Joe Clokey, Caretaker of the Gumby Empire, Dies at 56

Courtesy Cathie Lou Parker
Joe Clokey

His father, the late Art Clokey, created the iconic stop-motion clay figure in the early 1950s.

Joe Clokey, a producer and the caretaker of the Gumby empire that began in the early 1950s with the creation of the pliable clay figure by his father, the late Art Clokey, has died. He was 56.

Clokey died March 2 in Santa Barbara after an episode of cardiac arrest, family friend Cathie Lou Parker told The Hollywood Reporter.

Affectionately known as "Gumby's Little Brother," Joe Clokey served as president of Premavision/Clokey Productions, the company behind the original TV shows that featured Gumby (and his pal, Pokey) and Davey and Goliath, a boy and his dog.

Clokey remastered the Gumby library and promoted the friendly green guy through new products, productions, museum exhibits, festivals, TV shows, speaking engagements and parades.

Clokey led the writing and production on Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas, a 2004 special for The Hallmark Channel, and served as a story consultant on the 2006 documentary Gumby Dharma.

He and his wife, Joan Rock Clokey, co-authored a pictorial biography titled Gumby Imagined: The Story of Art Clokey and His Creations, which was published in November.

Shortly after Art Clokey graduated from USC film school, he and his then-wife, Ruth, invented Gumby at their home in Covina, California. The character first appeared on an episode of The Howdy Doody Show before toplining his own series, The Adventures of Gumby, the first to use clay animation on television.

In the 1960s, Gumby became a bendable toy, and years later he was the subject of Eddie Murphy parodies on Saturday Night Live. A feature, Gumby the Movie, directed by Art Clokey, hit theaters in 1995.

Before joining his father in the family business, Joe Clokey founded San Luis Video Publishing, which distributes more than 200 educational films, including 65 about horticulture, agriculture and sustainability that he wrote, directed and produced.

"Gumby was green because my dad cared about the environment," Clokey told the Los Angeles Times in 2010.

As an 8-year-old, Clokey raised succulents and cacti, which he sold to a local nursery from his wagon.

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he earned his bachelor's degree in horticulture and wrote a "Captain Ecology" column for the student newspaper. He was active in environmental community organizations and served as president of the Native Plant Society.

He and his wife ran the Gumby business for the past decade — Art Clokey died in 2010 at age 88 — and Joan will continue to lead Premavision/Clokey Productions.

Survivors also include his children Shasta, Sequoia and Sage and an aunt, Dorothy Parkander.

Donations may be made to the Sierra Club, to the California Native Plant Society or to the Dorothy Parkander Chair in Literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.