He was born in 1921 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. When he was young, he was adopted by Joseph Clokey who was a dean of fine arts at Miami University. His father encouraged to develop his artistic skill. Clokey use to visit his grand father’s farm and play with neighbor’s son making toy out of clay. He received his undergraduate degree from Miami University and joined seminary school to become an Episcopal Minister. However, he met Ruth Clokey who became his first wife and moved to California.
After moving to California, Clokey studied in University of Southern California. He studied under Slavko Vorkapich’s guide and worked his own project called Gumbasia. Then he had chance to present his work at a theater and got seven year TV show contract with NBC and gets his first big break. After that, over five decades, he directed, produced many stop motion animation such as ‘Davey and Goliath.’
Most of his film were intended to give good moral lessons to children and his films were loved by children and most of people. He also produced experimental series such as Gumbasia, The Clay Peacock, Mandala. During his career, he set up Premavision and now it is run by his Son Joe Clokey.
Family and early life
He was adopted by Joseph Clokey who was a dean of fine arts at Miami University. It gave Clokey an idle environment to pursue career in art. While he was living in Detroit, he used to visit his grandparent’s farm in Millington, Michigan. From there he played with neighbor’s son making toy with clay and it is said that it contributed his career in clay stop motion animation some point.
He started as commercial artist in advertising industry. In 1953 he was working on commercials for companies such as Budweiser and Coca Cola thanks to his relationship with influential people in film industry. In 1955 he made a experimental film Gumbasia. With help of Sam Engel who was a producer, and president of the Motion Picture Producers Association, he was able to show his work to public.
Engel asked him if Clokey cound make clay animation for children and Clokey produced a pilot with a green clay character called Gumby. It was presented to Tom Sarnoff and Gumby got its own show on NBC in 1957. In 1959, funded by Luthern church Clokey’s production produced Davey and Goliah. In 1970s, he produced Mandala which was a bit experimental with his second wife Gloria.
In 1980s, funded by Lorimar, Clokey set up a new studio called ‘Premavision’ in Sausalito Califrnia and gathered talented stop motion animators and also produced new gumby series. Clokey also wrote script for “Gumby Movie” and produced the movie in Sausalito studio in 1992. Over four decades, ‘Gumby’ and ‘Davey and Goliath’ has gained reputation in U.S as well as internationally. His studio is still producing Davey series.
His work for TV show such as Gumby and Davey series usually involves moral and lesson and somewhat religious aspect. It is said that these philosophical background for all his animation film is related his spiritual belief. However, his work such as Mandala also shows experimental style and art said the goal of Mandala was to communicate “the idea of evolving our consciousness from primordial forms to human form, and then beyond the human to the spiritual and eternal. The theme was the evolution of consciousness: we begin in the mud and we just go out and up.”
He is mostly influenced by Slavko Vorkapich, the head of the Cinema Department at the University of Southern California. Vorkapich considered Clokey as protege and introduced him to kinesthetic film principles of animation. Also Vorkapich introduced Art to his friend and people in film industry.
Honors and awards
Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1990