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Gumbasia (1955)

 -  Animation | Short  -  1955 (USA)
6.6
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 92 users  
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Clay objects of all sizes, shapes and colors contort and reshape themselves to a jazz music score.

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Title: Gumbasia (1955)

Gumbasia (1955) on IMDb 6.6/10

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Clay objects of all sizes, shapes and colors contort and reshape themselves to a jazz music score.

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Animation | Short

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1955 (USA)  »

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This student film, consisting of animated clay shapes contorting to a jazz score, so intrigued Samuel G. Engel, the president of the Motion Pictures Producers Association, that he financed the pilot films for what became Art Clokey's The Gumby Show (1957). See more »

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Feat of clay.
21 February 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

Some of my American friends are huge fans of the Gumby animation shorts by Art Clokey, which don't appeal to me at all. Invariably, it turns out that these people first encountered Gumby when they were small children. I never even heard of Gumby until I was well stuck into adulthood and I had already encountered more sophisticated (and more recent) examples of stop-action animation and claymation. Still, even by the standard of their own time -- the 1950s -- the Gumby toons aren't very impressive. Norman McLaren and George Pal were already doing far more sophisticated stop-motion animation and pixilation, in McLaren's case with no bigger a budget than Clokey's.

The wistful title 'Gumbasia' suggests that Clokey wanted this to be his equivalent of Disney's 'Fantasia': an art film with images and sounds but no story. Seen from a modern viewpoint, this is a very primitive example of claymation from the prehistoric Plasticine Era.

Against a soundtrack of some jazz-ish riffs, we see bits and blobs of clay rolling about aimlessly. At several points during an early sequence, we see a sphere of clay (and its shadow) rolling across a blank background; there's no other object in the frame, so there's no relative motion. I suspect that Clokey achieved these shots in real time, merely panning the camera past a static ball of clay and then allowing the editing to imply that the clay is rolling past a static camera, a stop-motion effect that would have taken much longer to film. At the end of this sequence, two blobs of clay roll towards each other and colllide: this bit was definitely filmed in stop-motion.

Despite its brevity, I found 'Gumbasia' completely unengaging right up until the very last shot, when a crude clay face suddenly winks its eye at us and smiles. For that brief instant, this film came alive for me, with this clay face far more engaging than all the blobs and balls which have preceded it. This only proves that film is most interesting when it's about human beings (or characters we can accept as human substitutes) rather than special effects. Mostly for its historic value, I'll rate 'Gumbasia' 3 out of 10.


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