angeles. In December of 1950, ABC picked up the show for its Saturday lineup and made television history by being the first network to broadcast a live program coast-to-coast. The 30-minute Saturday Space Patrol series became so popular with both children and adults that the 15-minute daily was shown in other cities via kinescoped film prints. A weekly radio program was added to the franchise as well as a comic book series. A cottage industry grew with all kinds of Space Patrol merchandise – a 1952 LIFE article estimated sales of $40 million on 80 items, ranging from space helmets to ray guns, viewscopes, spacephones, puzzles and clothes.*

To this day one of the most talked about memories of the show is the ‘contest to end all contests’. The challenge – ‘NAME THAT PLANET.’

This…contest asked viewers to submit a name for the gigantic Planet X — kingdom of the evil Price Baccarrati — that figured in the series’ storyline during the summer of 1953. The grand prize was [a] forty-foot long rocket clubhouse replica of Commander Buzz Corry’s battlecruiser, the Terra IV (and a sem-truck to pull it!) plus an thousand additional bicycles and Space Patrol toys. Ten year-old Ricky Walker of Washington, Illinois submitted the winning name – Cesaria – and took receipt of the fabulous first prize on January 14, 1954.  – captainbijou.com

The rocket clubhouse was one of the two ‘rolling’ Ralston Rockets which toured the country as an attraction at public events and gatherings promoting Ralston products and the show – the company was one of Space Patrol‘s leading sponsors. Below is a video compilation of the contest hype.

For a short time, Ricky Walker was the most envied kid in the U.S. – it was a huge day in Washington, Illinois when the rocket arrived:

'Ricky Walker Day' Announcement in storefront window.

‘Ricky Walker Day’ announcement in a storefront window. (Photo via johneaves.wordpress.com)

Kids greeting ship in Washington's square in cardboard space helmets

Kids greeting ship in Washington’s square in cardboard space helmets (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE magazine via The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

Ricky Walker On Rocket Bunk -

Ricky Walker On Rocket Bunk – ‘Inside the ship is equipped as a clubhouse, with eight folding bunks, table, benches, phone, kitchen and power generator.’ (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE Magazine via The Spaceman’s Toy Chest)

Ralston Rocket At Night In Walker Family Driveway

Ralston Rocket At Night In The Walker Family Driveway (Photo: Yale Joel of LIFE Magazine via Street Worm at Universal Monster Army)

Eventually the novelty wore off and Ricky’s parents sold the rocket playhouse to a traveling carnival for the sum of $1000. The Ralston Rocket faded into obscurity but lived on in the memories of the viewers as one of the most – if not THE most – amazing prizes in television history. Sadly, the end of the road for the rocket was far less glamorous. In 1985 it was discovered on the property of a small construction company in Gent, New York. No longer the glistening star of 1954, the Ralston Rocket Clubhouse was now rusted and neglected. Area resident Rick DeMeis took the following photographs which he later presented to Solar Guard for posting on their Ralston Rocket page. A short time after these photos were taken, the construction company had it unceremoniously destroyed and sold for scrap.

Thus came the unhappy conclusion to a national sensation.

Entry to the Rocket

Entry to the Rocket

Road side view of Rocket- Santa is looking out

Road side view of Rocket- Santa is looking out

Rear view with Christmas lights

Rear view with Christmas lights

Control center for the Ralston Rocket

Control center for the Ralston Rocket

Television Really Needs A Show Like ‘Atomic City’

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There’s something so enjoyable about 1960s futurism and visual effects expert Markus Rothkranz has created a television show that celebrates it all. It’s a retro science fiction comedy called, Atomic City – and it looks grand. ‘Sexy’ with an ‘innocent charm’, it features ‘…super-luxury liners that fly through the air with stewardesses in mini skirts, deluxe posh monorails with swank lounges, floating restaurants, flying diners etc. Secret bases. Underground test sites. Convertible jet cars. Bikinis, Martinis and UFOs…’ It’s a ‘comedy adventure about private eye Stan Velvet uncovering secrets in a futuristic Vegas’.

Rothkranz’s Atomic City is a concept project developed with his company, Astro Films LLC. Located in Nevada, Astro Films ‘works outside of the Hollywood bureaucracy that bogs down so many films and projects with great ideas.’ The talented creatives involved with this motion picture and entertainment company believe that, ‘The time has come for a new artistic renaissance.’ For those who feel bored and uninspired by the same old tired television faire, let the revival begin!

Unfortunately, while being on the outside creatively is a great thing, it isn’t so much when trying to get picked up by a network. Atomic City has never found a home on television. The video below is an introduction to the pilot episode. There’s a lot of cool stuff to enjoy – if you’d like to see more you can check out the super Atomic City web site by clicking here.

For those wanting a little fun getaway to a simpler time, step aboard this futurama rocket ride to Tomorrowland!